The writing on the wall for public education

April 5th, 2016  |  Published in Education


Recent political missiles have activated alarm about a privatised future for public education in Australia, consistent with trends in other countries, fallout from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and the natural bent of a neoliberal regime.

Education academies

In the United Kingdom, education academies are the emerging model. These are funded by the state but run by private companies, sometimes in chains of thirty or more schools, with chief executives taking home inflated salaries, claiming generous expense accounts, and forging links with the Tory party.

Education academies have high-sounding ‘mottos’ of the kind:
• Delivering education excellence
• Ensuring the individual child is at the centre of everything we do. (The company with this slogan also requires all its schools to use its “Paragon Curriculum” at a cost of 100,000 pounds per year.)


Fallout from the TPP

More locally, I came across a blogpost suggesting that, under the TPP, Australia could find itself with compulsory privatisation of education at all levels (and presumably of other public services).

I am no expert on the detail of the 6000-page TPP, but do wonder if this could be plausible under the provisions that allow corporations to sue governments if their policies affect profits.

That is, could corporate providers, modelled on existing chains in the UK, sue governments for preventing them making profits on public services including education?

The slippery slope

The Australian government, in common with its neoliberal allies in the UK and US, has a penchant for privatising public services, with or without the added impetus of the TPP.

This is a consistent thread in an otherwise slapstick scenario. Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, recently startled many, including some in his own party room, with a half-baked idea to save money by defunding public schools and leaving the states to pay for them by raising their own taxes.

The states knocked him back. Mr Turnbull retreated (links follow). But the stage is set for the following developments once the electorate has been sufficiently groomed:

  1. Withdraw federal funding for public schools (but not so-called independent ones);
  2. Create an exodus to independent schools by all those with the means;education6
  3. Stand by as states fail to meet the increasing shortfall to run a depleted system;
  4. ‘Incentivise’ schools to partner with industry;
  5. Enable takeover by private interests (tax breaks are a good hook);
  6.  Honour the terms of the TPP without messy litigation;
  7. Respond to increasing inequality with further corporate tax cuts “to create jobs”.

And so it goes (to quote the late Bob Ellis).

Defunding public education makes no sense

Funding independent schools at the expense of public schools is supposed to make sense, according to Prime Minister Turnbull. But, think about it as I might, I haven’t been able to make it make sense, and nothing I have read makes it make sense (see links below).

We seem to be living in an era in which neoliberal politicians don’t feel obliged to make sense. They assert and repeat whatever fiction they are pedalling until it takes on the status of unquestioned and unquestionable Truth!

NOTE: We have to keep naming our Australian Prime Minister (currently Malcolm Turnbull) because the wannabes have been displaying a childish tendency to grab the baton from each other on a regular basis. Some commentators would say, however, the policies remain the same regardless of who is (supposedly) in the driving seat.

Changing the writing on the wall

education4Salvaging our public education system (and other public services) is not so much about changing our Prime Minister as about unravelling the neoliberal mindset that has taken occupation within, across, and beyond party lines.

This is a job for “the people”. It cannot be left to politicians.

Articles of interest include the following


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2 comments on “The writing on the wall for public education”

  1. Interview with Noam Chomsky on the perils of market-driven education. “Neoliberalism favors pliant workers over defiant thinkers” sums it up.

  2. Labor leader, Bill Shorten, puts support for public schools at the centre of his election campaign

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