Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Public Education. How important is it?

A national and state overview. First in a three-part series

The debate over our poker machines in hotels and clubs in Tasmanian should be followed by another over secondary schooling but public education now has few champions in positions of power or influence and it won’t happen.

Parents have understood since John Howard’s private schools agenda and rhetoric of choice and aspiration in the late nineties that public schools will never be funded according to real need.

Between 1999 and 2005 the amount of funding going to private schools per student went up by $1584 compared with $261 per state school student. Failed attempts to wind back the damage created during the decade of Howard leadership in education by Mark Latham and Julia Gillard demonstrated that in Australia, unlike any other country in the world, Australians want their choice of school and system, and they want the costs heavily subsidised by taxpayers. The notion of ‘for the public good’ no longer exists.

Total government (state and federal) support for a child is currently $8737 for a student enrolled in an independent school, $10469 for a student in a Catholic school and $12428 for a student enrolled in a public school. Australia‘s level of taxpayer funded support for non government schools is unparalleled and we are paying the price as the vast bulk of disadvantaged students are concentrated in our public schools.

In 2000 Australia ranked fourth for reading, sixth for maths and eighth for science in PISA testing. In 2012 we ranked 13th, 19th and 16th in those respective categories and there was a dramatic widening of the gap between the best and worst performing students. The period marked the beginning of the state system being increasingly ghettoised and the federal education union began to refer to public education as the residualized system.

In 2010 Labor Education Minister Julia Gillard commissioned the Gonski inquiry which recommended dramatic changes and that funding must be apportioned on the basis of student need. As prime minister, Gillard unfortunately lacked conviction, and promised on day one that ‘no school would be worse off’. It was clear then that nothing would change and it hasn’t. With Gonski 2 the federal government has guaranteed Non-Government and Catholic schools funding of 80% of the schooling resource standard (SRS) but only 20% of the SRS to public schools. It lacks commitment to guarantee support for the system where more than 80% of disadvantaged students are educated. Victoria funds its public schools to just 66% of the SRS. For Tasmania it is 76% and only Western Australia and the ACT fund their schools to 80% of the SRS.

The research of Barbara Preston found that the proportion of low income students in Government schools across the country has gone from 1:1 to 2:1 over 25 years with the reverse taking place for non government schools. Tasmanian government schools educate more than 4.5 the number of low income students for every student from a high-income family, the highest of any state or territory. South Australia follows with three times the number.

Parents in Tasmania are now understandably choosing schools and particularly high schools on the basis of personal benefit and many children of our politicians, public school principals, teachers and even education union officials in Tasmania are currently enrolled in our independent schools.

In a communication to parents at Friends School in 2012 it was stated that 18% of the enrolled children’s parents were teachers, and from their parent survey, less than 25% rated academic performance as a major reason for enrolling their children. 60% said they enrolled their children at Friends because of the values the school promotes. The values would not differ one jot from the parents who have children enrolled in any of our public schools but at fee paying schools children present with fewer social issues and learning problems.

With NAPLAN things are getting worse in our high schools. Nearly 25% of year 9 boys in Australia are not meeting the national minimum standard in writing. In Tasmania, 11% of Year 9 students fell short of meeting the minimum reading standard this year compared with 7% in 2008 and our boys in Year 7 have gone backwards.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said that the latest results should be a ‘‘wake-up call’’ for educators. What he should have said was that “it should be a wake-up call to politicians” as it their non-consultative, ill-conceived, populist, knee-jerk policies, particularly those announced at election time, that are thwarting improvement.

Extending all government high schools to year 7 to 12 by fiat is a case in point and another reason for parents to contemplate a move away from the public system. This policy will not address the serious problems we have in years 7 and 9 and it is in years 7 to 10 where neglect is visible and where our problems lie.

*Terry Polglase is former AEU state president (2012 to 2016) and Principal Bowen Road Primary (2002 to 2011) / Tasman District School (1996 to 2001)

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]


  1. Michelle Hoult, Candidate for Bass (Jacqui Lambie

    February 6, 2018 at 9:15 pm


    The main gist I got from your reply was that young people, in particular women, have nothing to offer – although I am sure that was not your intention. I have never subscribed to the idea that age equals experience or life experience (I recently turned 33!)

    Kind regards,
    Michelle Hoult

    Authorisation: Glynn Williams, 70 Alexandra Road Ulverstone Tasmania 7315

  2. Bart Roberts

    February 6, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Terry Polglase’s argument that extending state high schools to Year 12 will encourage parents to move to the private system defies logic. The vast majority of schools in the private sector in Tasmania go to Year 12.

  3. Tony Stone

    February 6, 2018 at 8:16 am

    #5 Michelle, mature age teachers are very different to the clones produced by the system who go from one school room to another.

    Have taught in secondary and lectured in TAFE in another life and know many many teachers, professionally and socially over many decades. My experience and working knowledge was what they needed, not someone with a degree in nothing.

    But that didn’t last as the cloned bureaucrats in TAFE realised the cloned teachers had nothing to offer, so got rid of the qualified experienced teachers and replaced them with mostly women just out of university who knew nothing.

