Competition not key to improved results: OECD

Mary Fogarty
Research Officer

Education is not a competitive game.

Increased competition between schools has failed to improve student results and has increased social segregation between schools, the OECD has stated in a recent PISA in Focus Report.

The report shows that social diversity among students is greater in school systems where schools do not compete for students than in systems with more competition between schools.

The theory behind increasing choice and competition between schools is that it creates incentives for schools to raise the quality of education but the theory has not worked in practice. The PISA results show there is no performance difference between schools that compete with other schools for students and those that do not, after taking into account students' socio-economic status.

Of the 64 countries participating in the PISA tests only Hong Kong and Singapore have higher levels of competition between schools than Australia. Despite this high level of competition, Australia's PISA results have declined over the past decade.

Australia has one of the largest private school sectors in the world, but its school performance is declining despite receiving much larger federal government increases than government schools.

Census figures show that low income students comprise 42 per cent of all government school enrolments compared to 26 per cent of Catholic school enrolments and 23 per cent of independent school enrolments.

Increasing choice and competition between schools has been the dominant education policy in Australia for more than 20 years and it is being extended under the current government support for more independent public schools. Instead, resources should be directed to where they are most needed — reducing disadvantage in education rather than supporting privilege.

This requires that the Gonski funding plan be fully implemented.