The Gonski report

Why do I find that name strangely appropriate? Some echo of the decadence of pre-revolutionary Russia?

It would be prudent to scan the offending document prior to comment, and I will be interested to see Andrew Norton’s considered views from his stronghold in Carlton. But on the public reporting so far it sounds like another blast of the same old same old that we expect from that part of town.  The commentators recruited by The Drum do not inspire confidence. Fortunately a more sensible commenter appeared in the comments.

I am not rich, both I and my wife work long hours in order to send our only child to a very good independent school. It takes 20% of our income. We do without holidays, fancy cars, nights out and other things people take for granted – (like more children) to pay for this.

Yes, there are parents at the school that are MPs, lawyers, doctors, property developers and bankers. They turn up in Mercedes, BMWs and Bentleys.

Equally there are plumbers, chefs, taxi drivers and other tradespeople who drop their children off in work utes and 15 year old rustbuckets. They all pay the same fees to give their offspring the best education they can.

They all pay their taxes, proportional to their incomes which in part go to help their own children, but a larger part of the education proportion of their taxes pays for some other family’s child in the public system. How is this fair?

Now let’s get all eglaterian, let us cut the funding to the private schools entirely (‘they must be able to afford it they are rich, they are all doctors and lawyers’) see above comments.

What happens?; the doctors and the lawyers can still afford the fees, but it is the plumbers, taxi drivers etc. that cannot and who would have to take their children out of the private sector and into to the public schools, meaning more overcrowding, larger class sizes and stretched budgets. Who wins? Not the public schools, not the tradies, nobody. Who loses? not the doctors and lawyers (who do also earn their money) but the struggling overtaxed middle classes who drive the economy.


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27 Responses to The Gonski report

  1. Token

    I’m glad Rohan Callicks article got a run in The Oz as it is clear, it is not money that will stop disadvantage, it is the commitment of the parents.

  2. Who wins?

    Incentives matter.

    The Teachers Union, who believe the government will have to increase teachers pay to attract more public school teachers and therefore the Teachers Union subscriptions. The Trade Union Party wants to close down private schools for the same reason.

    It’s not about turning out well educated kids.

  3. Rafe

    Yes, without going anywhere near the Tiger Mums the education revolution that I want to see involves a partnership between parents and teachers to promote learning. And to control anti-social behaviour as well.

  4. On your Marx

    Forester you should review the Finland experience

  5. .

    In Finalnd the kids have one teacher in primary school and one in secondary from what I gather. This leads to better teaching and they eschew exams.

    This doesn’t exclude performance pay. Teachers could earn trailing fees.

  6. Mother Hubbard's Dog

    Gonski seems to be proposing more autonomy for schools in some respects, yet at the same time a whole new bureaucracy with more layers of reporting upwards. Not a sensible approach IMHO. The most successful schools are those in which responsibility for outcomes is direct – ie to parents – and which have an active culture of mentoring (for both curriculum preparation and teaching methods) and continuous improvement of teaching standards.

  7. Rafe

    Someone in the university system should tell Gonski about the joys of reporting upwards.

  8. On your Marx

    No the most important lesson from Finland is that they pay on qualifications.

    Better qualifications leads to better teaching.

  9. Nic

    For those interested, a good article is here:

    With an intersting point:

    So what are the secrets of success? Though there is no one template, four important themes emerge: decentralisation (handing power back to schools); a focus on underachieving pupils; a choice of different sorts of schools; and high standards for teachers

  10. jtfsoon

    I wish people would stop reading so much into the bloody Finnish experience.

    They are an ethnically homogenous society, linguistically and possibly even genetically unique among Europeans.

  11. Entropy

    They also drink a lot of vodka.

  12. jtfsoon

    Haplogroup U5 is estimated to be the oldest mtDNA haplogroup in Europe and is found in the whole of Europe at a low frequency, but seems to be found in significantly higher levels among Finns, Estonians and the Sami.[38] Of modern nationalities, Finns are closest to Cro-Magnons in terms of anthropological measurements.[39] …

    With regard to the Y-chromosome, the most common haplogroups of the Finns are N1c (58%), I (29%), R1a (7.5%) and R1b (3.5%).[40] Haplogroup N1c, which is found only in a few countries in Europe (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden and Russia), is a subgroup of the haplogroup N (Y-DNA) distributed across northern Eurasia and estimated in a recent study to be 10,000–20,000 years old and suggested to have entered Europe about 12,000–14,000 years ago from Asia.[41]

    According to recent autosomal (genomewide, 10,000 markers instead of few looked at Y-DNA and MtDNA-studies) give distinct picture of Finnish genes. It could be said that all other Europeans have Finnish genes but Finns don’t have all the genes found in other Europeans. Finns show very little if any Mediterranean and African genes but on the other hand almost 10% of Finnish genes seem to be shared with some Siberian populations. Nevertheless more than 80% of Finnish genes are from a single ancient North-European population, while most Europeans are a mixture of 3 or more principal components

  13. Peter Patton

    No the most important lesson from Finland is that they pay on qualifications.

