Thought I might try something different with the Institute this week – pose some questions about a topic that is being discussed in the twittoblogosphere and give a bit of a comment after those questions. These are questions, not answers. Sometimes I will state both sides in my discussion of the question. Just like Q & A, really – except I am not providing party political talking points as a substitute for answers.
Question 1. Why is it always high fee paying private schools that are used as examples of the independent schooling sector?
Read the Sydney Morning Herald, and funding of the high fee paying private schools like Kings, Scots, Pymble Ladies’ College and the like is a frequent visitor to its pages. It’s almost as if the Herald aren’t aware of Catholic systemic, community Christian and Islamic schools. For it is these schools, out in the suburbs, that receive the bulk of Federal education funding for independent schools. Yet what we see time and again are pictures of new swimming pools and rugby fields, which works to polarise and sensationalise, rather than discuss the complexity of the education system.
It is also the case that many advocates of public schooling want to target independent schools, so they make the high fee paying ones the symbol of the wastefulness of government spending. It could also be that many of these advocates live in relatively affluent areas, where the main schooling options are public schools and the high fee paying school. The question remains – why not look at the schools that receive most of the money, not the lucky few that benefit from former students and from well paid parents.
Question 2. Why Don’t We Hear About Teacher Recruitment Issues?
When I started out in teaching, I could not get a permanent posting. Three years of living in the western suburbs of Sydney, being available to be placed in a Western Suburbs public school and nothing. So, like many teachers in the western suburbs, I worked in blocks, on temporary contracts. Financial security non existent – especially if I was after day to day casual work. This situation remains to this day. Teachers on temporary contracts – often in the same school – who can’t be upgraded to permanency. Teachers on blocks who can’t get an interview for a position or get pushed up “the list”.
It is a worthwhile conversation to have about teach quality. But imagine the quality one could have if more young teachers could gain permanent placements. Somewhere. If that school is considered to be a “rough” school, then provide support to that teacher and encourage support networks.
Question 3. Why Must People Attack Sides?
The education debate is often torpedoed by comments from people – like Catherine Deveny – who insist on labelling parents who choose to send their students to independent schools. Or label supporters of independent schools as “elitists” who “support Knox getting another rugby field”. On the other side, we have people who support education choice by making uninformed and prejudiced comments about the “type” of student who goes to a “typical” public school. We get a polarised dichotomy that doesn’t help. Schools aren’t easily placed into boxes or stereotypes, so attempting to do so by taking a “side” is probably unproductive – but still people do it.
Question 4. Why Aren’t We Talking About Increasing All School Funding?
The old argument about whether independent schools should get funding from governments was fought and lost quite some time ago. Considering that it seems most politicians from the ALP and Liberal Party either went to an independent school, their children go to one – or, more importantly – are frequently lobbied by voting parents of students who attend these schools – funding of independent schools will be a continuing reality for a while.
This is why, maybe, the conversation could turn to discussing whether all school funding should be increased, at the expense of areas where the need isn’t as great, such as defence or asylum seeker processing. The government that stands up and says “we are actually increasing funding for all schools” would actually receive a lot of support – especially in that Western Sydney area people go on about. As I said in my post on education in Ausvotes 2013 – education is very important – for parents who send their kids to all schools. More important than stopping boats and transport.
Question 5. Why Selective Schools?
This is a NSW specific question. We have academically selective schools that are frequently trumpeted on the league tables produced in the HSC result coverage in the Herald and Telegraph. This is rendered almost meaningless when you regard that these schools take students from other schools and group them together in a place where very good is just mediocre. What we don’t hear is how the academically selective system benefits the whole student. They are just made into their result.
Anyway, these are questions. Come up with some answers. Or not. Your call.