Policies/Education

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Official Party Document
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Schools and early education

Education is a powerful determinant of well-being. It is a source of wealth, a provider of life skills, an enabler of participation, and a core component of civil society. The 2000 Dakar World Education Conference noted that all young people have the right to an education that includes “learning to know, to do, to live together and to be".[1]

Early childhood education

Pirate Party Australia supports trials in Australia of the childcare cooperative system used successfully overseas. [2] A co-op system will provide a means for willing parents to combine resources and provide low-cost or free childcare by taking turns as carers and volunteers. It also provides social opportunities to new families and their children, and reduces demand pressure on the existing childcare system.

School education

Global comparisons suggest that the world's best educational system is in Finland.[3][4] Unlike Australia, where funding is shredded between public and private systems, Finland focuses on a single system of locally controlled public schools. Teachers have great autonomy, and educators have freedom to mix and combine classes, test when and how they wish, teach in different ways to accommodate different learning styles, and bring in additional support and resources as needed. Unsurprisingly, this kind of autonomy encourages many more highly qualified and bright people into the teaching profession, and solves many issues of teacher quality experienced in other countries.

Australia is one of the few countries to divide its funding between public and private systems. This is the wrong path in the long term. The diversion of public funding to private and religious schools does not promote equity; it merely leads to scarce resources being allocated where they aren't needed. It doesn't promote diversity: diversity is actually reduced when children are segregated along religious and socio-economic lines. It doesn't promote choice: the shift in funding towards private schools has left entire leaving entire postcodes lacking any comprehensive public schooling.[5] It doesn't improve value for money: a huge increase in private funding has seen relatively small shifts in student numbers,[6] and where students have shifted, the largest impact has been to concentrate poorer students into the increasingly under-funded public system.[7][8] And it clearly hasn't improved educational standards: basic science teaching is regularly undermined in religious schools[9][10] and overall educational outcomes for Australian children have been falling relentlessly in recent years, especially among the most disadvantaged[11][12] .

A shift towards global best practice need not cost any more money. However, we believe a future education system should have the following features:

  • Funding should be reserved for schools which are secular and free, and available to every child.
  • Schools should be locally controlled. Standardised testing should be optional, teachers should be more empowered, and curriculums should be leaner, with more time available for school-determined content.
  • Additional funding should be available to address disadvantage and improve educational diversity. Schools in poor areas should receive additional resources, and all schools should be able to 'bulk bill' activities in which qualified experts are engaged to teach in areas of interest chosen by students and parents.

Pirate Party Australia advocates the following reforms:

Improve provision of community based childcare

  • Provide certification processes and a one-stop information service for the setup of childcare cooperatives.

Foster well-funded, dynamic and secular public schools

  • Reallocate federal education funding:
    • Progressively reallocate funding towards free and secular schools, with allowance for other schools to transfer or sell land and assets into the public system.
    • Abolish the school chaplains program.
    • Ensure sufficient funding is available to implement Gonski recommendations on additional support for poor and disadvantaged schools.
  • Change school accountability frameworks:
    • Abolish existing paperwork accountability systems and provide schools with control over finances including management of bank accounts and purchases.
    • Support the establishment of principal networks to encourage the spread of effective systems.
    • Allow students 16 and over to transfer to TAFE and have per-student funding follow them.
    • Trial a bulk billing scheme for extracurricular activities including tutoring from outside experts in areas determined by students and parents.
  • Provide more support to teachers:
    • Ensure trainee teachers receive a minimum of 12 weeks supported classroom time.
    • Allow ongoing salary progression for teachers with more than 10 years of experience.
  • Include a solid foundation of life skills and personal development within the National Curriculum:
    • Grades 1-4 to cover behaviour towards others, people skills, and exploration of science and critical thinking;
    • Grades 5-6 to develop earlier material and additionally cover sex education, conflict resolution, and ethics;
    • Grades 7-8 to develop earlier material and additionally cover accidents and emergency response, civics and voting, budgeting, basic IT skills, careers and starting a business.
    • Limit compulsory subjects to life skills, maths, science and English.
    • Abolish Special Religious Instruction in public schools and limit religious study to comparative religion in the context of history, culture and literature.
  • Endorse the right of schools to access Safe Schools education programmes.[13]
    • Extend the Safe Schools programme by bringing in Safe Schools representatives to engage with recurring bullying problems and the individual students involved.


References

  1. "Education For All: Meeting Our Collective Commitment", Text adopted by the World Education Forum Dakar, Senegal, 26-28 April 2000, http://www.unesco.org/education/efa/fr/ed_for_all/dakfram_eng.shtml (Accessed June 20 2013)
  2. Boyle, Why co-ops should be the future for childcare, June 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/social-enterprise-network/2012/jun/07/cooperative-childcare-private-equity-nurseries (Accessed 8 July 2014)
  3. Doyle, How Finland broke every rule—and created a top school system, Hechinger Report, February 2016, http://hechingerreport.org/how-finland-broke-every-rule-and-created-a-top-school-system/ (accessed 1 July 2016)
  4. Why are Finland's schools successful?, Smithsonian, September 2011, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/?no-ist (accessed 1 July 2016)
  5. Maddox, Rise of private schools marks return to 19th century waste, February 2014, http://www.theage.com.au/comment/rise-of-private-schools-marks-return-to-19th-century-waste-20140207-32745.html (Accessed 8 July 2014)
  6. Connors, Lyndsay and McMorrow, Jim, "Imperatives in Schools Funding: Equity, sustainability and achievement" (2015) http://research.acer.edu.au/aer/14 - see pp. 57-58
  7. PISA in Brief, Highlights from the full Australian report, December 2013. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-03/pisa-2012-results-in-brief/5132794 (Accessed 7 July 2014)
  8. Hurst, Australia's poor school results spark fresh debate about education funding, December 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/coalition-seizes-on-poor-test-rankings-to-claim-more-money-does-not-improve-results (Accessed 7 July 2014)
  9. Buckingham, The rise of religious schools, Centre for Independent Studies, page 2, 2010. https://www.cis.org.au/images/stories/policy-monographs/pm-111.pdf (Accessed 8 July 2014)
  10. Maddox, Too Much Faith in Schools: The Rise of Christian Schooling in Australia, 21 March 2014. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/03/20/3968199.htm (Accessed 8 July 2014)
  11. PISA in Brief, Highlights from the full Australian report, December 2013. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-03/pisa-2012-results-in-brief/5132794 (Accessed 7 July 2014)
  12. Hurst, Australia's poor school results spark fresh debate about education funding, December 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/04/coalition-seizes-on-poor-test-rankings-to-claim-more-money-does-not-improve-results (Accessed 7 July 2014)
  13. http://safeschoolshub.edu.au/safe-schools-coalition-australia-resources Safe Schools Programme