Equity in schools – let’s not forget the quality

Jul 9, 2011 by

Scott Prasser – Equity is one of the main polarising issues between




Opponents of public funding for non-government schools like the Australian Education Union, argue that the increasing growth of the non-government sector – one in three children across Australia now attend either Catholic systemic or Independent schools – has led to poorer overall education results and greater inequality. ACT has the highest proportion of primary and secondary students attending non-government schools at 42.9 per cent.

Many of their arguments are based on misuse of funding data and selective examples portraying the non-government sector as the preserve of privilege and the social elite.

Nothing could be further from the truth or more out of step with the evidence.

The latest evidence convincingly shows that non-government schools provide a significant return on the public’s investment in this sector in terms of quality education, equity and contributions to national well-being.

It is the particular characteristics of the non-government sector – clear focus on quality and achievement, the flexibility to respond to the educational needs of each individual student, its strong systems of accountability to parents and government and a capacity to recruit high quality staff – that lead to quality education outcomes that in turn contribute to greater equity.

Here is the evidence.

OECD studies have found that, after controlling for socioeconomic intake, these attributes of accountability, autonomy and choice contribute to greater equity and higher achievement and reduce the dependence of student achievement on socio-economic status. Overcoming social disadvantage through education is more effective when government provides per capital funding to schools and allows them autonomy and flexibility. By providing public funding, governments ensure that schools operate in the national interest.

The problem in discussions about equity in education is a confusion about what equity means in practice and where its fits with a nation’s need for quality education.

via Equity in schools – let’s not forget the quality

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