ESI BLOG

Rudd/Gillard education revolution - fail!
29th December 2010

In the following and on the Australian Conservative website, I detail why the Rudd/Gillard education revolution is failing.

The Rudd/Gillard education revolution: an evaluation

The first thing to note about the Rudd/Gillard education revolution is that it is highly centralised, bureaucratic and statist in its approach. While the federal government neither owns any schools nor employs any teachers (as school education is the responsibility of the states) since 2007 the federal government has taken control.

Whether curriculum, assessment and testing, teacher registration and certification, overcoming disadvantage or lifting teacher quality and school performance, the ALP’s education revolution signifies a fundamental shift in control of education and the work of schools.

Much like the socialist economies of the old eastern bloc, the assumption is by centralising control, defining outputs, forming committees, setting targets and enforcing a top down model of management that government dictates will be implemented.

Ignored, as so aptly detailed in Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, is that governments and bureaucrats, given they are so removed from the everyday reality of people’s lives and complex social institutions, can never replicate the myriad of decisions and actions taken at the local level.

One needs to look no further than the costly, inefficient and wasteful BER program to see the flaws in such an approach. As a result of schools being forced to accept off-the-shelf templates and being denied the right to decide for themselves what should be built, billions of dollars have been wasted with minimal educational benefit.

Given that government schools are controlled by head office, and lack the local control and flexibility characteristic of non-government schools, it should not surprise that a number of inquiries into the BER have revealed that Catholic schools, compared to government schools, are far more efficient and financially responsible in building infrastructure.

The BER program is not the only example of failed implementation. The budget for the computers in schools program has blown out by millions of dollars, the promise to give every secondary school a trade centre remains unfulfilled, plans to develop a national curriculum are one to two years behind schedule and the My School website, given its unreliability and flawed methodology, is mired in controversy and debate.

In addition to being statist in its approach, a close examination of the ALP’s education revolution reveals a left-wing Fabian ideology. This should not surprise given Gillard’s involvement in socialist-left student politics, her links to the Victorian Fabian society and the fact that Joan Kirner (the former Premier of Victoria) is one of Gillard’s mentors.

Notwithstanding that Rudd and Gillard have cloaked their education revolution in conservative rhetoric, including back to basics, parents’ right to choose non-government schools and holding schools accountable, the reality is that the ALP Government’s agenda is left-wing and politically correct.

Every subject in the national curriculum has to be taught through a PC prism involving Aboriginal, environmental and Asian perspectives. As a consequence, the history curriculum ignores Australia’s Western heritage and the significance of the nation’s Judeo-Christian values and beliefs.

Much of the new curriculum, not surprisingly given the march of postmodernism and deconstruction through the Academy, also embraces the view that there are no truths or absolutes as how individuals perceive the world is subjective and knowledge is a cultural artefact.

In the 29 pages of the first draft of the kindergarten to year 10 history document, Christendom is mentioned once and Christian also once, but only in the context of studying other religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism and Islam.

In the science draft teachers are told that Western scientific concepts are on the same footing as indigenous views about science. The geography curriculum adopts a similar relativistic approach to knowledge when it argues that students should be taught that indigenous concepts of the land are just as valid as Western concepts, on the basis that,

“By understanding Indigenous conceptions of their interrelationship with nature, all students can learn that there are other ways of thinking about and interacting with the environment and its resources that those informed by a Western capitalist tradition”.

The impact of the postmodern can also be seen in the national English curriculum, a curriculum that defines literary works as cultural artefacts, that explodes the definition of literature to include multi-modal texts and puts Shakespeare on the same footing as, “tween mags, avatars, social networking and manga”.

Whereas most schools around Australia now have the freedom to implement the state mandated curriculum or equivalent, under the Rudd/Gillard education revolution such flexibility is denied and schools will lose funding if the refuse to comply with what the government dictates.

Curriculum is not the only area where schools are being forced to adopt the ALP’s left-wing agenda. Under the Melbourne Declaration, the blueprint endorsed by Australia’s education ministers that all schools are to follow, the statement is made that schools must provide an education, “free from discrimination based on gender, language, sexual orientation, pregnancy, culture, ethnicity, religion, health or disability, socioeconomic background or geographic location”.

Taken literally, such a statement denies Catholic and other faith-based schools the right to discriminate in relation to who they enrol and who they employ. Currently, religious schools are exempt in such matters; as a result of the ALP’s education revolution schools will lose that freedom.

The ALP’s commitment to school choice and the right of parents to send their children to non-government schools, unfortunately, is empty rhetoric. When Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, while stating that the ALP Government would not take money away from non-government schools, refused to guarantee that the level of funding would be indexed and that the funding such schools receive would keep pace with any increase state schools might gain.

By forcing non-government schools to reveal financial data and making such information public on the My School website, the intention is to create a situation where funding to Catholic and independent schools can be reduced. One way to achieve this is to discount government funding by taking into account money raised locally, such as fees and philanthropic support. The current SES model does not penalise schools for raising funds at the local level.


 

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29th December 2010

In the following and on the Australian Conservative website, I detail why the Rudd/Gillard education revolution is failing.The Rudd/Gillard education revolution: an evaluationThe first thing to note...
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