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Monday, July 22, 2013

The Missing Voice in Australia’s Education Debate: The Student

By David Andrews, Senior Consultant, and Peggy Jasperson, Consulting Specialist

Australia’s performance in education is slipping compared with other developed nations. This is a key issue on the minds of Australians ahead of the upcoming federal election. Australia’s next leader will face the same challenges as former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose goal was to have Australia’s education system among the top five in the world by 2025.

Potential changes in the federal government could lead to a significant overhaul of the country’s education policies and funding decisions. Education leaders across Australia have important issues to address in schools for students to reach their full potential. With recent policy updates, such as the NSW government’s “Local Schools, Local Decisions” and the federal government’s funding review, principals now have more resources and autonomy. However, many still lack the local, actionable data they need to meet the unique needs of their students and achieve school success.

The best educators know that for students to achieve meaningful, lasting success in the classroom and beyond, they must be emotionally engaged in their educational experience. However, Australian schools do not currently measure student engagement consistently or widely. NAPLAN, which is used to evaluate academic standards, does not capture the holistic side of student success.

To help Australia improve its education system, Gallup is now making its Student Poll available to the country’s schools. The Gallup Student Poll will capture the one voice missing from the national education debate: that of Australia’s students. The Gallup Student Poll is an online assessment that measures student hope for the future, engagement with school, and wellbeing. These factors have been shown to drive students' grades, achievement scores, retention and future employment, according to Gallup’s research in the U.S.

  • Hope fuels problem solving, and it helps faculty understand how to work with students to develop their personal strengths and social resources. It describes how confident students feel about achieving their goals, dreams, and ideal outcomes in life. Hopeful students believe that the future will be better than the present and that they have the power to make it so. Gallup research shows a link between students with high hope and success in university.
  • Wellbeing illustrates how we think about and experience our lives. Students with high wellbeing experience more success than those with low wellbeing. Wellbeing tells us how students are doing today and predicts their success in the future. Research suggests that providing opportunities to learn, laugh, and socialise can boost student wellbeing.
  • Engagement optimises student performance by transforming campuses and classrooms into environments where students thrive. Engaged students have an emotional connection with their learning institution. They are more likely to show up for class and actively participate in the learning process. Hope and engagement work independently and together to produce the positive outcomes of higher wellbeing and increased academic success.
Participating in the Student Poll will allow Australia’s youth to have a voice and will help ensure a positive future for all of Australia’s students. School leaders can use this information to make informed decisions about the allocation of funds, program implementation, and community involvement.

Australians can get involved with the Gallup Student Poll by telling principals, teachers, parents, and students about it. Each school that wishes to partake needs to register via the website www.gallupstudentpoll.com.au. New school registrations will be accepted until 26, August 2013.

For more information on how to help students, teachers, and schools succeed, visit Gallup’s Education Knowledge Center.

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