Global report questions impact of school funding

A new global education report says that increased funding does not necessarily lead to improved student outcomes.

The Education at a Glance report, released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), showed that while Australia spends more on education than most developed countries, the extra funds may not be making much of an impact.

“Higher levels of expenditure on education cannot automatically be equated with better performance by education systems,” the report stated.

“This is not surprising, as countries spending similar amounts on education do not necessarily have similar education policies and practices.”

It added there was “no simple relationship between overall spending on education and the level of student performance”.

However, the Grattan Institute's school education expert Peter Goss said that the OECD report was not definitive.

“It says there's no simple relationship between overall spending on education and the level of student performance,” Dr Goss told the ABC.

“That's like saying, if I pay more for premium ingredients, that doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to cook a nicer meal. The states and territories have to recognise that the Commonwealth has budget pressures," he said.

The latest insight into education funding follows a draft report released by the Productivity Commission earlier this month, which urged leaders to explore further research to determine how to improve outcomes before committing more money to schools.

The report, titled: Education Evidence Base, pointed out that despite a 14% increase in spending per student over the past decade, student performance in national and international assessments had barely improved.

Last week, public school advocates, Save Our Schools, released a damning rebuke of the report, saying it showed the Federal Government were the ones that had it wrong on school funding.

“The Commission has greatly exaggerated the actual increase in funding and it has missed the key point that past funding increases have not been directed at reducing under-performance,” SOS national convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said in a statement.

“Past funding increases have favoured more advantaged schools over disadvantaged schools. As a result, school performance has largely stagnated over the past 10 years.”

Cobbold added that the Productivity Commission’s analysis, which said there had been no real improvement in PISA results despite a 14% increase in per-student funding, did not take into account the large number of low-SES students in the public sector, who were the ones struggling the most.

“A significant factor behind the stagnation in Australia’s school results is the failure to improve the results of low socio-economic status (SES), Indigenous and remote area students.”

The Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, is due to meet with state and territory leaders this week to begin negotiating how school funding will be distributed beyond next year.