Monday, 9 October 2006

Private schools, public purse

Australia, unlike most western countries, heavily funds private schools, including the most elite. This is Cranbrook, alma mater of some of Australia's best known corporate crooks. The federal government spends 72% of its education dollars on the private schools which 32% of students attend (yes, you read that right!)

Last year Cranbrook recorded a net surplus of $4.1 million and received $3.3 million in government funding. To attend Cranbrook as a day boy in Years 11 and 12 costs $ 19 738 a year, plus a $ 600 IT levy. Materials for Art and design and technology cost extra. They charge a non-refundable enrolment fee of $ 4 615. And don't forget tax-deductible donations. Private schools qualify as "charities" and don't pay any tax or council charges.

Meanwhile, Catholic schools, which receive the largest amounts of government funding of all private schools, are offering a handful of scholarships to handpicked Aboriginal students currently in Catholic promary schools, "to ensure they are not lost to the public education system." Selection criteria are not yet known, but "will probably be based on academic performance and leadership skills."

I suppose the private Catholic schools don't mind about losing the rest to the desperately under-funded public system as long as they can pick the students they want?

Sydney Morning Herald - Private Schools Are Awash With Cash
Sydney Morning Herald - Schools aid to ensure Aborigines go Catholic

Do private schools attract government funding where you are? Are public school resourced to the level where all kids' needs are met before private choice is funded?

23 comments:

  1. Interesting post. Our conservative government is hell bent on privatizing education. They tried to institute a taxpayer funded voucher system similar to the US, but it didn't go anywhere because of public protest. If you can afford to send your child to a private school, then why would you need subsidy? If the wealthy want to segregate themselves from the riff raff, then they can segregate themsleves at own expense.

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  3. This is wrong, just wrong.

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  4. Aaargh! It makes you want to pull your hair out. It's not only the elephants who are going crazy.

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  5. there is a big debate about education system in Hungary regarding selective private schools and underpaid public schools. Before 1989 the system was pretty simple. Only public schools (run and owned by the state) were allowed. And spite of the efforts it was selective as well. They separated children with worse conditions (belonging to roma minorities, living in poor areas, being a child of divorced parents (!), etc.) to other groups. Nowdays this process is even more explicit and lets say ridiculous. Some people schools establish a private (mostly run by an NGO avoiding paying any tax) school within (!) or right beside the public one using the infrastructure of the public school selecting the "good" students and of course exclusing the ones with problems.

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  6. ohh so even in australia they have such houses (such rooftops) .. in asian countries .. many don't have the slant roof tops but one can do so much on their roofs ! ..

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  7. Good piece, Sally!
    Its hard to believe a country like Australia has unfair education sys. My question is what happens to students that are in between? where do they stand?

    Zsolt has already explained the situation in Hungary (its new to me as well) One thing I feel strongly about is the segregation of minority, Roma. How will the country progressed when such an unacceptable practice is still in our society?

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  8. Public schools are still well looked after here in Finland and there aren't that many private schools as far as i know. In Singapore as well, a fair education opportunity is provided for all in the public schools.

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  9. kaa - yes! And very interesting that Finland is top of all the international studies on student ability. It also shows the least variation of any country between performance of students based on socio-economic status. The OECD says this is due to the comprehensive nature of public ed.

    Singapore performs similarly.

    Australia does very well, but unfortunately the poorwr students perform less well...there is a wide gap.

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  10. Thanks Sally for putting this shocking state of affairs into public view. My kids attend public schools because I've always had a strong belief that mingling with different crowds is the way to go, and coming from France I was used to good quality public education. French schools are usually of very high academic standard compared to Australian ones however the actual quality will vary greatly with the suburb. Try as we might, kids living in posh suburbs with educated parents do better at school than those coming from poorly educated backgrounds. Public education tries its best to bridge the gap but it is now harder than before to achieve this.
    I have read that in France now, more and more parents living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods but wanting more discipline and a higher standard of education for their kids are switching to private schools.
    Regarding funding, the state funds private schools only by paying the teachers' salaries AND NOTHING ELSE, provided they follow the curriculum. Alternative schools that do not follow the curriculum would receive no funding at all.

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  11. Ex Public School non-Catholic Pensioner10 October, 2006 15:46

    Try enrolling in a BASIC stats course, Sally. Pass that and you might then try a VERY basic course in simple logic as well. The responsibility for funding Public Education in Australia is solely with State Governments.