    Better qualifications leads to better teaching.

    Nowhere near as better students and parents. Psssstttt…population genetics is your friend.

  14. Peter Patton

    This report would have to be the nadir of David Gonski’s otherwise stellar career. He makes much of Australia’s drop in some rankings. Now, he is a smart fellow. You’d think he might spot some similarity in those ranked above Australia:

    Hong Kong
    South Korea

    Pssssstttt…the answer is not found in the “Celebrating Diversity” chapter.

  15. jtfsoon

    To be fair to Gonski, there is more to his report than ‘More $$ for schools’, it’s just that the more money stuff is what made the silly morning herald headlines.

    As Jennifer Buckingham of the CIS writes, eh does at least endorse a voucher scheme: ‘It is a pity that the focus has not been on the more important aspects of the Gonksi report, namely, the development of a universal funding model for all schools, because that’s where the real value of the report lies.”

  16. jtfsoon

    And Peter. what’s the bet that the US, whose educational system is so much maligned, would score much better if only scores from say, New Hampshire or Utah, were taken into account?

  17. Peter Patton


    I haven’t got time right now, but there are already very rigorous decomposition of US PISA (and other) test scores by region, state, and ethnic group. Once you separate out African Americans and Hispanics, an incredibly different picture emerges, including Asian Americans perform better than their cousins back home.

    But I have to disagree with any defence of Gonski, for the simple fact that his report is based on lies, like every other ‘expert report’ commissioned by Gillard. Public schools ALREADY get top-ups for each Aborigine, Maori, kid with a disability, from a dysfunctional/dissolute/disadvantaged home, slow-learners, and so on. So, WTF is his Big New Idea to do what has been done for years already?

    For example, both Wilcannia High and Moree High each get more from the government alone (state plus federal) than Ascham, Cranbrook, Kings, and Melbourne Grammar get from government AND private fees combined!

    We have been sold a load of horse-shit from government, academics, the AEU, and now Gonski on the school funding issue.

  18. Forester you should review the Finland experience

    Better still try it out in a school here. But we can’t because the Teachers Unions won’t allow it; it has to be one-size-fits-all.

    Vouchers and charter schools will allow every school to try something different, parents will choose which school they think best teaches their kid.

    There will be Marxist Schools turning out revolutionaries, schools turning out soap opera starlets and other schools turning out kids with a thirst for learning who can create real value in the industries yet to be invented.

    I know to which one I’d send my voucher.

  19. Rococo Liberal

    For example, both Wilcannia High and Moree High each get more from the government alone (state plus federal) than Ascham, Cranbrook, Kings, and Melbourne Grammar get from government AND private fees combined!

    The ALP has increased funding since 2007 and educational outcomes have decreased. Maybe the real answer is to cut funding.

    Of course the real fact is that the teaching at the leading private schools may not be much better, but the sense of communtiy in the school and the attitude of the parents is far superior. More importantly, the connections that children from relatively poor homes can make at good schools can be a real advantage in later life.

  20. Peter Patton


    I wonder how much of it is the stranglehold that the state has on the curriculum? Every single school in Australia – public, independent, rock chopping, selective, comprehensive – has to study the exact same curriculum. I’m not a professional (let alone ‘expert’) on the subject, but my amateur glances detect a way, way overcrowded curriculum driven largely by politically-correct committees of [dumb] luvvies in the state education department. So even if you pay a fortune, and send your kid to Sydney Grammar prep, he will stll be forced to conform to the same curriculum as Mt. Druitt public.

    In the US and UK, schools can opt out of the state curriculum, so you get the situation where in the UK kids who go to independent primary schools are leaning classical Greek, Physics, and Algebra, in Years 5/6. The fact this is basically not allowed to happen in Australia must put a lot of downward pressure on the achievements of our very top students, which must push our average down on international tests, like PISA.

  21. Judith Sloan

    See Andrew Leigh MP research which conclusively shows that higher qualifications do NOT lead to better teaching or student performance.

    On your Marx … you would have to believe HIS research.

  22. wreckage

    No the most important lesson from Finland is that they pay on qualifications.

    Better qualifications leads to better teaching.

    If you take a look you might find that there are a half-dozen overwhelming differences between Finland and Australia. Size, population density, culture, 6 month long winters, for example.

  23. jtfsoon

    Overqualified overpaid teachers is like a cargo cult for Homer. I believe it’s because he’s married to one.

  24. Jc

    It’s always all about him, Jason.

    He’s now a union advocate because he’s stacking shelves at Coles and he advocates redistribution policies because he thinks some of it will come his way.

    What a lousy way to get through life.

  25. Jc

    Stay away from other people’s money, homer. It’s not yours.

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