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Date: Fri, 9 May 97 08:53:58 CDT
From: rich%pencil@VMA.CC.ND.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Aussie Gov Pushing Privatized High Schools
/** labr.global: 410.0 **/
** Topic: Aussie Gov Pushing Privatized High Schools **
** Written 5:34 PM May 8, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Aussie Gov Pushing Privatized High Schools
/* Written 6:38 PM May 4, 1997 by peg:greenleft in igc:greenleft.news */
Title: Business and government push privatised high schools

Business and government push privatised high schools

By Kerryn Williams, in Green Left Weekly
4 May 1997

While more attention has been directed at the federal government's plans for higher education, secondary education is also under severe attack from both state and federal governments.

One of the biggest factors is a massive shift in funding. Public schools could lose$323.6 million over the next four years, as funding is rapidly being shifted from the public to private school systems. On the whole, non-government schools now receive more funding per student than government schools.

Accompanying the decline in the public education system, enrolment in private schools is expected to rise from 29.4% to 31.1% by 2000 (an increase of 98,100 students). While 23% of funding to public schools could be lost over the next four years, non-government schools will pick up 12.5%.

The federal government's policy is to automatically remove $1712 in funding per student who moves from a public to a private school, putting pressure on state governments to sack teachers and close schools to make up the money. Some states, such as Victoria, have already pursued a vicious campaign of running down public schooling, with extensive school closures and staff cuts.

The federal government has also abolished the New Schools Policy. This means that public schools can require more students in order to stay open than private schools need just to set up. One Victorian public school with 113 students was closed down because it was too small; now a private school has been set up on the site with only 21 students.

The federal government is pursuing a long-term agenda of privatising secondary education, assisted by state Labor and Liberal governments. The previous ALP federal government began the process of running down the public schooling system, causing many students to shift to private schools in search of a "better education".

The US education system provides a frightening example of where Australian education is ng. One in nine children attends a private school in the US, with fees ranging from US$3000 up to $US15,000 per year.

The most highly sought after schooling is at elite colleges where tuition fees and board can cost $US30,000 a year. In the US the biggest growth sector in private education has been independent Christian schools.

Australian government policy is also rapidly accelerating the trend towards tying school education to the needs of business, as is occurring in the higher education sector. Schools have increasing links with local business, including the introduction of direct training schemes.

In the Fremantle industrial region of Kwinana, where youth unemployment is at 35%, a training scheme has been set up by the Kwinana Industries Council. Students do 164 days of work and industry training for $75 a week, at the same time completing the year 12 certificate and some TAFE studies. Industry gets cheap labour and large government subsidies, and the off-the-job training of its workers is provided free.

Business influence over the curriculum is increasing. Education is pushed as a form of work force training rather than learning in the broader, more rounded sense. As an example, the number of students studying history at year 12 has fallen from 50% in the past 20 years ago to around 10%.

The government's overall agenda has not gone through entirely unchallenged. Industrial action by education workers and actions by high school students have occurred. But this will need to increase if the push towards a privatised secondary education system is to be halted and reversed.

First posted on the Pegasus conference greenleft.news by Green Left Weekly. Correspondence and hard copy subsciption inquiries: greenleft@peg.apc.org