    1] If you want meaningful figures on what Governments spend, you'll find that, in total, they give FAR more money per capita to State Schools than the total money per capita given to private schools.

    2] The money per capita for poor Catholic schools is more than that given to the elite schools you mention.

    3] The Government Education Budgets amount to far more (in real terms) than was given back in the "good old days" when State Schools were still highly regarded.

    4] Nowadays, many State High School teachers remove their own children from Government Schools; and what causes them to do this is not primarily a matter of how much money is being spent in the State School system. They do it to protect their kids. Who can blame them for this?

    5] Other factors you might have mentioned include the falling stabdards among those admitted to teacher training courses; failure to impose effective discipline in State Schools; inadequate people being promoted on the basis of educationally irrelevant and spurious grounds --- ad infinitum.

    I've watched an effective NSW Education system being destroyed by intellectually challenged "educationists" who escaped from classrooms and revelled in the task of bringing the system down to the sort of mediocre levels at which hard working time servers like themselves couldn't be made feel too bad because others didn't share their shortcomings.

    I should concede, however, that this isn't a full picture. In reality it's a far more disatrous mess than anything I've said here; and the politically correct chattering classes are to be congratulated for the undeniably impressive impact they've had on education --- at ALL levels.

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  12. Ok Anon: I will respond to your points one by one -

    ] If you want meaningful figures on what Governments spend, you'll find that, in total, they give FAR more money per capita to State Schools than the total money per capita given to private schools.

    Well, the blog says FEDERAL funding. Also, it is not accurate as far as Catholic schools go. many Catholic schools receive as much IN TOTAL - or more - per capita than public schools. You can believe that or not, but it's true.


    2] The money per capita for poor Catholic schools is more than that given to the elite schools you mention.

    Yes. It says that in the blog. To add:
    The money ATTRACTED by Catholic schools is more, much more, almost equivalent to that funding public schools (if fed and state is added together). It is then delivered as a block grant to the Catholic Education Office who then determines how to distribute it. If the CEO wants to spend it on their poorest schools, they can. If they want to open new schools and build sandstone gates, they can.


    3] The Government Education Budgets amount to far more (in real terms) than was given back in the "good old days" when State Schools were still highly regarded.

    In real terms the $ amounts going to ALL private schools has increased disproptionately compared to that going to public schools. In federal budgets from the last 10 years, teh real terms amount to publics has remained static - the elite private schools have received the LARGEST increases IN REAL TERMS - up to 250% in some cases. Yes I have the stats.

    Nathalie - In NSW all private schools also have to adhere to the curriculum, in theory. They supposedly do. Of course some emphasise certain elements over others, and ther emight be a booster-level religious component for example. Actually, I think one area public schools fall down is in not offerign comparative religion and philopsophy type courses.

    4] Nowadays, many State High School teachers remove their own children from Government Schools; and what causes them to do this is not primarily a matter of how much money is being spent in the State School system. They do it to protect their kids. Who can blame them for this?

    Me. They know no shame, but should. If their hands don't shake each fortnight as they hold out their hand, it should. They are a disgrace. I don't care what their "excuse" is, but it's usually outright snobbery. Are they trying to make things better themselves or cynically shrugging and being part of the problem?

    5] Other factors you might have mentioned include the falling stabdards among those admitted to teacher training courses; failure to impose effective discipline in State Schools; inadequate people being promoted on the basis of educationally irrelevant and spurious grounds --- ad infinitum.

    Falling standard of teacher entrants - sorry, no. Populist media junk story - and a "golden era glow" which comforts the old and grumpy. TER rankings to get into teacher ed have actually GONE UP. A populist assertion not backed by any data, except one study which has been debunked

    I've watched an effective NSW Education system being destroyed by intellectually challenged "educationists" who escaped from classrooms and revelled in the task of bringing the system down to the sort of mediocre levels at which hard working time servers like themselves couldn't be made feel too bad because others didn't share their shortcomings.

    You sound bitter. I am glad you are out of the system. We need the fire of youthful enthusiasm, not bitter has-beens.

    Effective fr whom? It wa sonce effective for the 30% that went on to higher education, but not very effective for the majority of the population, or nayone with special needs.


