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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2451

Mr KENNEDY (Bendigo) (12:16 PM) - I wish to speak briefly tonight about the need for an overhaul of the Commonwealth secondary scholarship system and the replacement of this means of granting scholarships with a new method. At present, the Commonwealth secondary scholarships' scheme is based upon a competitive examination. Scholarships are granted to that minority which attains the highest marks in these examinations. In some cases achievement at school is taken into account also. But the principal factor in the operation of this scheme is a competitive examination. I believe that this method should be replaced entirely and that in its place a means test should be introduced so that money is given to Australian students according to their needs and according to their parents' means.

I say that for one simple reason. For 7 years the operations of this scheme have shown that the scheme discriminates massively against the children of low income families whether they be in the inner suburban areas or in country areas. In addition, it discriminates massively against migrant children. On the other hand, it is a perfect means of promoting and advancing those children who already are fortunate because of family circumstances. In many cases students who have received scholarships simply do not need them. It is interesting to relate that last month, in the 'Australian', a report appeared of a survey of parents whose children had been granted scholarships. Only 4 per cent of those parents said that they needed the assistance provided by those scholarships; 96 per cent saw no need for or were not moved very much by the whole system.

I would state, firstly, why we should have a means test. The way in which this system has operated has been massively expensive because of red tape, paper work and bureaucracy. Between 1964 and 1971 the amount of money paid out under the Commonwealth scholarship scheme was

S41.4m. In the last financial year - that is, 1970-71 - the value of benefits paid out in actual scholarships together with examination costs totalled $6,791,000. Scholarships were worth S6,387,000 while examination costs were $404,000. Looking at the figures over 7 years we see that the administration of this examination system has cost approximately $2.5m. I believe that this is an extraordinarily expensive way of selecting people who arc to receive the richest bounty in this community while reminding the remaining ninetenths of those in this category that, in the eyes of this Government, they are failures. That is what the system does.

How many students sit for this examination? Last year, of the total of 181,000 students in the third last year of study, 90,000 sat for the examination. At the present moment the Commonwealth Government is massively examining one in every two intermediate students in Australia. Last year only 10,000 scholarships were allotted so 80,000 students had to lose. Yet under the scholarship examination system all students have to be tested. Last year the examinations cost $404,000. It is clear that the cost of this system for each successful student was $40.40. Not only is the Government giving out scholarships worth between $250 and $400 but also it is wasting $40.40 in choosing the best students and screening out those who do not meet the Government's standards.

This is a massively costly system. It is over-bureaucratic. The paperwork involved is something terrific. This system can no longer be justified on grounds of economy let alone social justice. Four test papers are set, each of 2 hours. As 90,000 students are involved in the examinations 360,000 papers have to be marked. The 4 test papers consist of, firstly, written expression; secondly, comprehension and interpretation (sciences); thirdly, quantitative thinking, which means mathematics; and, fourthly, comprehension and interpretation in humanities. The papers have to be sent from the office of the Australian Council for Educational Research to the various State Departments of Education. They are then sent to the schools. The examinations have to be conducted and the papers returned for marking. One section of the papers has to be manually marked twice.

This means that 90,000 papers have to be marked twice. Three of the papers can be marked by machine. But the important matter to stress is that 360,000 papers have to be marked at a cost of about $400,000. That is a lot of money which could be used profitably on children of families of low incomes. I think that this is a strong ground why the present scheme of competitive examinations should be abolished.

I support the question which was asked by the honourable member for Chisholm (Mr Staley) of the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this morning. The honourable member suggested a cost benefit analysis of the present Commonwealth scholarship scheme. If by that he meant the adoption of a means test rather than a competitive examination then I am all for that suggestion. On the basis of social justice this examination scheme simply can no longer be justified. It affects so few people. It is one of the main reasons why we have so many Government and Catholic school students dropping out and such a large number of other private school students going on. For example last year in Australia only about 25 per cent of Government school students continued on to their final secondary years. Those are the students who enrolled 5 years earlier. Only 32 per cent of the Roman Catholic students went on to their final years. By comparison 81 per cent of the other private school students went on to the final year. This situation shows the fantastic inequalities within the 3 school systems.

In Victoria the non-Roman Catholic private school student has 4 times the chance of a Government school student of going on to the final year of secondary education. He has 3 times the chance of a Roman Catholic student of going on.

If we look at the Commonwealth scholarship scheme we see the same sort of stark inequality. In Victoria the nonRoman Catholic school student has 5 times the chance of a Government school student of winning a Commonwealth scholarship. He has more than twice the chance of a Roman Catholic school student. In 1970 in Victoria only 3.4 per cent of all Government school students in the 4th form won a scholarship. Only 8 per cent of all Catholic school students in Victoria doing intermediate year won a scholarship. By comparison 17 per cent of all nonRoman Catholic school students won a scholarship. That shows a fantastic inequality. This is the scheme that is supposed to be aimed at increasing equality of opportunity.

Many other things could be said about this. The evils of the system, its entrenched inequality and the social inequalities that it perpetuates are well known to honourable members. But I would stress that the proportion of scholarships being won by government school students and Catholic school students has decreased in the 7 years that the scheme has been operating. Even more amazing is the fact that although the number of intermediate students at government schools is increasing actually they are winning fewer scholarships today in Victoria. Therefore we have 2 inequalities. Firstly the proportion of scholarships being won by government school students is dropping and the actual number--

Dr Mackay - What is wrong with the teaching?

Mr KENNEDY - What is wrong with the teaching? If the Minister is willing to debate this I will be only too glad to take him up on it.

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