Sunday, October 23, 2005

The public private debate and Australian schools

There has been a lot of debate and lining up of the usual sides in relation to the funding that now flows to many private schools in Australia (how many polo fields do you really need?). Despite the ideological convenience of doing over public education and favouring the well to do as well as the not so well to do (a large number of private schools are not well funded) I would suggest that the actual driver is to rid the Commonwealth of what is a very expensive funding item, i.e. schooling. If "the public" can be weaned off public schools by whatever means then government is in a position to wind back support for schooling generally (what is left of public and all private), shift the burden, user pays as we have seen in universities. Nor is this to suggest that this is about dry economics, although that continues to play a poisonous role in Australian public policy, it is likely out of a genuine long term fear of not being able to fund the retiring boomer generation and beyond. Simply, that there will be more old folk putting their hand up for government support than young folk paying enough taxes to fund them. The cost of schooling to the Commonwealth is a sizeable chunk of each annual budget. Any savings from this are clearly going to be significant. So the tactic now, feed private, starve public and do it to speed the process. It is a serious issue but putting at risk the future of this country by starving public schooling of much deserved funds makes as much sense as hoarding one's reserves of wheat instead of planting for the next season. Yes. History will judge the public policy makers hashly.


James said...

Now who was that what wrote history?

Seriously though it's a pretty horrific state of affairs... having just got back from the UK (which has it's own problems) it's pretty amazing the different takes social policy gets here and there.

Seems like David Cameron, Blair etc. are falling over themselves in efforts to project socially compassionate policies (although uni fees are showing no sign of going away anytime soon) whereas here anything that doesn't fit into a rationalistic 'what will my mortgage cost' / 'Australia Ltd.' equation is overlooked at best.

Marco Polo said...

The same has been happening in Japan, with many people having given up on public schooling altogether. The only way to get into the good schools now is to spend several years going to cram school after public school, where they teach you how to pass the exams.