Gonski 2.0: A quick guide to what you need to know

The results of the long awaited second iteration of David Gonski’s review into Australians schools is finally here, bringing with it mixed reactions. A Sydney Morning Herald article panned it, labelling the Gonski review “an abject failure and a wasted opportunity”, claiming that while it contains some good ideas, the report won’t make a great deal of difference in the real world. Others were more complimentary, praising the review’s scope and breadth.

The Good Schools Guide has taken a look at Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools and compiled a quick fact sheet on the major findings of the report.

Background

Compared to other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, Australia has experienced a decline in academic performance since 2000 across all sectors, namely mathematics, reading and science. The executive summary of the report outlines a few challenges Australia faces in restoring its reputation as one of the best education systems on the planet, including:

  • Equipping students with soft skills (problem-solving, critical thinking) to combat automation
  • Altering the curriculum so students are prepared for life after school
  • Transitioning from an industrial style of mass education to one that allows “continuous diagnosis of a student’s learning needs and progress”
  • “A lack of research-based evidence on what works best in education”

What did the review yield?

In total, there were 23 recommendations and 16 findings, but we’ve chosen to focus on the three priorities acknowledged in the report and how these can be achieved.

Priorities

Deliver at least one year’s growth in learning for every student every year

  • There was strong support for transitioning from “a year-based curriculum to a curriculum expressed as learning progressions independent of year or age.” Basically, students are measured based on what they achieve and how they develop each year, rather than where they are meant to be on a generic scale. It was proposed that teachers must have an “online, formative assessment tool to help diagnose a student’s current level of knowledge”, which would help track students’ progress. 

Equip every child to be a creative, connected and engaged learner in a rapidly changing world

  • With an ever changing working landscape due to technological advances, students must be studying a curriculum that adapts and responds to occupational trends. There was also a push for additional emphasis on teaching general capabilities in the current F-10 Australian Curriculum, plus a recommendation that secondary education is “contemporary, and adequately prepares students for post-school employment”.

Cultivate an adaptive, innovative and continuously improving education system

  • The centrepiece of the third priority is the recommendation for a “national evidence institute to share best-practice and evidence-based innovations faster and more widely”, on the basis that all aspects of schools, from curriculum and community involvement to students and teachers, needs to improve. Among the other ideas put forward was the Unique Student Identifier to track learning outcomes and making teaching a more attractive career prospect.

Five key recommendations were made to address these issues, namely:

Laying the foundations for learning

  • Based primarily on coordinating a seamless transition to school from early education and supporting parents to be partners in their child’s learning

Equipping every student to grow and succeed in a changing world

  • Revising the Australian curriculum, with an emphasis on early-year literacy, numeracy and general capabilities, and equipping students with skills for the future, using new reporting measures to track learning gain. Another area of focus is enhancing community engagement.

Creating, supporting and valuing a profession of expert educators

  • The development of “an online and on demand student learning assessment tool” for tracking students’ progress is of paramount importance, as is encouraging more professional collaboration, improved career pathways and establishing a national teacher workforce strategy

Empowering and supporting school leaders

  • Goals include revising the Australian Professional Standard for Principals to focus on leadership, ensuring principal autonomy, building a pathway for school leaders and equipping them with professional development

Raising and achieving aspirations through innovation and continuous improvement

In order to effectively measure student progress, there must be better forms of self-review and external quality assurance, the implementation of a Unique Student Identifier and the development of an independent institution capable of delivering best-practice national research to better student outcomes

The report ends with a call to action for the government to “set high expectations for schooling and translate those expectations into actions”, but it remains to be seen what influence Gonski 2.0 will have on the education landscape in Australia.

Useful Links:

Budget 2017/2018: Breaking down Gonski 2.0

Has Gonski missed the mark with needs-based funding?

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