AGPPA Paper: Exploring the Public Purposes of Education in Australian Primary Schools

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The Minister for School Education, The Hon. Peter Garrett, launched the research paper Exploring the Public Purposes of Education in Australian Primary Schools on Monday 21st of March. The paper has been a three year project conducted by four academics from universities across Australia, in partnership with AGPPA and the Foundation for Young Australians. The report outlines the results of research into how the purposes of education are understood and enacted in Australian Primary Schools and in the wider community.

AGPPA delegates, together with state and territory representatives, and media met in Melbourne for this event.

The Hon Peter Garrett, Federal Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth launched the paper with a speech provided on DVD. He said of the report “It has some controversial views and I’ve no doubt it will provoke vigorous debate… The fact that report notes the need for a collaborative effort to produce ‘the very best educational outcomes for all students’ is one that we [the government] endorse and intend to give effect to.”

The Minister added that conversations about the public purpose of education are important in ensuring that our schools are the best they can be. He said that the debate about the purpose of education, especially in the light of the government’s review of educational funding, is a ”once in a generation opportunity for us to take a close look at the way we invest in education in Australia.”

Following this, Professor Emeritus Alan Reid from the University of South Australia spoke about the report, which argues that there is too large a distance between the government’s rhetoric about the purposes of the “Education Revolution” and the strategies that are designed to achieve these purposes. The research showed that although most schools believe in the importance of the broad public purposes of education, their task in achieving these purposes is made difficult by policies and initiatives such as the MySchool website and national testing programs. After Professor Reid’s presentation, Professor Neil Cranston (University of Tasmania) and Professor Jack Keating (University of Melbourne) led further discussion about schools funding and a workshop of delegates on ways in which the report and project materials might be used by schools and professional associations.

This rich research allows educators to plan strategically and create the necessary building blocks for a more informed and strategic policy. Underpinned by the notion of a fair go for all, this report compels us to reflect on and enact the democratic purposes for Australian education. AGPPA encourages our leaders to take advantage of the “once in a generation opportunity “that is now available to them to influence the direction of education.