    I should concede, however, that this isn't a full picture. In reality it's a far more disatrous mess than anything I've said here; and the politically correct chattering classes are to be congratulated for the undeniably impressive impact they've had on education --- at ALL levels

    Good on ya mate. keep believing your media-dsriven fantasies.

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  13. Nathalie - response I wrote to you about curriculum is in the middle of the last lot - not sure how that happened!

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  14. Bravo, Sally! Excellent response.

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  15. In such a school I would like to teach because I think there is an ambiance like in a family. I like old buildings for school although the school were I teach now is modern but has beautiful gardens, and is climbing to a hill with sheep. It is a state school.

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  16. Sally has introduced too many additional distractions and non sequiturs to respond to all without completely clogging up the site. She may really believe the large number of State School teachers who are now willing to face embarrassment in their staffrooms, and spend the large sums in fees needed when they send their children to private schools, are doing it simply because they're "snobs". I shan't attempt to change her preconceptions on that, as the emotional attachments of a "true believer" are too strong a fortress to tackle with a brief post.

    When it comes to the standard of current teacher trainees, however, it's a tad simpler. While working as a Commonwealth Scholarship Guidance Officer at Sydney University in the 60s, I had full access to entry marks for all the Faculties. The Matriculation mark needed for an English/History Teaching Scholarship was HIGHER than that needed for Commonwealth Scholarships; higher than that needed to enter Law, Medicine and other courses. No longer.

    It's true current entry marks aren't quite as low as they have been at times; but they're still abysmal in terms of what was once required of teacher trainees. As for Government moneys spent on schools, I didn't deny that if you selectively quote only SOME of the Government moneys allocated to schools, you can come up with whatever point you wish to "prove". But if you total ALL the Government moneys allocated to school education, it shows that on whatever basis you make the comparison, the State Schools DO receive more Government moneys than the others -- as indeed they should.

    Could it be a numeracy problem which causes so many "true believers" to be incapable of understanding this? Don't think so. Could it be a literacy problem? Don't think so. Dishonesty? Don't think so -- at least in most cases.

    The more likely explanation is that (due perhaps to what school curricula have done to them?} they have difficulty dealing with the barriers to clear thinking which arise from cognitive dissonance.

    I can empathise with Sally's relief that I [along with many other teachers from past vintages] are now "out of the system" and in other jobs. On the other hand, I have to sympathise with parents who wish we [along with the standards we once were once permitted to impart, and the atmosphere which helped working class kids like myself become more literate, numerate and analytical than is now possible] Because of what's happened in State Schools, although they may not want to switch their offspring, at considerable expense, to non-government schools, they DO want to protect their kids. Consequently, along with many good teachers, they see no other solution than to make the unpalatable switch to the private sector.

    The key issue isn't money. It's getting standards and discipline back once more into State School systems. That's a cause worth fighting for?

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  17. LOL! I introduced non sequiturs, Norman? This is Blogland, my dear old gent.

    This is about justice and equity.

    You took the discussion off into another direction, brother.

    Go and talk to Warren Grimshaw, who famously conducted a never-released inquiry of the amounts of money private schools receive if you don't believe me about how much many schools are recewiving. You are deluded if you don't think it is approaching or more than public schools (not State schiools in this state, matey)

    That is beacuse provate schools are funddd on the basis if the AVERAGE per capita amount it costs to educate a student in a public school. As long as that nexus exists, public schools can never get ahead. But based on that AVERAGE private schools are funded an ACTUAL amount. The inability to understand the difference between averages and real amounts is a true innumeracy which many can't grasp.

    That average is increased in NSW by the large number of small one ans two teacher schools (about 60% of the total) where the average cost is high. However, large private schools are linked into the nexus create by that average.

    Don;t forget private schools are also elegible for text book grants (which public schools don't get - it is rolled into the global budget) and interest subsidies onbuilding loans, payroll tax exemption.

    Whatever, I hotly dispute your old fogey assertion (and I am an old fogey myself, a product of the bonded scholarship era - don't be fooled by the youthful beauty of my net photo) that standards have slipped so alarmingly.

    Mate, society is so much more complex. Thos who wish to withdraw their children from the realities and complexities of meeting and learning and studying amongst that complexity are th ones most disappointed when it comes to university.

    Who has the biggest drop out rate once they enter uni? And I'll give you a clue - it's not the public school kids...

