Lone voice

It was a very sad day for education in Australia when the Hawke government introduced the Higher Education Contribution Scheme in 1989.

Private school students celebrated when their rich parents paid their university fees upfront while many public school students were plunged into long-term debt, especially if they lived in rural areas and had the burden of additional accommodation expenses. At this moment youth unemployment is at an unacceptable level, particularly in disadvantaged areas, and so it makes sense to give every young Australian at least one free kick at a tertiary qualification.

Maurie Mulheron (Education, February 16) foreshadowed that this edition of the journal would carry Federation’s commentary on the parties’ policies before the NSW election. I researched their education policies today and find that the Greens are the only party totally committed to free education at school and tertiary level.

Brian Jeffrey

Older teachers suppressed

During my last years in the teaching profession I noticed a worrying trend of discrimination against more experienced (or as my former colleagues would say “old”) teachers.

It was apparent to myself and other more experienced teachers that in many schools older teachers are regarded as a liability and have nothing to offer.

Older teachers are often denied the opportunity to attend teacher professional learning as school executives wrongly believe that these teachers are unwilling to understand or use new programs or teaching strategies.

Also, older teachers are also often denied the opportunity to relieve in higher positions as many current principals believe it is important to foster the careers of young teachers and that older teachers will bring nothing to the role.

I have spoken with many of my more mature ex-colleagues who say they have experienced the same treatment and that they felt saddened to think that there career would end on such an unhappy note.

Some colleagues also reported that they experienced workplace bullying related to their age by younger colleagues and school executive. They believed this bullying was designed to encourage them to retire.

When I was a young teacher I admired and respected more experienced teachers. I didn’t see them as a liability with nothing to offer students and the education system.

I believe that the DEC should work with all school principals and executive to ensure that our older and more experienced teachers (many of who have given between 30 and 40 years’ service) to the DEC are recognised and valued for their service to public education.

Patricia West

Carbon copy

Education would guide response to immigration

Sydney Morning Herald
Paul Sheehan worries that a “large-scale and poorly defined immigration and refugee intake” will result in serious financial cost and social problems (Denmark pays price for failure to integrate its Muslim refugees, Comment Sydney Morning Herald, February 19). Perhaps he could look closer at possible responses within our society which might assist in coping with such problems.

He could look at the contribution of a non-differentiated, inclusive public system of schools that so successfully assisted the integration of the greatest influx of diverse migrants in Australian history into a cohesive and settled society. He could then check our current highly selective, stratified and inequitable school system based on specious choice and competition.

While he is at it, he could examine the OECD analysis of international testing programs that chart the decline of Australian performance over the last decade or so as a consequence of market-based policies.

If he included a look at the social fragmentation that our system now encourages perhaps he might join the campaign for educational policy reform that would place us on a better footing to assimilate an immigration intake no matter what its size.

Gus Plater
Life Member

Public benefit is being destroyed

Sydney Morning Herald
Whether contestable funding for TAFE is 100 per cent or 30 per cent does not matter. What does matter is that a public education institution that has served generations of students and set many on the road to a lifelong career and prosperity is being destroyed: it is being handed over to private organisations that naturally are investing in education for profit. There is no doubt that the students of NSW, the TAFE teachers and their families will suffer. With 1200 staff already cut, courses are in disarray. Students are finding themselves with no course left and with huge increases in cost to continue their studies. This situation is iniquitous. Employers want well-trained staff. Apprenticeship trade training and all TAFE courses must be available and free as post-school alternatives to university. Indeed, some students complete their HSC through TAFE. This valuable public education resource must not be put into private hands. Whichever government is in power, it must adequately fund TAFE for the good of students and the economy.

Augusta Monro
Life Member