Long-term education target unlikely to be met – haven’t we learned from previous unachievable targets?

The National Plan for School Improvement released with the 2013-14 Commonwealth Budget has the potential to signficantly lift educational outcomes across Australia and is therefore one of the positives of this Budget. But I’m skeptical of the Government’s stated ambition for:

Australia to be placed in the top five countries internationally in reading, mathematics and science by 2025

No matter how much extra funding we direct to the school system, I have no confidence that this ambition will be achieved by 2025. We are simply too far behind leading countries, as discussed in this insightful article at the Conversation last year:

Latest tests show PM’s 2025 education goal is in doubt

It is odd that the Commonwealth would commit to a highly ambitious target in an area in which State Governments play a much greater role than the Commonwealth. Also, the Commonwealth should be well aware of the failure to reach a previous ambitious education policy target – the so-called Finn target from 1991 that, by 2001, 95% of 19 year olds would have either finished year 12, completed a post-school qualification or be enrolled in education and training. Regrettably, Australia missed this target by nearly 10 percentage points (see this University of Tasmania paper on Youth Participation in Education).

I don’t know what else to say about the 2013-14 Budget other than that the $4.1 billion for the Bruce Highway is good news for Queensland. Unfortunately the Budget overall is a depressing document. It reveals that our medium-term fiscal strategy has failed and that we may end up like many of our OECD peers in a permanent state of deficit. Given the Government failed to meet its previous firm commitment to a surplus in 2012-13, it is difficult to believe any new commitment to future surpluses.

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