A new national survey of more than 2,000 Australian adults shows that most people are largely optimistic about the education that schools are giving to children, despite reports of the system being ‘in crisis’ or ‘failing’.
The report, titled: ‘Public opinions on Australian schools & schooling’ by Monash University, did reveal, however that Australians feel that more attention should be given to developing students’ life skills in the classroom.
This includes knowledge in money management, job preparation, first-aid training and critical thinking, such as recognising fraudulent content online.
Other key findings
- 56% rated public schools’ performance OK; 23% rate them as very good/excellent;
- 52% think the standard of education will remain the same in 10 years’ time;
- 76% believe Mathematics should be given more priority in schools;
- 75% believe English should be given more priority in schools;
- 7% believe Languages should be given more priority in schools;
- 4% believe the Arts should be given more priority in schools;
The most important aspects of schools to a child’s education included: basic literacy and numeracy (69.8%), students being respectful to teachers and peers (54.6%) and teachers being of high quality (54.5%).
Dr Deana Leahy and Professor Neil Selwyn from Monash University’s Faculty of Education, said surprisingly few differences were found between voters of the main political parties, suggesting that politicians, policymakers and governments should collaborate to deliver the best possible student outcomes.
“While debates on education are understandably contentious and personal, our findings suggest that we can all be a little more positive in the overall quality of schooling Australia provides,” Dr Leahy said.
In a ringing endorsement of schools by younger Australians, 86% of people between the ages of 18-29 believed learning outcomes would stay either ‘roughly the same’ or be ‘better than they are now’ in the next 10 years.
But community views differed when it came to identifying the most important issues of children’s education, with the fundamentals of respect and honesty being at the top of the list for older Australians.
“Levels of concern for students being respectful to teachers and peers is almost double amongst respondents in the 60+ years’ age group [72.4%] in comparison to those aged 18-29 years [38.9%],” Dr Leahy said.
“Discrepancies were also found between the two age cohorts when it came to the importance of literacy and numeracy, as well as teacher quality.”
Dr Leahy said the report results point to an opportunity to broaden the collective ‘educational imagination’ of Australians.
“Ideally, it would be wonderful if all Australians could go 'back to school' for a little while - to experience first-hand how and why teaching practices and school policies have changed since they were in a classroom,” Dr Leahy said.
“Failing that, we need to explore ways of having an informed national conversation about our school system. News media and TV can play an important role here.”