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a divided and hierarchical system of schools « Previous | |Next »
December 8, 2010

Julia Gillard has astutely sold the idea that improving educational outcomes improves productivity and is as essential to the national economic agenda as it is to the social agenda. Some of the steps in this improvement are a national curriculum, the My School website and the NAPLAN test.

The improvement is necessary because performance at the higher levels of achievement is static or declining and the persistent tail of low achievement, associated mostly with socio-economic disadvantage, is too long.


In Australia elite private schools boast gleaming new classrooms, libraries and sports facilities, while government schools are increasingly dilapidated. It's not that simple of course, because many independent (ie. private) schools actually receive the vast bulk of their funding from the taxpayer.In effect we have two public school systems: one with some hefty co-payments by parents, and an under-funded version run along traditional lines. What we call private schools are more accurately called government subsidised schools.

So much for the separation of church and state.

Behind this lies the very distinct and depressing social and academic gaps among schools, a product of geography and quasi-market ideology interspersed with official neglect. The effect is that Australia’s public schools are becoming “ safety net schools” only required to offer a “reasonable standard” of education. Australia has a funding system that sets up one system of schools to succeed and the other to struggle.

The growing social and academic division between our schools has been partly caused by the consistent (30 years) under-funding and undermining of our public schools. Instead of a divided and hierarchical system of schools, the local public schools especially should be funded so they become a real and active choice for all children.

Under a neo-liberal mode of governance we have an educational marketplace with its rhetoric of "parent choice" and "competition" were schools compete against each other by being seen as "better" than their competitors. In education markets the winners are those with the most resources; the losers are those with inadequate resources. So we have gated school compounds in some areas and ghettos in others. the neo-liberal rationale is that "sluggish" public schools in disadvantaged areas are forced to become innovative through direct competition with the private sector.

Instead of raising the education of all communities , especially in bringing up the bottom, public policy is creating inequality and division. Labor's commitment to social justice and equal opportunity is undercut by the failure to adequately support public schooling.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:46 AM | | Comments (5)


Hear, hear!!

see Jane Caro and Chris Bonnor The Stupid Country: How Australia is Dismantling Public Education, (2007) UNSW Press.

The free market was supposed to deliver quality for all because parents could vote with their feet and underperforming schools would lift their game. The My School website is largely built around these assumptions.

The result is that the achievement gaps between high socio-economic status (SES) and low SES students have increased. Low SES kids are now two to three years behind high SES kids in learning.

the challenge is to lift educational outcomes for all students

Jennifer Buckingham from the Centre of Independent Studies says that the number of high achievers is shrinking because all the attention goes to the weak.