9 MARCH 2011

In their Emerging Issues Paper, of December 2010, the Gonski Review panel said on page 18:

the panel feels it important to state its focus of considerations of equity for the review. The panel believes that a commitment to equity means that differences in educational outcomes should not be the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions; it is not meant to suggest that all students are the same or will achieve the same or will achieve the same outcomes. This aspiration aligns with the OECD’s definition of equity in education.

DOGS  note the reference to the OECD and urge the panel to raise their sights above the selfish sectarian focus groups that have systematically made the educational opportunities of the majority of Australian children the ‘result of differences in wealth, income, power, possessions’ – or religious belief  over the past half century. It is interesting that no mention is made of ‘religious belief’ by the Committee although this has loomed large in arguments for taxpayer funding of sectarian institutions for the last two hundred years.

There will be a mirage of facts, figures, chest thumping and political manoeuvring in the next year, but the simple fact remains: the only system which offers educational opportunities to all children regardless of their differences in wealth, income power or possessions is a strong public system. It is also the only system which respects separation of religion from the State and seeks to integrate children from a vast number of different backgrounds into a democratic and heterogeneous society. A strong public system is one that is :

·         Public in purpose,

·         Public in outcome

·         Public in access- to all children, parents, teachers, administrators etc.

·         Public in ownership

·         Public in control

·         Public in funding – with sole public funding

·         Publicly accountable

·         With governments accepting responsible for public provision.

There can be no possibility of equity in educational provision while billions of dollars of public funding are diverted to sectarian systems which are private in all the above indicia.

The arguments used to obtain State Aid in the 1960s have now been turned on their head. Public funding of sectarian institutions makes neither economic nor socio-political sense. It would now be economically sensible to take over these expensive institutions, rationalise the enormous levels of duplication of facilities, fund a top level public system - and enjoy the benefits of a genuinely independent system.

Not even Adam Smith who believed in ‘the invisible hand’ of the market would accept the current result of the market ideologues and promoters of ‘parental choice’. He saw the need for the strong public system, if only to produce well educated citizens to defend the realm.

But another crunch point has finally been reached. All the false arguments of the sectarian interest have finally been blown out of the water by a simple reality. Australia is falling behind the rest of the developed world at an alarming rate, and might soon fall behind the developing world.

Consider the following facts on the international situation:

When it comes to resources for public school we have a long way to go to catch up with other comparable nations. 

Low Spending on Education.   According to the Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) Australia ranks 23rd out of 27 major nations when it comes to public expenditure on education as a percentage of our economic output (Gross Domestic Product)

Low Spending on Public Schools. Only two major countries spend a lower proportion of education funding on public schools than Australia. We are 27th out of 29 nations according to the OECD.

High Spending on Private Schools. Only Belgium spends a higher proportion of government education funding on private schools and universities than we do.

Large Primary Classes. Australia has above-average class sizes in primary schools (where it counts the most). The average primary class in Australia has 23.3 students. The average in OECD countries is 21.4(AEU Survey of Schools)

It is not surprising that according to the PISA results the performance of Australian students is now falling behind countries like Finland, South Korea, and cities like Shanghai.

Needless to say, these countries do not divert billions of dollars of public funds away from their public systems to sectarian institutions.






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