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Australia School Flaws May Cost A$1.5 Trillion, Garrett Says

Australia School Flaws May Cost A$1.5 Trillion
Year 6 students from various schools sit an exam for entry into select high schools in Sydney. Photographer: Dallas Kilponen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Australia risks lower living standards and lost wealth if it doesn’t improve its education system, Education Minister Peter Garrett said in Sydney today.

Failure to improve the nation’s schools would result in a loss over the next 80 years equal to Australia’s current annual economic output of A$1.5 trillion ($1.55 trillion), Garrett said, announcing details of a study of the education system by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

“Australians will pay a high price if we stick with the current broken school funding system,” Garrett said, citing a warning raised by the report. “If we do nothing, we stand to lose an amount equivalent to everything Australians have produced all year.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard is seeking to implement some of the changes urged in a report chaired by Australian Future Fund Chairman David Gonski. The report found earlier this year that spending may need to rise by about A$5 billion a year to improve education at government-funded schools, particularly in disadvantaged and rural areas.

In the past decade, Australian children have gone from being equal second in reading to seventh, and from equal fifth to 13th in mathematics, among Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development nations, according to the Gonski report. He recommends a set investment per student and additional funding to aid disadvantaged students.

Economic Cost

Gillard’s government, which aims to introduce legislation in parliament this year in a bid to enact changes to education funding before elections due within a year, hasn’t indicated it will implement all the report’s measures.

PwC calculates that boosting the nation’s educational performance would add A$3.6 trillion to the economy over 80 years. The analysis is based on previous work released by the OECD, Garrett said.

“For a long time our debates about schools policies have been based on old and outdated divisions,” Garrett said today. “I believe they have reached their use-by date. Those kids who face hurdles to reach their best must be lifted to a higher level of achievement.”

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