Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Julia Gillard's Test Results

Ever since Minister Gillard moved on to a higher political plane an evaluation of her governments performance in education and training has been on my mind. I started writing but then the election was called and the last thing I want is any kind of political taint on my blog so I have delayed this piece.
During the Gillard stewardship I was chief executive of Education.au limited a national organisation with strong connections to all levels of government as well as other policy makers, interest groups,researchers and educational institutions. My time at education.au also included Julie Bishops time as Howard Government education minister. Added to this my career spans over 15 years observing Education Ministerial meetings and machinations in past jobs as head of education and training in two states.

Overall I believe the Gillard/Rudd policy change agenda in education and training has been the most expansive of any government in the past 20 years with easily the strongest Commonwealth position given that it was backed by the Deputy PM. I have read and reread all the Ministers press releases and speeches. What is notable is the consistency of the message even though we had the global financial crisis right in the middle.

Prior to the 2007 federal election the Labour Party published an education manifesto. In essence it said that investment in education and training was an essential foundation for Australia to maintain its economic competitiveness. So the agenda was and continued to be based on a productivity view of education.

Apart from productivity I think the most powerful driver was the agreement Gillard reached with the states and sectors at schools and VET levels on increasing attainment levels (year 12 retention, increased VET outcomes etc) and the dramatic increased target set by the Commonwealth for bachelor degree completions in higher education. These attainment targets have huge implications and challennges for the sectors and much of the resultant policy and programme development has been aimed at driving change to achieve these attainment goals.

Underpinning attainment/retention were policies that included- a need to have a 'managed' market for education with a substantial safety net; getting literacy and numeracy right as the foundation; increasing accountability of institutions and individual educators; rewarding performance and;engaging industry and parents and provide technology as an enabler of change and improvement.

So overall I give Gillard the highest marks for a clearly enunciated policy agenda. Over the next few weeks I am going to blog on each of the sectors and talk more about impact and delivery. The first of these blogs will deal with early childhood and school education.