    The results of that are seen in the collapse Of TAFE and the sad fact those coming out of TAFE with their certificates don’t have a clue, and their training has no relationship to reality in the industries they are supposedly trained in.

    I left school at 8 so have no real formal training, just a life of real experience, understanding and knowledge.

    You can make all the excuses you want, but results are what counts in any situation, not day dreams.

    The facts are the education system is producing programmed dummies and most young teachers have no clue about anything, their grammar and spelling is disgusting.

    Our education system is orientated to the last couple of centuries, and not for this one which requires an entirely different approach and direction.

    More money and or university trained teachers will make no difference whatsoever to the outcomes, or we would be seeing the results now.

    Education should be firstly about how to live life properly, how society works and how to live within it, healthily, legally and safely.

    Then it should be about experiencing as many aspects of working life as possible before deciding your career path and if necessary going on to higher education.

    Children should be educated for work and life in this century, not the 19th. To do that properly, would mean providing them with the knowledge of living and when they reach 16, putting them into 4 years of work experience throughout society.

    This would include essential services and every aspect of governance and society. When they have finished that training they would be fully informed, responsible people knowing where they want to go in life.

    Today they are chucked out at 15 when the system has failed them miserably, or forced to go to higher education which in reality, for the majority, is useless for their future in this century.

    Primary school teachers, and some secondary, should mostly be retired or mature age people who have a real experience in life and the knowledge to back it up, not those whose only experience in life comes purely from a class room and nothing else.

  4. Michelle Hoult, Candidate for Bass (Jacqui Lambie

    February 5, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    Tony, do you personally know any teachers in Tasmania?

    I am a teacher and I am proud of the fact that I bring my real life experience to my classroom every day. I studied as a mature age student and teaching is my second career. Teachers have incredibly challenging roles.We don’t become teachers just for the pay packet, and you will find most people become teachers because they genuinely want to help our kids and love teaching.

    Paying teachers more is about recognising the challenges they face, lifting their status within the community and attracting the very best through higher standards.

    To say “there are no decent teachers in Tas” is to discredit every teacher I know, each one who goes above and beyond their statement of duties every single day. Teachers operate out of goodwill and compassion, and we do the very best we can every single day.

    Teachers are bound by legislation as to what we teach. I have included a link here for your information: https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/

    Kind regards,
    Michelle Hoult

  5. Simon Warriner

    February 5, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Leonard, isn’t it important to understand why Canberra in both it’s guises would want to fund something that is not on it’s constitutionally mandated remit? Surely they are interfering for a reason, and using our tax dollars to do so?
    What is the reason?

    So they can dictate what is being taught?

    Or so they can dictate how it is taught?

    Or so they can run the system down and drive students into “for profit” private education?

    Or something else I have not listed? Any thoughts?

  6. Leonard Colquhoun

    February 5, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    I’d be prepared to believe this, “Victoria funds its public schools to just 66% of the SRS. For Tasmania it is 76% and only Western Australia and the ACT fund their schools to 80% of the SRS”. It is the pernicious (and entirely to be expected) consequence of federal governments ignoring who’s NOT responsible for schooling in S51 (i)-(xxxix) of our Constitution – of course states will reduce their spending if Uncle Canberra (aka Auntie ACT) is doling out billions willy-nilly and thoughtlessly; realistically, they’d be fools not to.

    Anyway, the notion that postcodes ‘determine destiny’ is the sort of simplistic rubbish which might get undergrads bonus points in what pretend to be Arts / Humanities faculties these days. It is the sort of infantile nonsense of which the 20th century’s Mr ‘Orwell’ was referencing^ when he reckoned an idea being so stupid that only academics could have come up with.

    ^ yes, I’ve accepted that the noun ‘reference’ has evolved into also being a useful (syllable-saving) verb on the ‘access’ pattern. (Poor saps who were non-taught English over the last few decades are urged to google ‘noun’ and ‘verb’, and weep.)

  7. Simon Warriner

    February 4, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    The real problem, Terry, is that party politicians will never implement the sort of reforms you are seeking because those who fund them want education privatised. Those people are very happy to see public education fail.

    If you want change you need to change those elected to make public policy, from tarts for conflicted interest, to independently motivated servants of the public good.

  8. Tony Stone

    February 4, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Calling the profit growth industry schooling independent, is another example of the depth of deceit used by the political system and dumb PC fools. They are to scared to call them what they really are, profit growth ideological programming institutions.

    What legal or ethical right do governments have to give away the peoples money to support profit growth, whilst destroying the public education system.

    Now we have the fool Lambie wanting to pay teachers more, like all ideologues, she and other like minded clones, think more money will provide better outcomes. The truth is in the detail, the more money they throw at education, the worse it gets.

    There are no decent teachers in Tas, just programmed clones who have spent their entire lives in a school room and have no idea or experience of a real working life. So have nothing of worth to pass on, other than their simple rote programming.

    If we want to educate children properly, we need an approach using people really experienced in life, who have actual working knowledge of life. As well as providing kids with a wide working life experience, before they decide their futures, or go onto higher education.

    To do that and stop the peoples money being given to the ideological profit growth industry, means a complete change of approach to education.

    It’s a simple thing to do, but because there would be no profit in it for political vested interests, our education system will continue down the same disastrous path to total collapse.

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