The second keynote I saw was from Dr Ken Boston, one of the authors of the Gonski Report into education funding that the government has been making significant announcements about lately.
Boston’s speech was really an explanation and defence of the Gonski Report, grounded mostly in economic terms, with disadvantaged students as a waste of human capital which the country could benefit from.
However, it wasn’t long before we were into PISA tests again, this time with an emphasis on the ‘social gradients’ of various countries (Australia has a high-achieving, but low equity result scale) but also that Australia’s results are falling (relative to other countries/competitors).
No doubt, everyone benefits from a world class education system, but to call Australia’s results ‘chronic underachievement’ seemed an exaggeration for a system that (by Pisa’s own scale) is performing in the top half ten systems in the world)
And, while Boston gave an interesting report into the history of school funding in Australia, and some of the politics around that, there was not a moment when the worth of the PISA tests themselves came open to any analysis; not in terms of what it measures, nor of the differences in contexts and cultures of the countries involved in the testing.