Gillard calls for lively education debate

Nov 1, 2013 by

Former prime minister Julia Gillard has called for an end to the “infantile” debate about education as she defended her government’s legacy on schools reform.

Ms Gillard appeared at the World Innovation Summit for Education, in Qatar, on Wednesday, where she said her government increased transparency in schools through publication of NAPLAN results.

“Now, I am well aware of the lively debates we have and should have about transparency and testing,” she said. “But let’s make sure the debate is a rich one, not an infantile one.”

She said it was impossible to know what schools were achieving without “rigour in measurement”.

“If our tests are sophisticated and diagnostic we shouldn’t worry about teaching to the test,” Ms Gillard said.

Meanwhile, Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg said his country, which has one of the top-ranked school systems in the world, did not rely on standardised testing to determine schools’ success.

Ms Gillard reflected on the funding changes her government drove following the release of the wide-ranging report on improving the education system, led by businessman David Gonski.

But Ms Gillard admitted she was annoyed by some of the commentary about how best to lift the quality of education.

“I have to confess that it frustrates me that those most likely to put the money-doesn’t-matter argument are conservative commentators who educate their own children in the most moneyed schools,” she said.

Her government led protracted negotiations with its state and territory counterparts to secure joint funding deals with most states, including Victoria.

“We made the facts transparent and the facts had a way of knocking the politics aside.”

The federal Coalition government has said it will match the funding agreement struck by the previous government for the next four years. However, the former Labor government had negotiated a six-year deal, with the much of the money to flow in the final two years.

Students with disabilities and those from disadvantaged backgrounds will receive greater financial support under the new model.

“Money matters,” Ms Gillard said. “And yes, great teachers can teach sitting on the ground under trees – but we shouldn’t ask them to.”

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown also appeared at the summit on Wednesday and urged businesses, philanthropists and charities to work together to bring education to impoverished children around the world.

The Qatar Foundation paid for Benjamin Preiss’s trip to Qatar.

via Gillard calls for lively education debate.

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