Ashenden, Dean: The educational consequences of the peace (education policy over a century)

Ashenden, Dean

The educational consequences of the peace‘, Inside Story, 28 July 2016

Long article on the history of education policy from the nineteenth century, through the Labor Split of 1955, the Goulburn schools boycott in 1962 to the Karmel Report in 1973 and then on and on through the 1980s ultimately leading to the effort under Gonski to fix schools funding forever. The article marks 50 years since Federal Labor decided to support state aid – at a special conference following the near expulsion of then deputy leader Whitlam.

In July 1966 a special federal conference of the Australian Labor Party voted, in dramatic circumstances, to abandon its opposition to “direct state aid” for non-government schools. The decision was seen at the time, and often since, as a radical reversal of Labor’s historical attachment to “free, compulsory and secular” education; as the beginning of the end for Australia’s “oldest, deepest, most poisonous debate”; and as the harbinger of a great leap forward in Australian schooling. Each of these estimates is half-right at best.

And the position half a century on?

Australia now has an unusually high concentration of students at both ends of the spectrum, and a relatively small proportion of schools with socially mixed enrolments … There is clear evidence to suggest that this segmentation, amounting in some respects and areas to segregation, has a depressing effect on the academic attainment of many, perhaps even most students. Its social and cultural effects go unmeasured and unreported.

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