Tuesday, 25 February 2014

An argument for the abolition of private schools

Elizabeth Farrelly argues in Why private schools add little to education mix that all schools should be made public:
Private schools, on the other hand, add little. They build enclaves of privilege for those who need it least. They suck public funding, with three-quarters of non-government schools getting most of their funding from government sources. This is bizarre and unprecedented. And, as theologian Marion Maddox notes in her book Taking God to School, they guise all this as neo-liberal "choice".

More compelling still, as corporate lawyer and father of six David Gillespie argues in his new book Free Schools, private schools offer no guarantee of a better educational outcome. You can fork out $150,000 for a child's schooling and essentially get nothing for it.

Private schools may perform decently in league tables but only because they use the fee-hurdle to select for socio-economic status, by far the best predictor of academic success. They further skew their results by giving scholarships to select gifted children who will up their average.

In other words, says Gillespie, once you correct for socio-economic advantage, our education system adds no value to what children bring from home. Losing such schools therefore has no net negative. In fact, by flooding middle class energy into the public system, it would bring massive gains.

Gillespie points out that the best measure of how much value an education system adds overall is "resilience", that is, the chance a socially disadvantaged child has of performing to his or her full capacity as a human.

The world's best education systems - Japan, Finland, Korea - all have a resilience measure over 50 per cent. In Australia it's 30 per cent, and falling.

This is bad for us all. Your private school may sit near the top of our league table, but as Gillespie notes, "we are riding a sinking tide, and a sinking tide lowers all boats".

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