Bill Mulford et al – The Forces Acting on Schools & Their Purposes

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The forces impacting upon schools and their public purposes

Bill Mulford, Neil Cranston, Jack Keating, and Alan Reid – Part of the literature review for the ARC Linkage Project “Education investment in Australian schooling: Serving public purposes”.

To download the complete paper, click here (51Kb pdf file). 

What are the public purposes of schooling? To date, there has not been any systematic study of how these are understood or enacted in Australian schools in the new environment, and the factors that facilitate and/or inhibit schools enacting such purposes. Given a climate of rapid change in educational policy and considerable investment of public funds in schools, the task of clarifying such purposes has become more urgent. 

A team of researchers comprising four academics from universities in four different states is currently seeking to address this important gap. With a focus on primary schools, the team is working with key professional organisations including the Australian Government Primary Principals Association (AGPPA) and the Education Foundation, an independent non-profit association in Victoria.

As part of the ongoing work of the research project, ‘Education Investment in Australian Schooling: Serving Public Purposes’, the researchers are undertaking a number of literature reviews on the philosophical, historical, current and future forces, and sociological aspects on the public purposes of education. Each of these literature reviews is to be summarised and made available as an article for AGPPA and its state affiliates. This summary focuses on the current and future forces impacting upon schools and their public purposes. 

Schools both reflect and shape the society in which they function. But in the latter part of the 21st century a number of forces are challenging the very nature of schooling. As many of these forces need a collective societal response they impact on the public purposes of schools. They are causing educational organizations and systems around the world to broaden and personalise curriculum and to rethink school structures. 

While none of us knows what the future holds, we can work to shape that future, to strive to ensure that, as far as possible, what happens is what we want to happen. School leaders need to occasionally climb onto the balcony and overlook the stage; to detach themselves, in order to gain a more distant view of issues that are close by. But care is needed. When lost on a highway, a road map is very useful; but when one is lost in the swamp of today’s world and the education that serves it, a world where the topography is constantly changing, a road map is of little help. A simple compass that indicates the general direction to be taken, and allows school leaders to use their own ingenuity in overcoming various difficulties is likely to be much more valuable. This paper aims to provide such a compass; to briefly examine its cardinal points, or forces, and the implications of each for schools and their public purposes. 

To read the complete paper, download the file using the link near the top of this page.