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PM Gillard's fabian fantasies undermine non-government schools

By Kevin Donnelly - posted Friday, 16 November 2012


Those seeking evidence that the Gillard led ALP government is committed to imposing a cultural-left and Asia-centric view of education on every government and non-government school across Australia need to look no further than the Exposure Draft of the Australian Education Bill 2012.

The draft bill also reinforces the fears held by non-government schools that any new legislation, due before the end of the year, will undermine their autonomy and deny them the resources needed to ensure their students receive a properly funded education.

Since the Gonski funding review was announced in April 2010 I have argued that the Commonwealth government, even though school education is a state’s responsibility, would force schools to adopt its agenda by tying funding to implementation.

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I have also argued, based on the Gonski report and the government’s responses to date, that the Gillard led government embraces a view of education based on equity of outcomes where the belief is that funding must be redirected from non-government to so-called disadvantaged government schools.

This is clearly the case.  While failing to provide any details or certainty about the funding model that will have to replace the existing socioeconomic status (SES) model, due to expire at the end of 2013, the draft exposes Prime Minister Gillard’s penchant for a cultural-left view of disadvantage and victimhood.

The statement that a “student’s quality of education should not be limited by where a student lives, the income of his or her family, the school he or she attends, or his or her personal circumstances” mirrors the Fabian delusion that governments can and must intervene to ensure that all students have an same chance of success.

The argument that “every school student will have the same opportunity to have the best possible education”, while appearing worthwhile, also mirrors a cultural-left, utopian vision of education.  One where there is a level playing field guaranteeing all students are treated equally.

Ignored is that some parents work harder than others to ensure their children get a good education, that not all students have the same ability or urge to succeed and that some schools, by their very nature, achieve stronger outcomes compared to others.

The definition of disadvantage adopted by the draft bill, one where the usual victim groups are listed, provides additional evidence of this Fabian ideology.  Listing characteristics like Aboriginality, low socioeconomic status and ethnic background ignores that fact that another disadvantaged group is Australia’s high achieving students whose results in international tests are going backwards.

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Also ignored is that research suggests that a student’s socioeconomic background plays a minor role in explaining why some students do better than others.

The draft bill, by stating that in order to receive funding schools and states must implement the Commonwealth government’s national plan, outlined in sections 6, 7 and 8 of the bill, represents an attack on the autonomy of non-government schools and their ability to best reflect the needs and aspirations of their communities.

Schools, already struggling under bureaucratic and intrusive accountability and transparency measures, will face further demands to develop benchmarks for assessing school performance and to collect and make public data related to student outcomes.

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About the Author

Dr Kevin Donnelly is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Catholic University and he recently co-chaired the review of the Australian national curriculum. He can be contacted at kevind@netspace.net.au. He is author of Australia’s Education Revolution: How Kevin Rudd Won and Lost the Education Wars available to purchase at www.edstandards.com.au

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