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Resource issues in secondary schools

02 December 2019

Digital technology has emerged as the most inequitable resource issue impacting instruction in Australian secondary schools.

Further analysis of data presented in the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) Australian Report by ACER Deputy CEO (Research) Dr Sue Thomson reveals that principals in secondary schools with higher concentrations of students from socioeconomically disadvantaged homes are more likely to be negatively affected by the availability of technology.

Writing in Teacher, Dr Thomson said that 40 per cent of principals in disadvantaged schools reported that a shortage or inadequacy of digital technology hindered instruction ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’, compared to just one per cent of principals in more advantaged schools.

Principals in disadvantaged schools were also more likely to report insufficient internet access compared to principals in more advantaged schools (28 per cent vs five per cent).

The TALIS 2018 Australian Report Volume 1 produced by ACER focuses on the responses of a nationally representative sample of 3573 teachers and 230 principals of lower secondary (Years 7-10) students. Dr Thomson notes that TALIS shows substantial agreement between secondary school principals and lower secondary teachers on the resource issues they face.

‘Among all Australian teachers surveyed, as with principals, technology was the most commonly identified resource issue,’ Dr Thomson writes.

Teachers in disadvantaged schools were also more likely to identify issues with technology. However, Dr Thomson highlights that other, more basic issues were identified as hindering instruction by a substantial proportion of teachers in disadvantaged schools.

Nineteen per cent of teachers in disadvantaged schools reported that a shortage or inadequacy of instructional materials such as textbooks hindered instruction ‘quite a bit’ or ‘a lot’, compared to six per cent of teachers in advantaged schools. There were also significant differences between teachers in disadvantaged and more advantaged schools in relation to issues with physical infrastructure such as school buildings, heating and cooling (17 per cent vs 10 per cent), instructional space (16 per cent vs 10 per cent) and library materials (11 per cent vs six per cent).

‘These are very basic requirements for schools in a modern, wealthy economy such as Australia’s, and while there has most definitely been a large increase over the years in funding to schools, TALIS data clearly shows that resourcing continues to be a challenge,’ Dr Thomson writes.

‘With gaps of about three years of schooling evident between the PISA scores of advantaged and disadvantaged schools, it is time to address the resources that are lacking in disadvantaged schools … While certainly not the complete story, it is difficult to imagine trying to achieve excellent academic results in a situation in which there are shortages or inadequacies of resources at such a basic level.’ ■

Read the full article:
School resourcing: What hinders quality instruction?’, written by Sue Thomson and published in Teacher magazine, is available at <www.teachermagazine.com.au/columnists/sue-thomson>

RD

About the author

Dr Sue Thomson is the Deputy CEO (Research) at ACER, as well as the Head of Educational Monitoring and Research, and the Director of ACER's Surveys and International Assessments research program. 

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