Today is Public Education Day – an occasion to recognise the central role that public schools, preschools and TAFEs play in strengthening the social, economic and cultural fabric of our society.
Free, public and secular education is the key to a vibrant, socially cohesive, multicultural and democratic Australia. Prominent Australians, including former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Professor Pasi Sahlberg and former High Court Justice the Hon. Michael Kirby have marked the occasion by writing about the important role that public education played in their lives.
“With its welcome all comers attitude, public education is, and has always been, dedicated to creating the best kind of society. It teaches us to accept, respect and share, to be an open-hearted and inclusive Australia. For that, on this day, we say thank you, loudly and proudly.”
Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Public education is a public good, ensuring the right of every student to access a high quality education. In order to fulfil this purpose, public education must be sufficiently resourced by all governments.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, “success in education can be defined as a combination of high levels of achievement and high levels of equity” and furthermore that “equity in education is also a matter of design and, as such, should become a core objective of any strategy to improve an education system.“
Australian Education Union Federal President Correna Haythorpe said that in order for public education to help students fully realise their potential, it was essential that state, territory and federal governments work together to ensure that public schools, preschools and TAFEs are fully funded.
“Public education builds equity, hope, and opportunity for every child,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“Australia’s public schools, preschools and TAFEs are inclusive and provide lifetime benefits to students through access to education, improved health, wellbeing and employment.”
“Public education is the foundation of civil society, developing the capacity of people to lead fulfilling and productive lives.”
“It increases equity and social cohesion and provides a myriad of economic benefits in terms of increased productivity and economic activity,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“The Morrison Government’s school funding legislation means that 99 per cent of public schools would be funded at less than the Schooling Resource Standard by 2023, while 100 per cent of private schools would be funded at or above this benchmark. This is neither fair nor fiscally responsible,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“Denying public education the required resources increases the existing inequity between school systems and the gap in educational learning outcomes for children and young people.”
“Governments must acknowledge their central role in the provision of quality public education. This requires increasing education funding and targeting resources to where they are needed most,” Ms Haythorpe said.
“Only by ensuring equity in funding for public schools, preschools and TAFEs can we make sure that all students have access to a high quality education and the best opportunity to succeed.”