Why did the Australian Government introduce the Quality Schools funding arrangements?

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While school funding has been growing, results are declining

The Australian Government is growing its record levels of recurrent funding for schools from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $32.5 billion in 2029. Total combined Commonwealth and state government funding has grown in real terms by 17.0 per cent per student over the 10 year period from 2008-09 to 2017-18.

Over this period, Commonwealth funding per student has increased in real terms by 55.5 per cent for government schools and 43.1 per cent for non-government schools while comparable state and territory funding has grown by only 7.0 per cent to their own government schools and by 15.3 per cent to non-government schools.

According to independent analysis, Australia is now among the highest investors in school education in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). However, Australia’s performance in international testing has declined both relative to other countries and in real terms.

The 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report showed that:

  • Australian students are nearly 10 months of schooling behind where they were in reading literacy in 2000.
  • Australian students are nearly eleven months of schooling behind where they were in scientific literacy in 2006.
  • Australian students are just over a year of schooling behind where they were in mathematical literacy in 2003.

Evidence from the OECD is clear that simply providing more funding does not in itself improve student outcomes. The OECD has found that for high-income countries like Australia it matters more how money is spent, than how much is spent.

  Total Public Funding - real per student (2015-16 prices) Reading Maths Science
2006-07 12,849 513 520 527
2007-08 12,992      
2008-09 13,279      
2009-10 13,783 515 514 527<
2010-11 13,783      
2011-12 14,162      
2012-13 14,004 512 504 521
2013-14 14,321      
2014-15 14,632      
2015-16 14,795 503 494 510<

Sources: Productivity Commission (2020). Report on Government Services.
Australian Council of Educational Research (2019). PISA 2018: Reporting Australia's Results.


  1. PISA is the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment. 79 countries participated in PISA 2018.
  2. PISA has been held every three years since 2000. The table above shows results from the 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 cycles with lines connected to show trends.
  3. Financial data from the Report on Government Services is only available up to 2017-18.