Making kids smarter

by ericknight

Standing on a street corner last Saturday I was approached by a distressed middle-aged lady. Her distress, she revealed, came from the state of public education in NSW. The Sydney Morning Herald carried a story of data released by the My Schools Website. Public funding was flowing in droves to the cloistered courtyards of private schools. At heart, her concern was an honest one: how would the state of public education be revived if there were a change of government in New South Wales?

I can hardly pretend to have the answer to this question. But my thinking was significantly influenced by my friend, Prashan, who has just set up his own website called the Australian Education Report.

One of the most intriguing and counter-intuitive things I have come to appreciate is that good education is not all about money. Getting sufficient money into public schools is vitally important. But after a certain point, what becomes more important than how much money you get is how you choose to spend it.

The OECD has recently done a study to show that cutting the data to examine teacher retention rates, quality of teachers, and the socio-economic background of students is meaningful. Improving these drivers in our public education system may do more to produce smarter students than pushing up bottom line spending. This is an emotive area of policy for good reason. We all want better-educated children. How we get there deserves some careful thinking.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Prashan Paramanathan March 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Eric, thanks for the reference. Spending’s important, but only if it’s going to the right places. We’re actually spending quite a bit of effort at the moment looking at where the National Partnerships money is going. I’m kind of curious – there’s a huge amount in the pool!

Also, looks like your SMH piece generated a lot of noise – 101 comments. Nice work!

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