Solution to slipping grades lies offshore

Written by Rowan Forster

Victorian schools need to adopt overseas education strategies to improve deteriorating student results, a leading education researcher has warned.

Hiring special education teachers and better resourcing public schools are among the ideas raised to improve student outcomes.

Education researcher David Zyngier, who has taught in Finland, says Victoria has a lot to learn from Finland’s higher quality school system.

“One thing special about Finland is that they have special education teachers ready to help students at all times.

“If somebody is having difficulty understanding a problem, they can leave the classroom and go down to a room in the hallway where a special education teacher will resolve their problem in five minutes without disturbing the class,” he said.

“It stops students from being embarrassed to ask questions and they don’t fall behind.”

The program for International Student Assessment survey found that Australian students’ scores in literacy and maths have significantly decreased since 2000.

Professor Zyngier, a lecturer at Monash University, believes public and private school inequality may be partly to blame.

“Public schools here are left with fewer resources than private schools and more disadvantaged students are left struggling.

“In Finland, all schools are local schools – they don’t have private schools that are funded by the government, so everyone is well resourced regardless of wealth.”

Funding for private schools in Victoria has increased by 18.5 per cent in the past four years.

The 207 private schools across Victoria are allocated a yearly total of $187 million.

Victoria’s public schools receive the lowest government funding of all schools in Australia, despite enrolling 63 per cent of the states’ students.

Australian Council for Education Research CEO Geoff Masters said Victoria needs to adopt these overseas solutions before results fall further.

“We need to follow in the footsteps of higher performing countries who have implemented strategies to help struggling students, and eliminate disparities between schools in high and low socioeconomic areas,” he said.

“The gap between wealthier and poorer schools in Victoria continues to increase, so it certainly needs attention.”

“Finland are achieving higher than us because they have developed strategies of identifying and addressing the needs of struggling students,” he said.

Around one in eight of Finland’s teachers are hired to aid struggling students and prevent them from slipping behind.

About the author

Rowan Forster