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Aussie teachers working harder than their OS colleagues

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Funding cuts to Australian public schools are having a detrimental effect on teachers’ workload and the participation rates for early childhood education.

Australian teachers are teaching larger classes and working significantly more hours than their colleagues overseas, while public funding for education as a percentage of total government expenditure is falling, according to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2018 Education at a Glance report

The Australian education sector falls below OECD averages in terms of public education funding, access to early childhood education, class sizes and teacher workload.

Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that the heavy workloads experienced by Australian teachers would mean they had less time to devote to students who need extra support.

“This OECD report shows that Australian teachers are teaching larger classes and working significantly more hours than the OECD average, which is a clear indication of resource shortages,” Haythorpe said.

“When schools can provide extra staff, they can address larger classes and provide extra support for students who need it.”

“Cutting funding from public school is not the way to reduce class sizes and provide time for our teachers to get the best from their students. Putting extra resources into schools is the best way to ensure that all students get the support and attention they need in the classroom.”

Other findings from the OECD report were that:

  • Public funding of education in Australia was 9.3 %of total government expenditure in 2015, compared to the 2015 OECD average of 11%. Australia’s percentage fell from 10.6 % to 9.3% between 2005-2015
  • Only 64% of 3-year-olds were enrolled in early-childhood education and care (ECEC) services in 2016, 12 percentage points less than the OECD average of 76%
  • However, enrolment rate in ECEC and primary education for 4-year-olds increased from 51% to 91% between 2005 and 2016 and is now above the OECD average of 88%
  • Annual expenditure per child on pre-primary education was at $7097 USD, below the OECD average of $8426 USD
  • In 2015, the share of private education funding for schools in Australia was higher than in all other OECD countries at 19%, compared to the OECD average of 8%
  • The sources of funding for Australian education institutions have changed over time. Between 2005 and 2015, public expenditure’s share of total expenditure on institutions declined from 73% to 66%
  • Teachers in Australia at the primary and secondary school level have face-to-face teaching times which are far above the OECD average.
  • In 2017, net teaching time for Australian primary teachers per year was 865 hours, compared to the OECD average of 778 hours
  • In 2016, the average class size in an Australian primary school was 24 students, compared to OECD average of 21 students.

“This OECD report shows public expenditure on education at 9.3% in Australia is already well below the OECD average of 11%,” Haythorpe said.

“The report shows that government policies have led to a significant shift over time in how education is funded. Between 2005 and 2015, public expenditure’s share of total expenditure on educational institutions in Australia declined from 73% to 66%. That shifts the cost burden from the government to the community.”

“This OECD report highlights that early childhood education is also a concern. It is critically important for young children to develop to their potential. Yet, this report shows that Australia is being left behind, particularly when it comes to our three-year-old ECE enrolments being 12% below the OECD average,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“However, the ECE figures for our four-year-olds clearly show that when sufficient resources are invested in the sector, we can achieve stellar results in terms of enrolments,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“Clearly we need to secure permanent funding for 15 hours of preschool per week for all four-year-olds and extend this commitment to quality early childhood education to three-year-old children as quickly as possible.”

“Australia currently ranks 23rd in spending on ECE as a percentage of GDP, well below the OECD average. World Bank data shows that in 2015, of the 207 countries examined, only eleven provide one year of pre-primary education - Algeria, Angola, Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ireland, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Australia,” Ms Haythorpe said.

“However, according to the May Federal Budget, the Morrison government is set to slash $500 million per year from ECE funding by 2020.”

“Australia only offers one year of preschool for young children, while many other OECD countries offer two years as standard. We should be setting the world standard on early childhood education, not falling below it,” Ms Haythorpe said.


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