Australia has lost the principles of education that traditionally served our state so well. Generations before me benefited from quality and ‘equal’ public education.
Let’s take a look back in time.
In the 19th century, Victoria was regarded as a progressive state – ahead of many other parts of the rest of the Western world. Now it seems that we’ve taken one step for mankind, then retreated in leaps and bounds. How did we let this happen?
Victoria pioneered public education. We were a state which other nations looked up to.
In 1872, Victoria introduced an evolutionary Education Act which created a model of public education that was centralised, secular, free and compulsory.
At the time, Britain, the United States and Canada had no such approach to education. It was a radical and significant step forward for Victoria. Prior to this, education was provided by private organisations such as churches and local groups.
This prolific approach to education recognised the need to serve the common good.
It began with the idea that each citizen should share the prosperity of the Gold Rush. Investment in education was seen as a way for citizens to benefit from the wealth of the country.
Victoria’s current education system has since been severed.
The underpinning values from which it grew have been lost. There is a worrying disparity between the quality of education in Victorian schools. This includes both private and government schools and has a lot to do with resources, location and other socio-economic factors.
The educational principles which Australia pioneered have been lost before we even knew what was happening. It is the social equivalent of the law of unintended consequences.
Up until the Whitlam Government, dismissed in 1972, the philosophy adopted can come down to this: an education for everyone.
But it is not this philosophy that we remember, it’s the financial failures of the Whitlam government.
Perhaps that is why we now shy away from State funded education and perhaps this is why the private school market has soared. Parents no longer place their trust in the government to educate their kids. Best place to put kids are in the hands of the free market.
I am a product of private education and I definitely feel privileged and lucky. If I were a parent and I had the means, I also would provide my children with the best education money can buy.
The nation may have turned the corner but we need to fight the inertia and plough back the wealth of our nation into our society, starting with educating all citizens with equal resources.
As George Orwell said – ‘if there is hope, it lies within the proles’ – we should not underestimated the benefits a well-educated society can bring to the state of a nation.