Enter your email to read this article
Read news on any topic, in one place, from publishers like The Economist, FT, Bloomberg and more.

Longer school day, master teachers could solve Australia's education productivity problem

Australia is spending more per student on education but academic results are stagnating. Picture by Shutterstock

Changing the length of the school day and employing master teachers are among the solutions the Productivity Commission has put forward to improve the performance of Australia's education system.

Australia is spending more than ever per student on education and yet national literacy and numeracy achievement is stagnating.

A new report by the Commission investigates why this problem exists and what can be done across the school and higher education system to solve it.

One in five Australians have low basic skills, impacting on their job opportunities, capacity to learn further skills and wages.

Productivity Commission deputy chair Dr Alex Robson said the while spending had grown, Australian students' results were not improving.

"One of the issues could be that the best practice is not becoming common practice," Dr Robson said.

"So diffusing what works and, just as importantly, what doesn't work in the classroom in different circumstances, that's one of the things we focus on."

The report said classroom teachers spend much of their working time on low-value administration tasks that could be reduced or reassigned to support staff.

Technology also has a role in relieving this burden and improving student outcomes but it needed to be introduced carefully.

"It's not a silver bullet... there's a digital divide where some schools have access to the technology and others don't, but then also in terms of how it's used and what's more effective in different circumstances," Dr Robson said.

An increase in the numbers of support staff and lower student-to-staff ratios don't appear to have had any impact on student results.

The report suggests improving consistency of professional development for teachers and employing master teachers to spread best practice teaching across schools.

It also suggests trialling more radical changes, such as extending the length of the school day or adopting the United Kingdom's model of academy schools to improve under-performing public schools.

"Maybe some of these more forward-looking ideas are possible solutions, but we're definitely not saying that that's the exact answer," Dr Robson said.

The report also suggests a HECS-style system for vocational education could reduce some of the up-front costs and disincentives for students to go down that path that could be more appropriate for their career ambitions compared to university.

The commission was highly critical of the changes to university course fees under the Coalition's job ready graduates reforms, stating that price signals for in-demand fields didn't work under the income-contingent loan system.

The commission is seeking feedback on the report by October 21 and will hold roundtable discussions.

We've made it a whole lot easier for you to have your say. Our new comment platform requires only one log-in to access articles and to join the discussion on The Canberra Times website. Find out how to register so you can enjoy civil, friendly and engaging discussions. See our moderation policy here.

Related Stories
More value needed from education: report
Urgent action is required to equip Australia's future workers with better skills by improving education outcomes, a Productivity Commission report has found.
From analysis to the latest developments in health, read the most diverse news in one place.
Australia failing to make progress on literacy and numeracy despite investment, reports finds
Productivity commission says education sector must make improvements to meet future skills needs
Albanese is promising 'truth-telling' in our Australian education system. Here's what needs to happen
First Nations people please be advised this article speaks of racially discriminating moments in history, including the distress and death of First Nations people.
Australia's public education funding went backwards during COVID pandemic
Public funding of education was cut in Australia during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, as most of the OECD did the opposite, according to a new report.
Australia is entrenching inequality across education and housing — deliberately
Across several vital sectors, consecutive governments are ingraining systemic inequality with policies that look after the wealthiest.
One place to find news on any topic, from hundreds of sites.
Fossil fuels in schools: industry faces pushback in fight for hearts and minds of next generation
Business efforts to get pro-fossil fuel material into classrooms experience opposition due to role in climate change