ACS Media Statement A Response to the ALP National PlatformApril 14, 2021
Associated Christian Schools welcomes the opportunity to comment on the ALP National Platform Final Draft, in particular Chapter 2: Developing Our People: education and training – a ticket to opportunity (pp25-30). The comments following are numbered according to paragraph numbering in the Final Draft statement.
ACS has provided a General Statement to political parties to accompany this Media Statement.
60. In response to this paragraph, which seems to see educational purpose in primarily economic terms, ACS believes it is appropriate to draw attention to Paragraph 5 in its accompanying General Statement which includes this opening remark: The question of the primary purposes of education has become much more important in recent years. One of the most important questions to be asked in this discussion is: – should it be more than merely utilitarian, serving employment and economic interests?
61. ACS agrees that an excellent education system is a national public good.
Further, recent findings of the Cardus Education Survey Australia into alumni outcomes, commissioned by a Consortium of Australian Christian school associations including ACS, has as its primary finding that all sectors of schooling in Australia are contributing in a variety of ways and to varying extents to the public good.
62. ACS cannot provide wholehearted support to this negative view of current outcomes, when its own highly reputable research suggests otherwise. Nevertheless, ACS supports political resolve to secure further improvements.
63. ACS agrees that investing in the early years is good for children, families and the economy.
64. ACS supports a commitment to current universal access to preschool and kindergarten programs but does not necessarily concede that expanding this to two full years before school is in the best interest of families.
65. ACS supports the aspiration of a highly skilled, professional and well-paid workforce for early childhood education.
66. ACS supports educational excellence and high achievement for all…and access to high-quality, universal, free, secular government schooling. In the light of the research referred to previously, we believe that is presently being demonstrated (the government school sector was one of the four sectors included in the research).
Further, ACS is philosophically committed to the notion of an egalitarian meritocracy as a goal for Australian schooling.
67. ACS welcomes this commitment to funding non-government schooling.
68. ACS welcomes the aspiration to a sector-blind school funding model.
Nevertheless, within the alphabetised sub-paragraphs we find concerning elements: the provision of funding solely on the basis of disadvantage cannot, of itself, secure a diminution of outcome differences. If it could, we should already be seeing that evidence. ACS believes this section merits further thought.
69. ACS welcomes needs-based investments to overcome disadvantage, but again cautions that additional funding alone may not automatically deliver the hoped-for outcomes.
70. ACS wonders exactly what is meant by the intent, Labor will ensure schools are socially inclusive and support a diverse society.
71. ACS welcomes the notion of combatting vilification and bullying of all kinds.
72. As noted under item 66, ACS philosophically supports the notion of an egalitarian meritocracy, but wonders how Labor will ensure school funding is linked to evidence-based reforms and practices that lead to higher academic achievement and better teaching and learning.
73. ACS welcomes the aspiration to a national curriculum and national student assessment and reporting framework that is free from political or commercial influence and those in the ensuing sub-paragraphs.
74. ACS welcomes any initiative to lift the status of the teaching profession.
75-87. ACS notes the very weighted attention given in the Draft to vocational education.
ACS welcomes some aspects of this as a prime area to address issues of access for indigenous students, remote or regional students, and students living in very low socio-economic communities.
However, ACS believes many existing problems cannot be addressed by education even vocational education alone, and especially in isolation from community.
ACS believes in the merit of a closely integrated approach with the community-at-large, without which we consider the listed initiatives are unlikely to show any great movement in the desired direction.
88-92. ACS notes the relative brevity of the section on universities in contrast to the preceding section on vocational education, but nevertheless welcomes the statement in paragraph 90 that all Australians, regardless of their background or where they live, should have the opportunity of higher education.
Further, ACS draws attention to the necessity for regional and remote students in particular to have access perhaps in different ways but ensuring some parity with the access available to metropolitan-based students.
Current research being undertaken by ACS, drawing on the data provided in the Cardus Education Survey Australia previously referred to, appears to show very significant differences in terms of university participation by non-metropolitan students.