Release type: Transcript


Interview - Today Show


The Hon Jason Clare MP
Minister for Education


KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, how much do you, as a parent, worry about the education of your kids? The latest NAPLAN results have laid bare the education crisis in this country. More than 400,000 Aussie students are falling behind in a major way. And if something doesn't change, these children have little hope of improving. Our teaching methods, curriculums are clearly not working. The pressure on our teachers is immense. Our leaders need to step up and rescue these kids before it's too late. Education Minister Jason Clare joins us now.

Jason, good morning to you. I mean, this is supposed to be the lucky country, and this is a massive educational fail.

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: This shows we need serious reform in education. This report makes that blisteringly clear. It shows that one in ten children are below the minimum standard that we set for NAPLAN this year. But not just that. It shows that one in three children from poor families, one in three children from the bush, and one in three Indigenous children are below that minimum standard. And not just that, what the evidence shows is that if you fall behind in third grade, it's very hard to catch up by the time you're in Year 9. Only about 20 per cent of children do that. As a result, we're seeing some of those children drop out of high school, not finish year twelve and that's at a time where more and more jobs require you to finish high school and then go on to TAFE or uni. So, this is serious and requires serious reform.

STEFANOVIC: It sure is. I'm not sure what's more serious. And you're a can-do guy, you've had a bit of time, now, 400,000 kids out there waiting for help. 400,000, that is just not good enough.

CLARE: To be fair, Karl, what we've done this year with NAPLAN is raise the bar. We've lifted the standard students are expected to meet, and we've done that deliberately so that we can better identify the students that need extra help. The next step is to provide them with that extra help, and that's what the next National School Reform Agreement must be about. I've got to negotiate that with the States and Territories next year, as well as bilateral agreements with each State and Territory. We've committed to making sure that we put every school on a path to full and fair funding. Not every school's in that situation at the moment. Non-government schools are above the level that David Gonski set. Public schools are below it and not on track to meet it. We've got to fix that funding gap, but we've got to fix this education gap that this report makes clear as well. We've got to make sure next year that we tie this funding to the sort of things that are going to help children who fall behind to catch up and then to keep up, and ultimately to finish high school.

STEFANOVIC: I don't know. I mean, 15 years of NAPLAN, ten years of needs-based learning, and it's a pretty deep fail. I mean, is it actually - should it be continuing?

CLARE: I think these tests are important because they help to identify the children who need extra help, extra support. Karl, I talked about finishing high school. Over the last six years, we've seen a drop in the number of children finishing high school, particularly from poor families and from public schools. Six years ago, it was 83 per cent of children finishing Year 12, in public schools. It's now dropped to 76 per cent. And as I said, this is at a time where you need to finish high school. So, you know the pressure is on me and other Education Ministers to make sure that we tie funding to the sort of things that are going to fix this and that's what the agreement we strike next year has got to be about.

STEFANOVIC: I don't know what we're waiting for. I mean parents are struggling with the cost of living in mortgages. They can't do everything, and they put their faith in this system. You're outlining issues that need to be fixed, and today you're aware of them. What's to stop you doing it right now?

CLARE: We are doing it right now. I've commissioned Dr. Lisa O'Brien, the former head of The Smith Family, to tell me and other Education Ministers what we should tie this funding to next year. Now, one of the things that's mentioned in reports in the papers today is catch-up tutoring, where a child that falls behind at school gets taken out of the classroom of 20 or 30 kids into a group with one teacher and two or three other children. The evidence, and I could give you the example of Chullora Public School around the corner from my office, shows that you take a child like that out of the classroom, put them in a small group with a professional teacher, then what happens is they learn as much in 18 weeks as they normally would learn in a year. They're the sort of things that I mean when I talk about tying funding to the sort of things that are going to help a child who falls behind at primary school to catch up.

STEFANOVIC: Well, get busy on it. I mean, even at private school, parents, if they can afford it, and they can obviously afford it at private schools, getting tuition for their kids so that they can remain in contact with the curriculum. I mean, you know, there's an issue. Appreciate you being on.

CLARE: That's very true, mate. Very true.

STEFANOVIC: We'll have you on again, appreciate it. Thank you.