Student outcomes going backwards despite record school funding - report

Student outcomes going backwards despite record school funding - report

Record levels of state and federal funding of Australia’s schools has coincided with a long-term decline in educational outcomes, new research has found.

An analysis of school funding by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) shows that despite a 43% increase in Federal and State Governments spending on schools between 2012-2022, key OECD PISA results declined by 3% over the same period.

In this period, Federal Government funding increased by 75%, while State Government spending increased by 32%. The IPA's research found that In dollar terms, adjusted for inflation, total State and Federal Government spending on Australia's schools increased from $55bn in 2012 to $79bn in 2022.

In their research note, titled: ‘More Government spending does not produce better educational outcomes’, the authors pointed out that PISA testing over the last 24 years has shown a steady decline in students’ reading, science, and mathematics standards across every socio-economic quartile, and in all three school sectors.

“Australian students are overall now more than a year behind those Australian students who took the test in 2000,” the authors wrote.

Dr Bella d’Abrera, Director of Western Civilisation Program at the Institute of Public Affairs, says a ‘back-to-basics’ approach in Australia’s schools has “never been more urgent”.

“Today, governments at all levels are spending record amounts but results continue to decline. Without serious reform our students will continue to fail,” Dr d’Abrera said.

However, Federal Education Minister Jason Clare insists better funded schools will drive improved learning outcomes. 

"I am working with my State and Territory colleagues to get all public schools to their full and fair funding level and to tie that funding to the reforms that will help children catch up, keep up and finish school," Minister Clare told The Educator.

"Currently, no public school outside of the ACT is fully funded. There’s still a 5 per cent funding gap."

Minister Clare said Federal, State and Territory Governments are currently negotiating how that funding gap will be filled. 

"What the Commonwealth Government chips in, what the States chip in and what that funding is tied to," Minister Clare said. "That’s what the next National School Reform Agreement we have to strike this year is all about.”