Thursday, October 26, 2006


Education is indeed, as often claimed, essential to our future prosperity and quality of life. The DLP believes that a school voucher system should be introduced. This means giving funding for their children’s education to parents. These ‘vouchers’ could be used at any registered school. This would put education funding in the hands of parents to spend as they see fit. In this way, parents would be given real choice and schools encouraged to do better. Fairness in school funding would be achieved by funding all students equally (except for those with special learning needs, who need extra amounts). The evidence in those parts of the United States where this initiative has been put into effect is that the empowerment of parents that voucher systems bring also strongly builds engagement with their children’s education and encourages schools to raise standards. Vouchers have improved education in parts of the US. While a voucher system is developed in Victoria, immediate short term steps should be taken to improve our education system.

We should recognise that the attitude of parents towards education is one of the most important factors in determining academic achievement. Parents teaching children by example that reading is a pleasure and that learning is important brings huge benefits. This is not something that government can do. It is up to members of the community.

The Victorian government should provide education that is appropriate to the interests and abilities of individual students. There is an assumption that maximising the number of students completing high school is equivalent to improving education. This thinking permeates government policy and public opinion but is misguided. The number of students completing Year Twelve has risen over recent decades. The requirements to pass have been progressively lowered to create extremely high “pass rates”. Adding large numbers of “disengaged” students to senior high classes (those who in the past would have been in technical schools or gone onto apprenticeships or other training) has not improved the academic standard of senior high school students in Victoria. Literacy standards have fallen to the point that even our best universities now feel the need to offer remedial English courses to new students.

Specialist technical education should be provided for appropriate students at school level and beyond. The ALP abolished technical schools in the late 1980s. This was a big mistake that should be reversed. It is no wonder that we are now facing a skills shortage. The Commonwealth has felt the need to partially fill the gap. Victoria should also open new technical schools. Apprenticeships should also be encouraged again on a very large scale.

The education system should help to develop good citizenship and positive attitudes. We seem to be witnessing a general reduction in character with declining abilities to postpone gratification and a growing assumption that everything is owed to the individual who has no obligations to others. There are many causes for this. The reasons seem to include biased content taught in our schools. A lot of current course content in Victoria is dedicated to inculcating a “rights mentality” in the young. While awareness of proper rights is beneficial, our education is much less eager on the whole to develop a corresponding sense of responsibility. Courses in our schools also frequently take a very critical and negative view of Australian culture, history and tradition. While there are negatives about Australia that should not be ignored, there are also positives that should be celebrated. Young people should feel happy and indeed privileged to live in Australia.

Educational standards in Victoria will rise when a voucher system is introduced. We all also need to accept responsibility as community members for encouraging positive attitudes towards education. The Victorian government needs to end the assumption that all students need or are suited to an academic education and it should encourage the development of high level practical skills for those who are suited and interested. Our education system should avoid being excessively negative and encourage the development of good citizens who have a life long love of learning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some students straddle both sides of the technical and academic worlds and should not be cut off from incorporating both skill areas into their future.
Students need to be assisted in developing the capacity to think for themselves, we harm our young when we confine their thinking to our views only. Capability in growth of own skills and social poise breeds confidence. It would be good to see courtesy become an Australian trait again.