The Great Australian Divide: Public and Private Schooling
Phil: You invited me to write about what ‘is necessary to provide an effective, relevant, high quality education for all children … the best approaches to adopt to achieve such an education … what should be the priorities … what is not being fully utilised … and future directions and activities to reach that goal’. These are big questions, especially if we put the emphasis on all children, and I can’t pretend to address the totality of requirements; but I’m delighted to have a go at part of it, and am grateful to you for stimulating me to think about the issues. As a sociologist, I like to look at how institutions or structures influence behaviour, including learning. From this perspective, I see the divide between public and private schooling as the single greatest structural impediment to advancing the quality of education in Australia. And within our schools, a resource not fully being utilised are the students themselves, not in isolation but in peer groups and autonomous learning groups encouraged to work collectively and help one another. These two – the public-private divide and student groups – are connected, and I will explain the dynamics of this later.