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Thursday, 27 September 1973
Page: 1664


Mr GARRICK (Batman) - It was very pleasing to hear the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) supporting the Bill. The few criticisms which he made were directed in the form of questions to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). Therefore, I will allow the Minister ' the courtesy of answering those questions. This Bill enables the Australian Government to provide funds under the child migrant, program, to help State and independent schools provide emergency accommodation, where 'this is necessary, and to allow adequate special instruction of migrant children to take place. The Bill reverses a decision of the previous Government to exclude the provision of accommodation from the Commonwealth program.

The speeches made in this .House when the Minister at the time introduced . the Immigration (Education) Bill 197i gave evidence of general agreement with 2 assumptions. One assumption is that the ability, pf. migrants to communicate with other members of the community is fundamental- to their successful integration. The second assumption is that if the community encourages -migrants to learn English, the community and migrants will be the richer in both social and . human terms. Despite agreement on these assumptions, we know that the education of migrant children in our schools is presenting problems which are not susceptible of an easy solution. The Victorian Migrant Task Force in its recently presented report stated:.....

Recent surveys and reports indicate that:

Effectively only 20 per .cent of the children in the schools surveyed who need English tuition are receiving enough of it, and the largest single concentration of disadvantaged schools is located in and about Melbourne, where there are very high proportions of migrants from non-English speaking countries. In effect .there is a blatant denial of the child's right to a meaningful and fulfilling educational experience.

There was a time when the problems of educational deprivation among migrants, and for that matter among fifth generation Australians, was susceptible of relatively easy solution. At that time the existence of the problem was publicly acknowledged by few. Now, however, the existence of educational deprivation on a vast scale in the inner suburbs around Melbourne is apparent to all and acknowledged by many. An easy ending of this deprivation is not possible. The recognition that the problem exists, together with a willingness to solve it, does not mean that a single, simple solution will be found. On the contrary, we can see that remedial action will require a variety of pro grams. These programs will need repeated revision.

We need more than a recognition of the magnitude of the problem and more than a willingness to resolve it. We need, above all, a sense of passionate outrage if we are to end this shocking deprivation of migrant children's rights. I choose the word 'deprivation' rather than the word 'lack' for the obvious reason that the word 'deprivation' implies a deliberate, active intent, whereas the word 'lack' merely implies an accidental effect. Our community should feel a sense of passionate outrage that so many of us were blind to the cruel reality that has been unfolding before our eyes for more than 20 years. If we are not outraged by past and present deprivation surely we will have future deprivation. Furthermore, we will be encouraged to adopt simple, easy, plausible solutions which will demand more of what is going - more money, teachers, classrooms and books, and better technical aids, better books and beter trained teachers. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good. The certainty that a quantitative extension of the present elements in education will benefit teachers, builders, and the educational aids houses does not convince me that educational deprivation will end.

The provision of quantitative extensions in the on-going system is not without some value, but surely there will still be gaps between the well meaning planner's promise and his performance. The position here is analagous to the pleas for more from the United States generals in Vietnam rather than to Oliver Twist's request for more in the work house. We cannot in fairness expect our teachers and their institutions alone to end the deprivation of cur migrant children presently at school. Nor can we expect our teachers and their institutions alone to restore those who were maimed educationally by our past lack of concern. If we are to understand the causes of educational deprivation firstly we must understand the causes of educational success.

It is, of course, a commonplace that success at school is largely caused by home background. Further evidence supporting this generally accepted contention has come from recent newspaper reports of a comparative analysis produced by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement published in Stockholm a short while ago. It is a well known fact that the ability to read a piece of literature is influenced more by the home background of the student than by the type of teaching. It is well known that students who come from homes with many books and magazines, and an environment conducive to reading, not only will read better, but also will show more interest in literature. It is equally well known that when the population of a school comes from homes wherein the parents themselves are well educated, economically advantaged, and able to provide an environment in which reading matter and communication media are available, the school will show a generally superior level of reading achievement. The truth is that it matters not greatly which school the student attends, but from where he comes.

