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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

a flawed education policy « Previous | |Next »
June 25, 2007

In an op-ed in The Age Simon Marginson says puts his finger on the core failure of educational policy in Australia--underinvestment. It's argument is putting the "public" into public policy and it is part of a five-part series of seminars on "Education, science and the future of Australia" at the University of Melbourne.

Marginson says:

Compared to education, training and research in North America, Western Europe, Singapore, Korea and China, Australia is going backwards. Our total spending on education was once well above the OECD average. Now, at 5.8 per cent of GDP, it has fallen below the average and trails the United States and Korea, which spend 7.5 per cent. And, while our spending on private education is higher than average, public spending is just 4.3 per cent, compared with the OECD average of 5.2 per cent.

He says this public policy over the last two decades has left the nation with four crucial weaknesses in this area.

only 42 per cent of Australian three and four-year-olds are enrolled in pre-school programs. We spend an infinitesimal 0.1 per cent of GDP on early learning (one-fifth of the OECD average) and we staff our pre-schools with the worst-paid teachers when they ought to be among the best....Secondly, only 77 per cent of our 15 to 19-year-olds are in education. In Canada, it's 91 per cent. .... The legacy of weak early learning and a divided school system is an underclass of people who leaves school early, with poor job prospects. Thirdly, after early learning, vocational education and training is the most under-funded area of education, the casualty of a decade of buck-passing and blame-shifting between federal and state governments since their funding agreement collapsed in the late 1990s.Finally, higher education is now just 41 per cent government-funded. Since 1995, public funding for each student has fallen by 30 per cent, much the largest such decline in the OECD. Fee-based courses have expanded to fill the gap.
He adds that the shift from public to private funding has inadvertently thinned out the capacity of Australian universities in basic research, formerly supported through publicly funded teaching-research positions. International student fees do not generate enough surplus to fund research.Yet research is vital to our future prosperity.

Marginson states that whether public policy can take a long-term, outcomes-driven view might just depend on whether the public interest can make itself heard in policy development.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:33 AM |