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Tuesday, 12 October 1971
Page: 2193

Mr TURNER (Bradfield) - The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who just concluded his speech has come up with all the popular answers. He says: Let all things be free, from pills to university. It does not occur to the honourable member that there are many things that have to be done that require money. It does not occur to him that for the first time in our history we have no great and powerful friends in this part of the world to protect us. It does not occur to him that we are faced with a rural crisis with which we have to deal. No, he says that we should let all things be free.

I want to deal with the crisis in education, which is approaching a catastrophy. I am referring not to the crisis that we hear so much about but to the much more serious one. A decade ago in New South Wales - and I will speak entirely of New South Wales now believing that State to be typical of the other States - it was estimated that 17 per cent of those entering their first year in secondary schools would stay till their fifth or sixth year; that is, from the age of about 13 to about 18 years. The percentages so proceeding from first to fifth or sixth year were as follows: In 1960 - this was before the Wyndham scheme was introduced - 17.2 per cent of students went from first year to fifth year. In 1962 the figure was 19.7 per cent. In 1964 it was 24.1 per cent. In 1967 it stood at 24.6 per cent. In 1968 it was 28.3 per cent. The figure for 1969 was 31.5 per cent. In 1970 it was 32.2 per cent. It is estimated that it will be 40 per cent over the next decade. That is, to say the least of it, a considerable growth.

What happens to those who proceeded to their 5th year prior to the Wyndham scheme or who proceed to their 6th year now? Let us consider what will happen to the people who passed their higher school certificate in 1970. Last year, 28,000 students sat for the higher school certificate. Of that number, 11,500 failed to matriculate. That is 41 per cent of the 28,000. The number who matriculated but who did not go on to university was 3,500. That is 13 per cent of the 28,000. The number who proceeded to university was 13,000. That is 46 per cent of the original 28,000 who sat for the higher school certificate, ft is estimated that 5,200 of those will drop out before graduating. This means that, of the 28,000 who passed the higher school certificate in 1970, 7,800 will be left to graduate. This is just over 18 per cent of the original 28,000. So, 20,200 out of 28,000 will pass the higher school certificate, but will fail to stay the course and will never graduate at a university. The wastage here is quite appalling.

What about jobs for those who graduate? I refer to those 18 per cent who passed the higher school certificate in 1970 and who will graduate? What of jobs for them? The Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales said this the other day:

In a survey carried out last year-

That was in 1970: on the demand and supply position for 1st year graduates entering certain selected fields of work, it was indicated that employers in 70 per cent of the work fields surveyed indicated that the supply of graduates exceeded the demand.

But still we must drive them through, with all the failures that result. This means tremendous expense to taxpayers in respect of mere numbers of students who never stay the course. We have much more elaborate schools than we have ever had before, with much more elaborate equipment than could have been dreamed of 10 years ago, and with expensive libraries, expensive laboratories and all the rest of it - for people who fail to stay the course. Secondly, there is tremendous expense to parents who also - the honourable gentleman overlooked this - are taxpayers. Thirdly, there is the unhappiness of the children and young people themselves. They suffer strain - the honourable- member referred to this - and defeat and disappointment follows upon their failure to stay the course. Fourthly, there is the loss of useful effort for the community through the tragic misallocation of human resources. Yet honourable members opposite say: 'More of it. More of this'.

What are the answers? There are, as the honourable gentleman remarked, those who should go on and who do not, those who are gifted children of poor parents who require scholarships to pay their tuition fees and require also living allowances. But, as the figures that I mentioned earlier indicate, not all of these students would graduate if they did go on to uni versity. The home environment is another factor that would result in many of them not being stimulated to go on even if this could be afforded and even if scholarships were available.

What is to be done about these things? This is a crisis approaching a catastrophe for thousands of young people in this country every year - this rat race that leads nowhere. First of all, the facts should be disseminated. Only cruelty and bitterness can result from concealment of the plain facts that so few will graduate and that, of this number, so many will not get jobs. Again, there should be a stepping up of provisions for colleges of advanced education so that young people can concentrate on courses leading to gainful employment, eschewing university status - not as something inferior but as something different. Better, it might be said, a happy carpenter than a carping philosopher.

We should aim to give young people the training that will enable them to get gainful jobs. They will be much happier if they do. Again, we should expect parents who can afford it to do more for their children. We should expect young people to work to further their education by part time attendance at institutions. This is how the highly skilled work force was built up in the United States of America. For people coming from impoverished countries in Europe nothing was too difficult and no sacrifice was too great on the part of their parents to enable their children to acquire education. They all worked for something they knew was extremely worthwhile. As I said, there are not unlimited funds and other sources of funds must be found. Those sources can be found in the parents who wish to make sacrifices for their children and in the young people themselves. This has been done. There is nothing new about it.

There should be, I believe, a revolutionary change in the school system. The Commonwealth could assist the schools by means of per capita payments in respect of each school child whether at a government or an independent school. It could abandon special programmes to provide finance to do this. The balance required could be made up by State Treasuries in respect of government schools and by parents in respect of independent schools. The advantages of this pluralistic over the monopolistic system of education to which we are moving and which is favoured by the honourable gentleman opposite would be this: First of all, we would channel more money and greater resources into education than we can possibly get from taxation. Again, we would give genuine freedom of choice to parents. It is completely phoney to say that when parents are taxed to the hilt, and they do not have large incomes anyhow, they have the right to pay fees to send their children to independent schools. Of course we are depriving them of choice, depriving them of that right, and such a suggestion is entirely phoney.

It would permit greater variety and experimentation in individual schools, something greatly to be desired. It would give greater freedom to teachers. It would allow participation by the community in the management of schools. There would be safeguards as to standards and qualifications of teachers through teacher training and certification by approved central establishments. Standards of accommodation and so forth could be laid down and standards established regarding curricula and public examination to ensure that children receive a proper education. By these means we could overcome the rigidity, inflexibility, centralisation, bureaucratisation and the deadly uniformity that we shall have if we opt for the monopolistic style of education which is the inevitable end of the road that is indicated by the honourable gentleman opposite. Sir, I stand for this because I believe that it is better for parents, for children and for the community and would produce a far better system of education than that to which we are rapidly moving.

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