Australia can move ahead with a controversial government-financed tutoring program now that one of its states has agreed to act as a broker.
The Tutorial Voucher Initiative, implemented this school year, gives vouchers worth $700 (about $538 U.S.) to parents whose year-3 children—7- and 8-year-olds—fall short of national literacy benchmarks. Brokers, who arrange the after-school services with schools or private tutors, had been secured for most of the nation’s children, except public school students in Tasmania, one of Australia’s six states.
That problem was resolved recently when Tasmania opted to serve as the broker, according to Yaron Finkelstein, a spokesman for Brendan Nelson, Australia’s minister of education.
About 24,000 Australian children are eligible for the tutoring, a little under one in 10 of those who took the national tests in 2003. Mr. Nelson’s office did not have data on how many children had enrolled so far.
Critics of the $20 million (about $15.3 million U.S.) program have said tutoring won’t boost achievement as much as beefing up schools’ curricula. Others are concerned about how to ensure high-quality tutoring. Advocates call it a great opportunity for children who otherwise couldn’t afford the extra help.