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  18. I have to join in to this great debate. I am an old fogey who was educated in the catholic system before stae aid. My very religeous parents believed that if you chose to educate your kids privately you had to pay for it.

    I was a teacher in Goulburn in 1962 at a catholic school when the church encouraged by the menzies government closed the schools for a week and this led to the beginning of state aid. At this point the percentage of private schools was about 22% still way more than in other countries and probably caused by the strength of the catholic church on both political parties. If you wonder when it got out of hand it was during the whitlam era.

    I was taught that 'publics' were not as good as we catholics and after 1962 I realised that all this separation caused was gross division in our society.

    In short, there is way too much money going to private schools. Why do we encourage young people to be different from others based on religion or race. I have more ease understanding the reasons behind the elite schools as they have always been based on class. Have we not seen some great results from some of their graduates!!!!!

    The amount of money from both Federal and State governments is obscene and is encouraging a move to the overfunded schools. I believe this is the true aim of governments. It is their ideology.

    I have to admit to being a true believer in the public system (of all services, health and transport also) and am horrified at what is happening in my beloved country. On my recent trip abroad strangers I conversed with about Ozere shocked to hear of our private system. They thought we were the country of equity and a fair go for all.

    As for comparing the entry levels of teachers in the 60's. Iwas teaching then and very few would survive the great difficulties that face the excellent young teachers today.

    Let's support a public system for all. Extra funds towards our low socio economic areas might be a first action.

    PS I do not believe there should be a private system at all.

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  19. Ooops, sorry sally for using a term which once was taken for granted, even by working class lads like myself who never studied Latin. Like you, I'm concerned about justice and equity, but I'm concerned also that false implications re State Schools receiving less GOVERNMENT moneys than do private schools, doesn't help the cause of anyone other than those trying to muddy the waters. I didn't take your debate into new territories, merely commented on an important aspect of the debate which is interpreted widely (and quite falsely) as meaning more Government moneys go to Non-Government schools than go to State Schools. Whether it's on Campus, in Staffrooms, or at meetings I attend, many people think that's what the figures show. Why do you think this misconception prevails? Why is it cultivated so assiduously with disingenuous statements which ensure it continues? And I sincerely hope I'm not condemned for using such an important word as "disingenuous"?

    I'm not arguing your figures are wrong. Their truth or otherwise isn't the main point, merely whether there has been a flawed interpretation of them. I don't even dispute some of your implied assertions, so much as regret that the you don't seem to appreciate the niceties involved in fully interpreting the implications of correlations (or the relevance of such processes as factor analysis) when one examines correlations.

    Then again, perhaps this is seen as imposing what would nowadays be deemed an intolerable burden?

    The past was far from perfect. I was there, often watching with a dismay not always shared by colleagues who were part of the "Progressive" movement. Of course many of the teachers being trained in the 60s (and beyond) weren't as good as we'd have liked. In general, however, they were far more competent when it came to coping with the intellectual demands of teaching tan now --- demands which included the reasonably high language skills upon which much of the rest of education, including logical analysis of ideas, ultimately rests.

    I wonder how deeply you've thought about the "dropout" rates at Uni which you now raise? There are many factors. One is that in the private schools, far less time is lost than their State counterparts where teachers complain (with justification) about unacceptable behaviour which detracts from their ability to help students fully. True private schools can remove pupils, while State Schools are under bureaucratic pressures to "hide" even the worst post school age ferals within the system. This is not the only problem facing, but a moment's thought helps explains part of the reason State School students then might have a better record at University. This is especially true if they've made a quota in spite of unreasonable burdens they endured at High School --- burdens totally unrelated to moneys allocated by the Federal or any other Government.

    Before looking for a rationale based on the grounds that my position is that of (as Sally, I think, put it) simply an "old fogey" imagining some past mythical "Golden Age", it's relevant for you to know I never saw my times that way. I first enrolled, in 1955. at UNSW because it was convenient on my way home from work, and enrolling meant I wouldn't be sent bush. I soon dropped out in disgust because fellow students couldn't get 100% in a simple logic assignment, and the Accounting Lecturer was discussing things we'd covered in Junior High School. I was then sent to the bush, so when I returned but when my boss warned I risked being sent back, I dropped my expectations and enrolled, this time at Sydney, in part because it was now the more convenient location. I wasn't impressed there either.

