Inputs to outcomes? Perceptions of the evolution of Commonwealth government policy approaches to outcomes-based education (1985-1996)

Year: 1999

Author: Welsh, Mary

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It is important to look at the past in order to understand how current education policies have evolved. The present Commonwealth Government's policy emphasis on outcomes' measurement, benchmarking and target-setting is a case in point. This paper reports on research investigating how Commonwealth policies to promote the quality of school education evolved between 1985 and 1996. Its findings are based on extensive documentary research and on data drawn from 50 interviews with former State and Commonwealth Education Ministers, senior government officials, teacher unions, teacher professional associations, school principals, teacher educators, education consultants/commentators and a business/industry representative. The shift in Commonwealth education policies from an inputs-based approach (post Karmel Report, 1973) to a greater focus on educational accountability, outputs and the outcomes of schooling is a key issue in this research. This paper discusses perceptions of factors influencing such 'evolutionary shifts' in policy from 1985 onwards, including economic, international, political and professional agendas, key policy initiatives and the involvement of education stakeholders in national policies for schools.