Even The Age is onto this:
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard’s goal of Australia having one of the top five schooling systems in the world by 2025 has been thrown into doubt after the nation received disastrous results in the latest international reading, maths and science tests.
The Australian places that disaster – and it is an appalling result – in context.
In the first international reading test of Australian primary schools, about 25 per cent of the nation’s Year 4 students failed to meet the minimum standard in reading for their age, rising to more than 30 per cent in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Of the 48 countries tested, Australia ranked 27th, comparable with Bulgaria, Slovenia and Lithuania, and significantly behind the leaders Hong Kong, Russia and Finland, as well as the US and England.
A test of maths and science among Year 4 and Year 8 students showed Australian students’ skills had stagnated over the past 16 years, while some countries, notably in Asia, had greatly improved.
Between 29 per cent and 37 per cent of Year 4 and Year 8 students failed to meet the minimum standard for their grade in maths and science, rising to more than 50 per cent of Year 8 students in Tasmania and the Territory.
At the very least, we need to see some high level resignations in the education bureaucracies – and a large number of them too.
We also need to recognise that the rot starts at the top and in Australia’s case that is the very top. Prime Minister Julia Gillard used to tell anyone who would listen how committed she was to education. Well the results are plain to see.
Then there was the great stimulus package where billions were spent on buildings. So I thought it might be interesting to reproduce this discussion I had with Senator Annette Hurley:
Prof. Davidson—No, I totally disagree with the argument there. Certainly the school halls seem to be the most extraordinary waste of money that we have ever seen in our lifetimes. The Australian reported that $850,000, I recall from memory, was being spent on a single-pupil school and nobody thought to think why would we even think about giving this kind of money to a single-pupil school let alone actually give such an amount of money to a single-pupil school. And in today’s Australian we read that they are spending $2.45 million on a school hall for a school that already has a hall, which will give it an extra 30 square metres of space, but nonetheless most of the kids will still have to stand outside. I cannot believe for one second that this is productivity enhancing expenditure.
Senator HURLEY—If you had been at Senate question time, you would have heard many of the articles in the Australian comprehensively taken apart and proved to be wrong. But even if we accept that, the examples in the Australian have been a small part of what is being spent in the stimulus. I do not really think you can—
Prof. Davidson—You may well be right, it may be a small part, but it is the tip of the iceberg.
Senator HURLEY—I do not think, Professor Davidson, that you could argue that the infrastructure spending on education and transport and health that the government has done will not contribute to productivity in some way.
Prof. Davidson—I would be very surprised if a primary school hall where kids have already got one, discounted back to the present at any reasonable discount rate, would add to the productivity.
Senator HURLEY—If that is the best argument you can raise about the total infrastructure spending, Professor Davidson, I will hand over to someone else.
Kids who are struggling to read and write are certainly not going to be as productive as we might expect.