In the report that I mentioned, the Chief Research Officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research, Mr Malcolm Rosier, said that the project assessing achievement in science showed the importance of home background. He stated:

The results provide new light on the relative importance of home background and school activities in educational success.

They confirm that educational achievement in all the countries studied ls directly related to the students' social circumstances, irrespective of differences in school organisation, or resources or the qualifications of the teachers.

The results pinpoint, in a way which enable international comparisons to be made, the extent to which educational opportunity is socially biased in favour of the upper and middle classes and away from the low status groups.

In this country today, the task which confronts a social democratic Government, dedicated to the eradication of inequality while not debasing standards, is herculean. In this country, for many years past, the judges have decided the winners of the race before the starter's gun has punctured the air. The apologists for this practice, of preference for some, are justifying this practice by pretending that innate intelligence is the determinant of success. However, success depends upon a judicious choice of parents, although intelligence may help if parents have been chosen carelessly.

Like so many children in Melbourne's northern and western suburbs, the migrant child, in the present situation, needs more than intelligence, initiative, and determination. While the situation is bad for educationally deprived children, it is ironical that every child learns something at school. For as Everett Reimer says in his book 'school is dead':

No child, however, fails to learn from school. Those who never get in learn that the good things of life are not for them.

Those who drop out early learn that they, do not deserve the good things of life.

The later drop-outs learn that the system can be beat but not by them.

All of them learn that school is the path to secular salvation, and resolve that their children shall climb higher on the ladder than they did.

But despite the firm intentions of the parents despite the determination of the student, we know that the race is won, and lost, before it is run. Once we have accepted that the problems of migrant education are pretty largely environmentally and socially caused, we will be able, if we have the courage to choose, to look more critically at our society, and to see where governmental intervention can be most usefully employed.

At the present time, constructive action is inhibited by an inability of the community to free itself of the assumptions of the past. The magnitude of the problem that confronts us, and that confronts us ever more urgently, can be seen nowhere more clearly than in the discrimination even Australian girls presently suffer. At the subjective level girls have a poorer view than boys do of their own abilities. At the objective level there is no evidence for a difference in average intelligence of men and women, when we take each group as a whole. However, there is no doubt that there are differences in the aspirations and performances of boys and girls. And that these differences are caused by our expectations as teachers, as parents, and as employers, 'that girls will behave like this, and boys will behave like that*. The expectations of the various elements of society influence the performance not only of Australians but also of migrants.

When we consider the problems that face us in the area of migrant education we cannot escape the conclusion that Australia's post war immigration program has been irresponsibly administered in the area of migrant child education, in the area of migrant adult education, and in the area of migrant integration. It is apparent to all that the program has been controlled by the motive of securing an affluent economy for the nation and virtually nothing has been done towards securing the welfare of migrant families. Community attitudes towards migrants have been characterised by false beliefs of wide currency that no government action has been taken to dispel. For example, there is a misunderstanding in the community that migrant children are naturally bi-lingual. They are not.

Under the impact of education conducted in the English language and their natural desire to join in the social life of the school by speaking English as quickly and as often as possible, their language of origin quickly deteriorates into 'kitchen' Italian or Greek or whatever their natural language is. As the Brotherhood of St. Laurence pointed out in the booklet 'two worlds':

At the age of fourteen or fifteen years, when they are most in need of communicating with their families on the abstract and complex ideas of higher education and its demands, they find themselves unable to do so.

When we discussed the Migrant (Education) Bill . 1971 in this House I was aware of this problem, and in reference to adult and adolescent migrants who were arriving in thiscountry to go straight into factories, I said:

In lacking education, they suffer a lack of knowledge and understanding of their own cultural heritage and in the long run this particular lack is more unfortunate for them than their inability to speak our tongue, for implicit in their lack of understanding of their own culture is a lack of facility in their own tongue, and this is disastrous, because as every one knows, language is more than words.

