HSV Submissions – April 2005

Review of the Education Act

Submitted 28 April 2005 to the Minister for Education, Victoria

On the Review of Education Legislation in Victoria (secondary schools), HSV made the following points:

  1. Humanists regard free, secular and universal education as a public good, and an important national investment rather than a private benefit.
  2. Democracy is underpinned by equity of access to educational opportunities.
  3. The recent steady shift of resources to privileged schools will create an upstairs-downstairs society with built-in disadvantages for many.
  4. The concept of free education is compromised by the introduction of ‘voluntary’ fees in government schools. There should be equal access to good quality education, regardless of parental earning capacities.
  5. The legislation should entrench the secular aspect of education as a guiding principle of government school provision.
  6. Comparative Religion or Belief should be a core subject in government schools to foster tolerance and understanding of the many belief systems now present in the community. Sectarian religious instruction should be privately funded and not provided by the State.
  7. The basic tenets of democracy should be taught in the context of social education (that includes human rights, relationships and ethics), rather than as a set of principles of Australian democracy, a concept that lacks consensus in our society.
  8. All schools should be subject to forms of accountability and transparency of process. However, public access to random information on the performance of students should not be allowed.
  9. We strongly support the total ban on corporal punishment in all schools, regardless of parental approval for this failed and destructive method of discipline.
  10. There should be a cap on class sizes in the legislation, in recognition that student achievement is in inverse proportion to class sizes.
  11. We state our belief that the ‘user pays’ principle is a false economy when applied to the pursuit of skills and knowledge, for the nation as a whole benefits from higher levels of learning.

Published: Victorian Humanist, June 2005: 4

Addendum

As a submitter, HSV received a copy of the White Paper, which proposes to affirm in the Act the following main principles:

  • Free instruction in government schools or TAFE to the end of Year 12. Some specific fees may be charged and voluntary contributions sought.
  • Secularity in Government schools: ‘The government school system is secular, and open to the adherents of any philosophy, religion or faith. The curriculum and teaching in government schools is not to promote any particular religious practice, denomination or sect.’
  • Ensure the Act explicitly permits the teaching of comparative religion in government schools and removes any legal ambiguity surrounding this practice.
  • Add to the Act: ‘All providers of education and training, both government and non-government owned, must ensure that their programs and teachings are delivered in a manner that supports and promotes the principle and practice of Australian democracy, including a commitment to elected government, the rule of law, equal rights for all before the law, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and association, and the values of openness and tolerance.’
  • Freedom to choose school, the right to attend the designated and neighbourhood school, and the right to information on school and student achievement.
  • A common regulatory regime regarding standards for all schools.

Published: Victorian Humanist, Nov. 2005: 4

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