Australians live at a time when the quality of discussion in the public sphere and within the institutions of the state is at a very low ebb; when policy making is dictated by short term political cycles, spin and focus groups; and when notions of the public good are set aside in favour of self-interest. This paper is based on the premise that if one of the historic purposes of education is to renew the public, then education holds the key to improving the quality of public discourse. However since education policy making in contemporary times is also caught up in the processes which diminish public discourse, the challenge is to find ways to break this vicious cycle. This paper argues that one of the factors contributing to this state of affairs is the influence of what is currently passing for educational ‘research’. It traces the ways in which unrefereed consultant and think-tank research has captured policy makers and some sections of the media, and shows—using a recent influential research report as a case study—how such research often does not stand up to critical review. The purpose in questioning the rigour of such research is based on the conviction that a process of reinvigorating and deepening public debate about education must be based on quality research. The paper concludes by suggesting some ways by which the education research community can contribute to the process of renewing the public.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Amrein, A., & Berliner, D. (2003). The effects of highstakes testing on student motivation and learning. Educational Leadership, 60(5), 32–38.
Askew, M., Hodgen, J., Hossain, S., & Bretscher, N. (2010). Values and variables: mathematics education in high-performing countries. London: Nuffield Foundation.
Choi, P. (2005). A critical evaluation of education reforms in Hong Kong: Counting our losses to economic globalization. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 15(3), 256–327.
Crooks, M. (2012). A switch in time: Restoring respect to Australian politics. Melbourne: Victorian Women’s Trust.
Education Policy Response Group. (2012). Charter schools for New Zealand. New Zealand: Massey University.
Feinberg, W. (2012). The idea of a public education. Review of Research in Education, 36, 1–22.
Ferrari, J. (2012, February 17). Lessons from Asia show way forward for schools. The Australian.
Ferrari, J. (2012, 18–19 February). Helping students learn key to better results. The Weekend Australian, p. 17.
Garrett, P. (2012). Opening address to the Australia Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) professional pearning convention on February 23, 2012. Retrieved, from http://ministers.deewr.gov.au/garrett/opening-address-australian-institute-teaching-and-school-leadership-professional-learning.
Gilbert, R., Keddie, A., Lingard, B., Mills, M., & Renshaw, P. (2013). Equity and education research, policy and practice: A review. In A. Reid & L. Reynolds (Eds.), Equity and education. Melbourne: Australian College of Education.
Gonski, D. (2011). Review of funding for schooling. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
Harrison, D. (2012, February 17). A class above, Sydney Morning Herald.
Hopmann, S., Brinek, G., & Retzl, M. (Eds.). (2007). PISA according to PISA: Does PISA keep what it promises?. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishing.
Hursh, D. & Martina, C. A. (2003). ‘Neoliberalism and schooling in the US: How state and federal government education policies perpetuate inequality’, Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 1(2), http://www.jceps.com/index.php?pageID=article&articleID=12.
Jarvis, J. (2011). Public parts: How sharing in the digital age improves the way we work and live. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Jensen, B. (2012, September 27). Sorry, but we do need more money to improve student learning. The Australian.
Jensen, B. (2012, February 18–19). Shanghai success a lesson in delivery. The Weekend Australian, p. 17.
Jensen, B. (2012, November 23). We have much to learn from education systems in Asia. The Australian.
Jensen, B., Hunter, A., Sonnemann, J., & Burns, T. (2012). Catching up: Learning from the best school systems in East Asia. Melbourne: Grattan Institute.
Jones, B. (2012). Stupidity is on the rise in our age of enlightenment in the Sydney Morning Herald, August 9, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/stupidity-is-onthe-rise-in-our-age-of-enlightenment-20120808-23uiq.html.
Lingard, R. (2011). Policy as numbers: Ac/counting for educational research. The Australian Educational Researcher, 38(4), 355–382.
MCEETYA. (2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians. MCEETYA: Canberra.
Ng, P. T. (2008). Educational reform in Singapore: From quantity to quality. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 7, 5–15.
Nicols, S., & Berliner, D. (2007). Collateral damage: How high-stakes testing corrupts America’s schools. Harvard: Harvard Education Press.
O’Neill, J. (2009, August 21). New Zealand research says teachers matter most: Truth or Truespeak? Unpublished presentation to the Wellington Regional Seminar.
OECD. (2009). Creating effective teaching and learning environments: First results from TALIS. Paris, France: OECD.
Poon, A. Y. K., & Wong, Y. C. (2008). Policy changes and impact of the education reform in Hong Kong. Journal of Taiwan Normal University: Education, 53(3), 47–65. Taiwan.
Productivity Commission. (2012). Schools workforce, Research Report, Canberra.
Pyne, C. (2012, July 16). Achieving teacher quality: the coalition’s approach, address to the Sydney Institute.
Ravitch, D. (2010). The death and life of the great American school system: How testing and choice are undermining education. New York: Basic Books.
Reid, A. (2012). Federalism, public education and the public good (pp. 1–14). Sydney: Whitlam Institute, UWS.
Reid, A. (2013). Deepening the equity discourse. In A. Reid & L. Reynolds (Eds.), Equity and education: Exploring new directions for equity in Australian education (pp. 4–14). Carlton, VIC: Australian College of Educators.
Sandel, M. (2010). The lost art of democratic debate, TED: Ideas worth spreading, posted in June 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2012, from http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_sandel_the_lost_art_of_democratic_debate.html.
Sandel, M. (2012). What money can’t buy: The moral limits of markets. London: Allen Lane.
Sandlin, J., Burdick, J., & Norris, T. (2012). Erosion and experience: Education for democracy in a consumer society. Review of Research in Education, 36, 139–168.
Sloan, J. (2012, August 28). Why I don’t give a Gonski for more school spending. The Australian.
Tanner, L. (2011). Sideshow: Dumbing down democracy. Melbourne: Scribe.
Tanner, L. (2012). Politics with purpose. Melbourne: Scribe.
Yates, L. (2012). ‘My school, my university, my country, my world, my google, myself… What is education for now? Australian Educational Researcher, 39(3), 259–274.
Zhao, Y. (2005). Increasing math and science achievement: The best and worst of the East and West. Phi Delta Kappan, 87(3), 219–222.
This paper is based on the text of the 2012 Radford Lecture presented by the author to the AARE/APERA conference at Sydney University on Tuesday 4 December, 2012.
About this article
Cite this article
Reid, A. Renewing the public and the role of research in education. Aust. Educ. Res. 40, 281–297 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-013-0116-x
- Education policy
- Education research
- Public education
- Public sphere