But despite this, the Department is insisting that instruction not only for adolescent and older migrants, including those who will hardly be involved in the wider spheres of community life because they are confined to the home, but also for children, should be by the situation method as though the study of language or the proper use of words can be divorced from the study of the history and literature that produced those words.

As all the evidence to hand at the present time supports the contention that school administrators and educational experts, armed with vast resources, are unable to overcome the disadvantages of the family background, one step towards this end would be increased government assistance to the adult migrant education program, by sponsoring on television imported Italian, Greek, Spanish or Turkish variety programs, as well as adventure programs, that have met with success in terms of popularity overseas. A difficulty here is that some underprivileged homes may not have television, but, as many do, this approach would meet with some success. We could also sponsor 'talk-back' programs on commercial radio. I see no reason for not sponsoring or subsidising foreign language editions of the popular women's magazines. But more importantly we must make the schools for adult and adolescent migrants more popular, and in this regard I must confess to disappointment that the trade unions have so far made no approach to the Victorian Migrant Task Force Committee. Perhaps some approaches will be made after the Migrant Workers Conference has concluded early in October. Those of us who view education from the outside, neither as teachers, nor as pupils, nor as employers, cannot escape the conclusion that no matter how much money we pour into schools they are not going to succeed in developing or freeing the potential of our children or of our adult migrants. None of us has escaped a nodding acquaintance at least with the works of Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich, and Paulo Freire. Although we may not agree with the prescriptions of these radicals - and for all I know they may not agree with each other - we cannot ignore them. What do they say? Firstly, they are adamant that education is much more than what is provided in schools. They say that over the last 100 years or so, we have identified education with schooling, but Goodman and Illich also say that the school is not, and cannot be the only agency of education. Illich says that school stands in the way of education and that we must deschool' education if it is to become a means of human liberation.

Secondly, they argue that education is a do it yourself job. They say that the child educates himself with the help of the family, the peer group, the community at large. They say that a child can be influenced, brainwashed, indoctrinated by another person, but he cannot be educated by another person. It is said that the main agent of education is the pupil himself, that the teacher is merely an auxiliary.

If we are to improve the chances of success of migrant children - and native Australians - we must compensate for the backgrounds that are deficient - in books, magazines and communications media on the one hand and, on the other hand, lack of proper study facilities, such as warmth, privacy and freedom from noise and interruption. The achievement of these ends may necessitate the building of boarding schools in the inner suburbs which the children could attend for limited periods on a voluntary basis, and the provision of houses in these areas where children could study away from school in a satisfactory environment.

I point out most importantly that there is nothing radical in these proposals. The well off have enjoyed these kinds of amenities for ages past. Furthermore, we should encourage trained teachers to establish their own schools away from the larger school environment. Four or 5 teachers and 70 or 80 students, working in an inner suburban house, may achieve more than the same number of people working in the larger school environment. These teachers would, of course, be protected by the same conditions of employment as apply to teachers in the larger school system. We know the ingredients for success in education. They are: Home background, pupil motivation, good teachers and ends that realise the student's potential. We must compensate for unsatisfactory home background, and this will demand creativity of the teachers and the legislators.

For a number of years, the Victorian Education Department has made it plain that schools have complete autonomy in their program choice. Innovations and experimental studies are welcomed by the Department. This policy has often been publicly expressed. However, a great number of principals of schools, and some members of their staffs, still seem to feel that retribution will be swift if they start acting on the assumption that the Department means what it says. Those with this attitude, plus the tradition-oriented quality of many older teachers who are prepared and eager to introduce ways of coping with the problem, find that their worst frustrations come from the schools, not the Education Department.

I said in the beginning of these remarks that the problems associated with the eradication of inequality without debasing standards is Herculean. But it can be done. But we must compensate for educationally deprived home background, and we must see the school as only one element in the education process. This Bill is one move in the right direction and it is an indication of the Labor Government's awareness of and its determination to eradicate educational inequality.







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