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Thursday, 29 October 1970

Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) would be good enough to tell me why the Commonwealth grant to the Australian Council for Educational Research was reduced from $50,000 as it was last year to $40,000 for this year. For those people who are interested in educational research the work of ACER is quite legendary. I will quote the titles of some of the big projects which ACER has taken on in "the last year or two. They include: junior secondary science projects; tertiary education entrance project; learning and teaching in colleges of advanced education; international study of educational achievement; study skills at primary levels; Commonwealth secondary scholarship examination; writing ability of secondary school pupils; closed-circuit television - the Malvern project; and the New South Wales basic skills testing programme. They are some of the projects which ACER investigated in the last few years. Perhaps I should have noticed during the estimates debate that the grant for ACER was reduced from $50,000 to $40,000. However I am rather perplexed as to the reason for the reduction in the grant. It is my view that it should be increased rather than reduced.

I certainly support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) to give statutory authority to this Advisory Committee. The only other comment I want to make about that Advisory Committee is that I was wondering whether there could be a place on that Committee for representatives of practising teachers or of professional organisations. I am not necessarily thinking of teachers' federations or teachers' unions. I am thinking of bodies like the Australian College of Education or the various State institutes of educational research. These people are in the job of teaching and many of them are practitioners in the field. Part of the charter of this Committee is to promote not only the conduct of research but also the communication of research results - the application - as it is called. It is also part of its charter to help people to develop research techniques, to do courses, to help them with fees and to grant them allowances. This is quite an important part of the work and one that I applaud. I cannot help thinking that there might have been a place on the Committee for the people I have mentioned. I know some of the members of the Committee. They include Professor Mitchell and Mr David Verco, who unfortunately is rather ill at the moment and I hope that he will recover very shortly and take his place on the Committee, and Mr Albert Webster, Director of Planning, Department of Education in New South Wales. These people are suitable members for this Committee but I think that there should be a place on the Committee for someone who is in more direct daily contact with the action of teaching and the communication of research results in an acceptable form, or in a consumable form, if 1 may put it that way, for practising teachers in the field. A number of suggestions have been made as to the kind of projects that might be supported. I hope that when they get around to projects they will look at some of those that are widely embracing.

We have said before that there is still scope for carrying out a research project on the educational system as a whole. Whether this could be done by a group project I would not be prepared to say. The Minister might appreciate my remarks having regard to the meeting that we attended together on Sunday night last. There is a place for looking at education not only at levels but in particular localities. I am talking about education in socially, culturally, educationally and economically depressed areas. What has been talked about is a positive programme of discrimination in favour of such areas. We have looked at parts of the western region of Sydney. Unfortunately there are a lot of regions in our capital cities where something drastic has to be done. Such a project will embrace not only material educational provisions but also other associated matters involving social workers, housing, health provisions and so on.

We have examples of such projects being carried out in the United States. For instance, a project called 'Headstart' is being undertaken in that country. Such a project would tend to assist people in depressed or deprived areas. I hope that something might be done in the field of handicapped children. There are quite a number of projects that could be taken up there. I promised that I would not delay the House. However, I want to ask a question of the Minister about the survey which has been conducted by the Australian Education Council. It is entitled National Survey of Educational Needs'. People have said that the survey was not completed and that it is still in progress. They have said that the report that has been tabled is a rather faked report. As a matter of fact, it has been said by the President of the New South Wales Parents and Citizens Federation that the committee is still in operation on this matter and that the figure of expenditure needed over the next 5 years to bring education up to scratch is not a reliable figure because the research has not been completed. I wonder whether the Minister might give me some information on this matter.

Finally I want to correct some figures I gave in a speech on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) on 24th September. The Minister for Education and Science came into this House the other night and was manful enough to correct something he said in the House. I have to admit that I also made a mistake. In my speech on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) I referred to science laboratory and equipment grants. On that occasion, in speaking about what was granted in the last triennium, I said:

The amount .per head granted in private schools was $63.50 and the amount granted in State schools was $29.70, 46.7 per cent of what was granted in private schools.

I was in error. I had divided the total by the number of New South Wales students in secondary education instead of the total in the whole of Australia. However the broad argument still holds good; the correct figure should be in private secondary schools the amount is $23.64 per head and in government schools $10.90, which is 46.2 per cent of what was spent in private schools. My argument is still that this is a gross inequality of provision. However, I did want to take this opportunity to correct the figures. Apart from that, I strongly support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Fremantle.

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