On Friday, parents, teachers, principals and experts gathered in Canberra to provide their input into a national review of the 2008 Melbourne Declaration, which set out Australia’s education goals.
Addressing the roundtable, Minister Tehan said the Federal Government is working with the sector and the community to develop “a vision for the future of education in Australia and also a roadmap to help us get there”.
“We are updating Australia’s education goals to reflect the changing world we live in and to meet the requirements of the future,” Minister Tehan said.
He said one of the key points highlighted at the roundtable was the need to focus on life-long learning in Australia.
“Education begins in early childhood and school and can continue to acquiring technical skills once in the workforce,” he said.
“Australia has a world-class education system but it must continue to improve and evolve.”
However, one of the country's leading education and health policy think tanks has urged the Federal Government to use its review to turn “aims into action”.
The call, by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, was contained in its paper, titled: ‘Achieving our Educational Goals: A Declaration for System Transformation’.
While all states and territories signed up to the Melbourne Declaration and pledged to address inequality in Australia’s education system, few have made substantial progress to deliver the declaration’s aims since the document’s inception.
“Our hope is that the Melbourne Declaration review moves the conversation from aims to actions,” Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute education policy lead, Dr Jen Jackson, said.
“Australia’s biggest challenge in schooling is not what to aim for, but how to ensure that every student in Australian schools gets the learning that they need.”
Reports show that over a quarter of all students have fallen behind in the development of reading and maths skills by the time they reach secondary school. Growth in Year 12 retention rates has levelled out.
Students from Indigenous backgrounds, those with disabilities, students in low-socio economic status areas and those in rural and remote communities complete school at much lower rates, leading to poorer outcomes in work and tertiary education.
“The Melbourne Declaration includes broad areas for action, but does not get to the heart of how our school system can be designed to deliver equal opportunity for all,” Dr Jackson said.
“Neither does it adequately recognise that achieving this goal is a shared responsibility of all Australians – governments, families, employers – not only schools.”
Dr Jackson said that for the Melbourne Declaration to have impact, its aims “must be deeply embedded in everything schools do, and in how families, governments and others evaluate how well the school system is serving them.”
“We need schools that can “walk the talk”, with a broad base of support that enables them to do so,” he said.