OECD Economic Surveys: Australia

Chapter 3, "Enhancing Educational Performance"
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
October 10, 2008

Part of a larger OECD assessment of Australia, this chapter on education focuses on the current state of the Aussie education system and recommends policy reforms. Australia's achievement on international tests is strong across the board, concludes the report, and the country performs notably better than its spending levels alone would indicate. But analysis found that average reading scores for 15-year-olds fell between the 2003 and 2006 administrations of PISA. Australia also faces an achievement gap between indigenous and non-indigenous students; the former tend to be roughly two years behind the latter. To address these problems, Australia is introducing some key reforms, the most significant of which is a K-12 national curriculum in English, math, science, and history scheduled for implementation by January 2011 (for commentary, try here and here). Other steps include financial incentives to motivate early childhood educators to work in rural areas or indigenous communities and negotiations between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments on various forms of merit pay. But more must be done, argue the OECD analysts. For example, greater school autonomy would give principals the freedom to attract, reward, and keep excellent teachers. Strict regulations on starting up new schools should be eased to encourage competition. And reforming funding schemes to take into account differences in socioeconomic background--i.e. a form of weighted student funding--would be transformative. Sounds like Australia's on the right track, especially if it follows the OECD's recommendations. Read the rest here.

Stafford Palmieri is a . at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute