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Wednesday, 30 May 1973
Page: 2840


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) (Minister for Education) - For the information of honourable members I table the report of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission. I seek leave to make a statement on this report.


Mr SPEAKER - -Order! Is leave granted? There being no objective, leave is granted.


Mr Malcolm Fraser - I will ask for leave to respond briefly to the Minister's statement, but I would not like either the Minister's statement or mine to pre-empt a full debate at an appropriate time on the Commissioner's report.


Mr Daly - After the Minister delivers his statement, the honourable member for Wannon may seek leave to make a statement in reply. When he concludes this statement I will move that the House take note of the paper.


Mr BEAZLEY - Mr Speaker,this report, which represents the unanimous views of the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission, is a document of major signifiance for Australian education. Its recommendations for 1974 and 1975 are based on the long-term aim that by the end of the present decade Australian schools should all have reached acceptable standards. They regard the educational lag in Australia as most formidable. The quality of this report is outstanding. The Government owes its gratitude to this Committee which in less than 5 months has surveyed primary and secondary education in Australia and has proposed solutions to the deficiencies found. The report outlines the most serious of these deficiencies:

Most schools lack sufficient resources, both human and material.

Among schools there are gross inequalities, not only in resources but also in the opportunities they offer to boys and girls from varied backgrounds.

In particular there are many city schools which draw their pupils from populations that suffer grave socio-economic disadvantages.

There are handicapped children for whom quite inadequate opportunities for schooling exist.

The quality of education leaves much to be desired. Many teachers have been inadequately trained.

Curricula and teaching methods tend to be unresponsive to differences between pupils, and are narrow in relation to the possibilities of life in a complex technological society.

Faced with deficiencies of such magnitude and complexity, the Committee recommends an expenditure by the Australian Government through State grants of$660m over the 2 years 1974-75, of which $461m is for government schools and $179m for non-government schools, with about$20m not allocated specifically. The $660m will be allocated among the States as follows:

 

In addition to the recommendations amounting to $660m referred to above, there will be in 1974 to 1975 substantial expenditures arising from existing legislation: $4.5m for nongovernment school buildings; $11.5m for secondary school libraries; $16.5m for science laboratories in both government and nongovernment schools; and considerable outlays on expanded programs for the education of Aboriginal children and children of nonEnglishspeaking families. These sums are exclusive of the cost to the Australian Government of running the government schools and of giving aid to non-government schools in the Territories. The outlays also exclude all expenditure on personal assistance programs for example, scholarships, living allowances. Most notably, of course, the Commonwealth has a commitment to expend $l88m on teacher education in the21/2 years beginning 1 July 1973.

Returning now to the total recommended expenditure of $660m over the 2 years 1974- 75, of this figure the Committee's recommendations involve a net cost to Commonwealth Budgets of $467m over and above the cost that existing programs would have imposed. The recommendations fall into 8 major programs:

General recurrent grants - $197.2m.

General building grants - $116m.

Libraries - $43. 8m, including - $20m in grants for secondary schools libraries and $20m in grants for primary schools libraries.

Disadvantaged schools -$50m, including - $20m in recurrent grants and $30m in building grants.

Special education for physically and mentally handicapped children - $43 . 5m, including - $lm in grants for training courses for teachers of handicapped children; $8. 3m in grants for replacement of teachers in training; $ 10.2m in grants for recurrent expenses in special education; $4m in grants to States to assume responsibility for schools conducted by voluntary bodies; and $20m in grants for education departments for new and replacement facilities for handicapped children.

Teacher development - $10.3m, including - $7. 7m in service training, and $2. 6m for education centres.

Innovations and special projects - $6m.

Information systems - $0.2m.

Of the independent schools, other than Catholic parochial schools, 68 per cent are better off under the proposals, 7 per cent about the same and 25 per cent would receive less than at present. The Catholic parochial systems will all receive substantial gains.

The Committee, in its recommendations, assumes that the present level of State government assistance to the running costs of non-government schools will continue. This level of assistance is estimated at $44.7m for the year 1972. Main beneficiaries of the recommendations to the non-government sector of education are the Catholic parochial schools,whose resource level is estimated at 80 per cent of that of the average state school. There are non-government schools at whose command are resources 4 times as great as in poorer non-government schools. Some of these better endowed schools are already beyond the resource level which it is the Committee's aim to attain for schools over 6 years. The Committee's recommendations increase the expenditure on the state schools by the Australian Government by $396m.

Catholic parish schools, which under the old system would receive about $42m in the 2 years for general recurrent expenditure, will receive about $64m. The Catholic independent schools generally will improve, although not quite so sharply. To this must be added expenditure on Catholic disadvantaged schools and expenditure on general school buildings and primary and secondary libraries additional to the existing scheme. The Committee expresses the opinion that it will be necessary for the States to employ outside consultants if the building program is to be mounted quickly. If the States are to be able to create these resources and spend this money, the Committee feels that the urgency of the school replacement and upgrading program would, if necessary, justify restraint on large scale commercial building, which it believes should have a lower priority than buildings for these essential community services.

The Committee has made valuable recommendations concerning functions and structure for the future schools commission, which it suggests should comprise a chairman and 3 or 4 full-time commissioners with, say, 6 part-time commissioners. It also recommends regional boards in the States for effective decentralisation of the commission's activities.

I should like to draw special attention to the values which have informed the Committee's deliberations:

The pursuit of equality in the sense of making, through schooling, the overall circumstances of children's education as nearly equal as possible;

The attainment of minimum standards of competence for life in the modern democratic industrial society;

The concept of schooling as a way of life as well as a preparation for life;

The notion of education as a life-long experience of which attendance at primary and secondary schools is one phase;

Diversity among schools in their structures, curricula and teaching methods; The devolution, as far as practicable, of the making of decisions to those work ing in or with the schools - teachers, pupils, parents and the local community; and

The involvement of the community in school affairs.

I have made the report available to the Parliament and to the State governments, and it will go to the school authorities at the earliest opportunity. The Government has yet to consider the report, but I expect it to discuss the Committee's recommendations in the near future. When the printed version of the report is available, a copy will be sent to every school in Australia.

In summary, this Committee has presented recommendations designed to provide a general upgrading of facilities, special consideration for the needs of disadvantaged children and improvements in the quality of education. It has recommended a decentralised system of education, public accountability by nongovernment schools receiving assistance, and provision for evaluation of the assistance programs. The work of the Interim Committee is outstanding. I wish to express to Professor Karmel and every member the deep gratitude of the Australian Government. This will be expressed personally in letters, but the nation is deeply indebted to them and that indebtedness should be recorded in this House.

I present the following paper:

Australian Schools Commission - Report of Interim Committee - Ministerial Statement, 30 May 1973







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