Brianna McKee On IPA Education Funding Research Australia – 7 March 2024

Written by:
7 March 2024
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The Institute of Public Affairs’ Brianna McKee joined Mike Jeffreys on 2GB Sydney Overnight to discuss the IPA’s research into Australia’s Education Funding.

All media appearances posted onto the IPA website are directly related to the promotion and dissemination of IPA research.

Below is a transcript of the interview.


Mike Jefferys:

Okay, here’s the headline. Despite record funding, declining results highlight the education failure. Now to comment further on this research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs, Brianna McKee. Hello, Brianna, thank you for coming on the programme.

Brianna McKee:

Great to be here, thanks for having me.

Mike Jefferys:

So we keep talking about this back to basic approach to education. I saw an example the other day, I believe, where one unit of the education system was teaching kids with this, and they were at least, I think, three months ahead of their peers. We talk about it, but we don’t seem to be doing it, but we keep pouring more money in, a lot of contradictions here.

Brianna McKee:

No, that’s right. I think the key message here is that the problem with our schools is not a lack of spending. Our IPA research that we released today, it shows that state and federal government funding to our schools almost doubled between 2012 and 2022. But during this same period of time, our education outcomes, they actually declined, and they declined by about 3%. So the state and federal government, they spent 716 billion, that’s a 43% increase on spending. Its enormous amount of money. And parents have been lulled into this false sense of security that more money equals better results.

Mike Jefferys:

Well, that’s what we’ve been hearing. We’ve been hearing that for years now. We need to put more money in so we’ll get a better result. We’re putting more money in, we’re not getting a better result. So that speaks to the fact that it’s not the money, it’s the method, isn’t it?

Brianna McKee:

No, that’s right, money isn’t the problem. The IPA has been observing these patterns in our research for a while now, and it’s our national curriculum and teacher training that’s really letting us down here. And they both fail in one basic area, and that’s in teaching students how to read and write and instead they focus on identity politics, critical race theory, and green ideology, so it’s very politically charged content. And the national curriculum and teaching degrees, they’re so cluttered with these ideologies that core curriculum subjects like reading, writing, and maths, they get sidelined.

Mike Jefferys:

I was looking at this number here, the teaching of woke ideology accounts for 31% of all teaching subjects on offer at Australian unis. That’s equivalent to one and a quarter years of a four-year bachelor of education degree. That’s by the time you get to uni. But of course, a lot of kids, well, if they do get to uni, they don’t even have the basics because of what’s happening in the earlier years with the teachers, for want of a better way of putting it, focusing on woke ideology. They’re teaching the kids about how we should feel guilty about our past and identity politics and this sort of stuff, but when it comes to actually some skills that they might be able to use to their advantage in life, not so much.

Brianna McKee:

Yeah, that’s right, Mike. The problem with the teacher training is that out of the four-year Bachelor of Education, there’s only 10 weeks actually dedicated to teaching core literacy and numeracy skills. Woke ideology accounts for one and a quarter years, so the fact that these woke subjects outnumber literacy and numeracy subjects, it suggests that teaching degree coordinators are prioritising indoctrination over education, and the fall in our education standards definitely speaks to that. So I think the takeaway point is this isn’t a dollar and cents game. The IPA has been researching this for quite some time, and what we’ve seen is that our falling education standards are due to what we’re teaching in the classroom and how we’re training teachers.

Mike Jefferys:

So when it comes to what the teachers are actually teaching, I guess the environment in a school, there’s pressure on teachers to be a certain way to conform. Is anybody going to break this cycle?

Brianna McKee:

Well, one positive step forward that we did see, this was taken by education ministers last year, and it was new measures requiring universities to include lessons on how to teach reading, writing, and maths. So what we see now is accreditation standards for teaching degrees, they’ve actually been amended to ensure teachers are instructed to avoid self-directed learning and instead receive training in techniques proven effective half a century ago. So it’s back to the basics, back to the old techniques, the proven techniques that work. And so, to the credit of our politicians, that they are addressing this issue. But I guess it’s a question of is it too little, too late? I would say more action is needed if we want to see this trend reversed.

Mike Jefferys:

Yes, and I mean, it seems to me like, okay, you said it’s turning, but it’s a pretty slow turn.

Brianna McKee:

Yeah, this is really just a drop in the pond. We need much more action if we actually want to see change in our teaching degrees and in our schools, and to reverse this drop in the standards.

Mike Jefferys:

So would you have a prediction on how long it would take to change the culture here?

Brianna McKee:

I mean, I guess it’s how long is a piece of string? It depends on how drastic the overhaul was. We really need to see our national curriculum overhauled and also the teacher training degrees. I mean, the indoctrination in the national curriculum, it’s comprehensive, it’s unrelenting, and it’s almost impossible to avoid. It takes place from foundation all the way through to year 10. And much of this is actually caused by the cross curriculum priorities of sustainability and also indigenous and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures. These are just, they’re embedded in every aspect of the child’s schooling. So it doesn’t matter what school your child goes to, their school has to follow the national curriculum. So yeah, we would need to see big changes in these areas.

Mike Jefferys:

Do you think parents are doing enough? Are they getting involved enough and saying, “This is what I want my child to learn, I don’t want him to be indoctrinated.”

Brianna McKee:

I think parents need to get more involved. Parents need to talk to their schools, talk to their teachers and principals. If parents put pressure on schools, then the schools would be more likely to act. But really the problem here is our teacher training degrees, so pressure needs to be put on the government to focus on these areas and to affect change.

Mike Jefferys:

So is there a difference between public schooling and the private school system in all this?

Brianna McKee:

Not a major difference, and that’s because all of the schools come under the national curriculum, so all affected by that, all of the schools are getting teachers straight out of the universities from these Bachelor of Education, so there’s not a significant difference between the public and the private schools in this area.

Mike Jefferys:

I appreciate your time and comments, Brianna. Thanks for coming on the programme.

Brianna McKee:

Thanks so much, Mike.

Mike Jefferys:

Brianna McKee, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

This transcript with Brianna McKee talking on 2GB Sydney from 7 march 2024 has been edited for clarity.

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