Action needed to deliver the Melbourne Declaration

Mitchell Institute at Victoria University has called on the Federal Education Minister to use the review of the Melbourne Declaration aims of schooling, to deliver a roadmap for delivery.

All states and territories signed up to the Melbourne Declaration 11 years ago, pledging to address inequality in our education system. But since then, few have made substantial progress to deliver the declaration’s aims.

The Mitchell Institute is launching its paper, Achieving our Educational Goals: A Declaration for System Transformation, today to coincide with the Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan’s Melbourne Declaration round table taking place in Sydney.

“Our hope is that the Melbourne Declaration review moves the conversation from aims to actions,” Victoria University’s Mitchell Institute Education Policy Lead Dr Jen Jackson said.

Australia’s biggest challenge in schooling is not what to aim for, but how to ensure that every student in Australian schools gets the learning that they need.

The Melbourne Declaration objectives are for Australia’s school education to promote equity and excellence in schools in order for all students to have the opportunity to reach their full potential and become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens.

But a decade on, over a quarter of all students have fallen behind in the development of reading and maths skills by the time they reach secondary school.

Growth in Year 12 retention rates has levelled out. Students from Indigenous backgrounds, those with disabilities, students in low socio economic status areas and those in rural and remote communities complete school at much lower rates, leading to poorer outcomes in work and tertiary education.

“The Melbourne Declaration includes broad areas for action, but does not get to the heart of how our school system can be designed to deliver equal opportunity for all,” Dr Jackson said. “Neither does it adequately recognise that achieving this goal is a shared responsibility of all Australians – governments, families, employers – not only schools.

“For the Melbourne Declaration to have impact, its aims must be deeply embedded in everything schools do, and in how families, governments and others evaluate how well the school system is serving them.” Dr Jackson said.

"We need schools that can “walk the talk”, with a broad base of support that enables them to do so."

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