    The question worrying me is whether standards, throughout education as a whole, maintain even the levels of those days? Being interested in education well before I ever moved to the practitioner's side of the divide, I'd begun gathering material, some of which I later used with my own students long before being placed in charge of a class. It didn't take much to realise there wasn't any one simplistic unidimensional "explanation". Why, for example had the skill levels of British students slipped in the post WW II years? Why did the reading levels (not to mention the I.Q. scores) of NSW primary school studnets rise in the late 50s to 60s period?

    The reasons for these phenomena are less interesting, though, than other questions, such as why were the methods which resulted in the increased reading levels in NSW then abandoned? Sally may see this concern as no more than those of the rants of (as she so charmingly dismissed my earlier comments) a bitter old fogey. Perhaps, but has shooting the messenger enjoyed such a good record when it comes to facing up effectively to major problems?
    Falling back solely on our opponents' assumed 'frailties' (and I'd best refrain carefully from using the appropriate Latin term normally applied to this tactic?) means we have failed to address the original issues.

    What do I think of the current State Aid process? Unjust, indefensible, and shouldn't have been introduced. That's why I'm saddened by much of what passes for "dealing" with the facts. It doesn't mean I doubt the sincerity of the 'true believers' who push the ideas. They usually mean well. But never forget that Adolph sincerely wanted to do wonders for the German people --- and I think most would agree that no matter how psychologically confident he was, it can be argued he may not have chosen the best possible course to achieve this goal?

    And hopefully critics will understand this last sentence doesn't endorse old Adolph's ideas --- or is that hoping for too much?

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  20. If I get you right Norman, you
    believe the funding of both public and private schools is adequate as is? Could you confirm that?

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  21. My concern, Nathalie, is that the major problems facing the State School systems did NOT arise from funding, and won't be ended by funding. Unfortunately, those whose well-intentioned supposedly "progressive" educational experiments didn't work will never(thanks to the invaluable assistance of cognitive dissonance) have to acknowledge their roles in causing Public Education to lose the respect it once enjoyed.

    In Mediaeval Times miracles were never questioned by true believers. Today, ditto whatever passes for "Progressive" in Education. When things went wrong then, it was easy to blame Satan and money. Nowadays it sometimes seems to be John Howard and lack of money?

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  22. I'm sorry. Funding IS part of the problem, if only as a telltale. In today's world, money poured into anything is a good sign of the value it holds. Lack of funding is a good sign of lack of interest.

    And when your Minister for Education says there's no point in funding Universities because Australia needs more tradesmen than academics, there's all sorts of reasons to be worried.
    This government is NOT paying to Education the attention it should.

    On the topic of teachers, all those I met through my children's schools IN THE PUBLIC SYSTEM can only be commended for their dedication. They are not always supported by parents though, who don't want too much pressure put on their poor offspring. In my mind, THAT's where the problem lies.

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  23. Nathalie, I didn't say money was completely irrelevant; but it isn't the MAJOR problem facing State Schools. In any case, under Australia's Federal system, responsibility for all Public Education is allocated to the States and NOT the Federal Government, so it's amusing to see almost all 'progressive' criticism about funding being directed at Canberra rather than the State Governments. They complain that when it comes to money, Canberra should do more; but as soon as Canberra takes an interest in HOW its money is being used, the 'progressives' complain Canberra should keep out of education?

    My concern is is that as a result of the current obsession to have as many students as possible sitting in a 'university', we act against the long term interests of those who aren't really up to serious academic standards. Certainly the self esteem of both theses students AND their proud parents may receive a boost; but this can turn to bitterness when they find many employers [apart from bureaucratic organisations such as Government Education Departments, which treat all pieces of paper as valid?] aren't impressed by their qualifications.

    That could be why any responsible Federal Education Minister might refer to the problem of students who'd be better off NOT enrolling at a "university'?

    As for the "pressure" to get into university these days, with many courses, that dosesn't arise from higher entry requirements. Many students who once would never have had a chance of getting anywhere near the entry standard are now deemed acceptable, and encouraged to apply. Some of them miss out; but that does NOT mean (as some try to imply) that the entry standard has risen.

    Overall, we're doing an excellent job of making as many as possible feel that they've been treated unfairly. We've reached "world's best practice" standards there, if nowhere else.

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