Thank your teachers. In your individual case your teachers probably included your parents, family, siblings and almost definitely the teachers when you went to school. In your school, the teacher was the one that convinced you to put the effort in to learn how to read the squiggly lines on a page or a screen that make up words and numbers, it wasn’t the operators of the school, the quality of the infrastructure or the school’s history.
Private schools were set up in Australia for a number of reasons. Some religious groups determined the state school system didn’t teach the morality of the group, others addressed a perceived need in the community. Until the Menzies Government started funding private schools (effectively to buy their compliance), parents who sent their children to private schools generally paid the cost of their children’s education. Since Menzies, it’s become a bit more complicated. Generally private schools receive greater federal funding than state government operated schools. There have been a number of efforts by various governments to equalise the situation, the latest being the Gonski Review which was implemented by the Gillard Government.
One of the core recommendations of the Gonski review when it was released in 2011 was implementing the SRS, a needs-based model to provide a baseline education to students, set at $13,060 for primary students and $16,413 for secondary students.
The federal education minister at the time of the Gonski review, Peter Garrett, said the aim was to ensure any student, irrespective of their background, could reach their potential.
Sadly, this core recommendation was ignored by Gillard, Rudd, Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison. The Guardian’s article (linked above) details the failures of the implementation by all five governments.
Gillard started the rot by pledging that no school would end up with less money – a problem considering that most private schools were receiving more per student than the needs-based funding recommended. Let’s just say the situation has not improved over the subsequent decade. As Van Badham suggests in The Guardian ‘Public Schools are struggling as St Poshies builds wellness centres with taxpayer money’.
It is completely wrong to suggest that state government operated schools do not educate to the same standard. For those that know the leafy (and now politically Green) inner western suburbs of Brisbane, there is a state high school on one side of Lambert Road at Indooroopilly and a high-profile private school on the other. The Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty attended the state high school. While he has gone on to great things, as have a number of students from both sides of Lambert Road (and every other high school in Australia for that matter), it is the quality of the teaching – not the surroundings -that counts. While private schools may attempt to attract the teachers perceived to be ‘better’ and be able to boast of the numbers of their students that achieved the highest level of University Entry ranking, they also have a unique advantage that they can choose their students, state government schools have to take all comers in (usually) a geographic area.
Of course, there is the ‘status’ of your children attending (or you are working at) a well-known and usually quite expensive private school. This is where the real issue is. It would be an interesting study to determine how many of those that attend private schools actually live their lives in accordance with the claimed philosophies of the private schools they or their children attend. Or maybe the forking out of thousands a year for something that can be received at significantly less cost is a (illogical if you think about it) part of the parent’s inevitable climb up the social ladder. It works nicely with the McMansion in the ‘nice’ area and the large SUV or ute in the driveway – in between clogging up the roads around the time of the school pick up because the beloved Tarquin or Millicent shouldn’t be seen on a public transport operator’s school bus.
It really wasn’t surprising to recently read that vehicle importers spend double on marketing their SUVs and utes than traditional sedans, wagons and hatchbacks. There are real problems with large (usually American) SUVs and utes and their resources consumption, along with the lack of safety for other road users and pedestrians around these vehicles. They still get stuck with the bus or small hatchback in the traffic jam – regardless of the owners highly visible ‘look at me’ statement.
It is similar to the reliance on ‘external consultancies’ with expensive marketing and communications strategies rather than using the in-house talents of the public service, so beloved by the Abbott, Turnbull or Morrison Governments. In the majority of circumstances, the advice of the external consultancies is probably quite valid when considered from the viewpoint of the consultants, who generally have left school, gone to university, gained additional qualifications in their selected profession and then climbed the greasy pole in one of the external consultancies with very little experience in how the rest of us live. So the same people in similar roles at similar service providers are contracted by a public service who have not been resourced well enough by a series of governments to ensure the government can perform their role in society, That is somewhat ironic given the hollowing out of the public service that occurred under the recent decade of Coalition governments – and the claims of the ‘Canberra bubble’ made by the leaders of the same governments. Where’s the real ‘bubble’ or echo chamber here?
Anyway, the point of briefly discussing all of these issues is this. Governments, especially Coalition ones, have completely destroyed any pretence of an equal society. The outcome is Robodebt where (regardless of the lack of legality) decision makers in the government thought that reversing the proof of innocence and making baseless claims that people owed thousands to the government was a good idea. At the same time, the process made it incredibly difficult for those affected to demonstrate the government had it wrong.
It does matter that if you don’t send your child to “St Poshies”, the government doesn’t fund your child’s education to the same value. It isn’t fair or reasonable to you or your child that your child may experience facilities that are falling down around them and staffed by teachers that don’t have the time to prepare lessons and teach the syllabus in amongst the myriad of other things they have to do to ‘help out’. Your child certainly won’t be able to use school-based world class sporting fields or ‘wellness centres’ or gyms because the state systems usually don’t have the funding to pay for them. Your poor child might also have to catch public transport to and from school (quelle horreur!) rather than private transport options provided by the school.
And for those who pick their treasured Tarquin or Millicent up, the reality is that a lot of people in the queue outside the private school this afternoon driving the oversized SUV or ute are one or two pay cheques or cancelled contracts away from social security. Regardless of the Coalition’s’ labelling’ of some sectors of the community as ‘lifters and leaners’ or ‘quiet Australians’, implying importance on people’s income, spending and behaviours, things can change dramatically and quickly.
Greed is not good, whoever dies with the most toys doesn’t win and we all deserve to live in a compassionate society. Education of our children is too important to be a political football and using it as such disadvantages all of us. The sooner our political leaders realise that – the better off we all are.
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