Monday, July 2, 2012

Education: the case for equity over elitism

I wrote a piece for the MamaMia website, up today, about the future of education funding in Australia.
To me, it makes sense on every front to throw as much money as possible into giving all kids access to a top-notch education at their local school.

I find it particularly frustrating to see the campaign for greater education funding constantly sidelined by the debate about private versus public education.

This shouldn’t be about where you choose to educate your own kids. This is about equity and trying to do all we can to give every child a fighting chance at maximising their potential, no matter their background or the size of their parents' wallet.

In constantly banging on about "choice", we forget that choice is still a luxury for most. Does that mean kids from poorer families are less deserving of high-quality teaching and facilities?

At the end of the day, this is also about the kind of culture and community we want to create and be part of: one where we care about everyone's right to a great education, or one that urges individual families to "buy" their kids "the best". What would you prefer?

The Gonski Review has recommended a comprehensive change to the way our schools are funded — directing money toward those with the greatest need — and called for an extra $5 billion to be injected into schools as a matter of urgency.

But so far the Gillard Government has failed to act.

As parents, we have a potent stake in the future and the power to push for change on behalf of all kids. If this all makes sense to you, please register your support at I Give a Gonski.


Sally Rippin said...

I agree with you absolutely, Rach, and your article is excellent. I also find it frustrating when people say 'I work hard to send my child to a private school so they can have a better education'. It shouldn't be this way. You can use money to buy you better clothes, a better house, a better seat on an airline, if you want - but money shouldn't be a factor when it comes to education. Why should a child born into a low-income household not have the same opportunities as those born in wealthy households?
In France, where I lived for three years, the state school systems were better than the private schools. The only people who sent their kids to private schools were those people who wanted their children to receive a religious education. The French pride themselves on their egalitarian education system. As far as schooling goes I think we have much to learn from Finland and France.

Red Hen (dette) said...

I agree with all the comments made so far. A few years ago I went to a professional development course about brain development in children. Part of the content discussed was the cost on society as a result of kids who don't have early learning opportunities. For kids who require intervention later on for literacy and numeracy, who are alien enacted as a result of falling behind, therefore perhaps being unemployed or worse in prisons etc the amount of money dealing with these kind of problems later on could be addresses in a way that is much more economically sound. By putting money into early education and especially into areas where the parents do not have the means/ choice to send their kids to private schools. I teach in a public school and I like to think we do our best to give every child the best opportunities to achieve their potential in order to have as much choice as they can in their own lives.

Rachel Power said...

Yes, as you say, even at that most basic economic level, it makes total sense to fund education as a priority.
TAFE is being decimated in Victoria under the current Coalition Govt -- and the fact that at the same time as this Govt is taking money away from TAFE, they are investing millions in prisons is an irony that does not escape people!
Like you, Sal, I find it very distressing when people argue that their kids deserve more because they've "worked hard" to pay for the privilege.
I think you made a great point in our conversation the other day when you asked why a child should lose out because their parents have chosen a low-paying career, for example. Some of the most important jobs in our community don't pay well, ie. art, childcare, disability and community services etc!
It's a screwed-up culture that believes you should be able to buy a better education. What's happened to our basic belief that education is a fundamental right?