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Tuesday, 30 November 1971
Page: 3844

Mr SCHOLES (Corio) - I rise to support the amendment. I believe that there is a real necessity to examine the needs of education in our community, and in a way which will indicate where the greatest needs lie and what actions are necessary in order to meet those needs. The community is suffering from an unplanned approach to educational needs. The Commonwealth has entered into 2 fields of education, both at the secondary level - science blocks and secondary school libraries. It is quite clear to everyone that the former was an election gimmick in 1963, and one which has been carried through. The second proposition was put forward when the science block programme appeared to slacken off. But as I have said in earlier debates here, the libraries grant for secondary schools is an area in which the Commonwealth has made some errors in judgment, certainly as far as the needs of students in culturally underprivileged areas are concerned.

As to libraries provided for secondary schools, it appears that the needs of schools in the more culturally privileged areas are met before the needs of schools in the areas where good reading material and access to that type of environment are most needed by students. These latter schools are the last to be provided with their needs, lt seems to be almost an act of faith by State governments that the children from the more affluent areas have their needs met first. Let me take the case of 2 different schools in Geelong close to one another. The Norlane High School, which is in a housing commission area and where the needs would be as great as those anywhere else, could not get a science block for 5 or 6 years yet in the same city the Geelong College was able to get grants for science blocks at two of its buildings.

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - You could quote some of the high schools in your electorate that have had facilities.

Mr SCHOLES - I. am pointing out the fact that one school was able to get grants for 2 science blocks - not one - for 2 different buildings at a period when another school was not able to get one at all. There is no way one can argue that the people of Geelong College could not have put up with the inconvenience of doing their science teaching at the parent school if it meant that the children at Norlane High School were going to get some assistance. I want to raise 2 matters about libraries. In areas of cultural underprivilege where children normally are not exposed to fairly well educated parents the problems that these children face are infinitely greater than those of other children, even leaving out totally the economic aspects and dealing only with the educational opportunities and probabilities of the child. To start a library programme at secondary level, especially in areas where general library facilities are not available to children, is to start too late for those children. Their opportunities will have totally disappeared. Their educational opportunities have to start at primary school and at kindergarten.

If they do not get a head start in an educational programme their chances of receiving a Commonwealth scholarship, under a system which is geared to the culturally and economically privileged as opposed to the culturally and economically underprivileged, are nil. This is borne out by the figures of recipients of Commonwealth scholarships which are published regularly. With some planning and cooperation with the States it should be possible to provide adequate libraries which could be utilised as a community facility, especially at primary schools, which are fairly evenly distributed through most built up areas. In country areas the operation of library bookmobiles would most likely be of great advantage to the education system and to the community, without incurring the great deal of extra money that is being expended at the moment to duplicate facilities. The school system and the community should, wherever possible, be integrated. I believe that with a degree of planning it should be possible, especially with facilities such as libraries, to bring about this type of unity, lt is also fairly true to say that in some areas the States are abusing the grants which are being provided by the Commonwealth. 1 am a member of a high school committee which opened its school in a Commonwealth library. The first permanent building was a Commonwealth library which, I must say, is a magnificent building. But next year the State Government proposes to remove some of the temporary accommodation which was provided at that school, because the library is considered to represent a number of class rooms and it is to be utilised as such. If it is a library and if its purpose is to add something to the school then surely the Commonwealth should make it absolutely essential in the conditions of grant that this should be used as a library and not as a group of classrooms which will enable the State to avoid having to provide the necessary classroom accommodation. It is a serious problem and one which I think should be dealt with, but we are picking problems out of the air. It does not matter how much we talk, unless we establish adequate facilities whereby information can be obtained, investigations carried out and recommendations made.

The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) mentioned primary schools, as I have done several times in this House. But in my opinion the present way in which grants of this nature are made is too haphazard. They are not made on the basis of the educational opportunity needs of any- given community. They are made purely on the basis of 'We have a certain amount of money and this appears to be a reasonably good proposition -from, our point of view'. This to me is not the way we should be running our education system. I am sure it would be far more satisfactory if the priorities for schools needing assistance were fixed on the basis of the assistance that they need, and if a priority level was developed whereby a school got the assistance that was available in the order of its need, not merely because it fell into one of the particular categories set out and there happened to be money available though money was not available in another category to provide a similar level of assistance. I do not decry the fact that many schools both private and public have benefited under the provisions of both these Acts, but in any amount of cases the needs of the situation have not been the prime consideration. Rather it has been the availability of funds within a particular education system financed by Commonwealth grants. The State school system, possibly because of the manner in which the State governments operate, appears to have suffered. I think that the prime need in the library' field, to provide access to adequate supplies of good literature al ihe primary school level, has not been met and is not capable of being met under this type of legislation.

As I said before, it is not much good providing a child with a library in a secondary school if that child has not had the opportunity of access to a library in a primary school, particularly a child who comes from a largely uneducated parent background where there is no encouragement of learning. Once that child reaches secondary school he will have lost th s educational opportunity, so I support the amendment because I am sure any inquiry would bring out the absolute need for children to receive assistance - especially assistance in learning - and to be exposed to good literature long before they go to secondary school. I trust that honourable members opposite - after hearing his speech, I am sure the honourable member for Maranoa would support the amendment - will support the amendment because I think it provides machinery whereby we can at least find out where the real needs of the community are and I hope that at some time some effort will be made to provide children in underprivileged areas - underprivileged culturally not economically - with an educational opportunity which will enable a greater percentage of them to obtain the level of education which is available almost as a right to other sections of the community.

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