Wednesday, September 27, 2006

More politics of envy

The role of government in education became controversial with the Australian Labor Party's Great Australian Schools education policy, released during 2004's election campaign. Aimed at freezing and cutting funding for a 'hit' list of primary and secondary schools whose fees were above a specified threshold, it attracted much criticism for stifling the hopes of aspirational voters.

In The Age today John Roskam depicts Labor's opposition to full-fee places for the 'rich' as more politics of envy:
"Unfortunately, it appears that envy is a key motivation behind Labor's promise to abolish full-fee places. At the last federal election envy motivated the ALP's "hit list" attack on wealthy private schools. Just as Mark Latham disappeared after the election, so too did his policy.

Hopefully, Labor's current higher education policy will go the same way as Mark Latham's schools policy."
Roskam makes a good comparison. Full-fee places are perceived by many people as a second chance to get into the course of their choice. And unfortunately for Labor, the FEE-HELP loan scheme makes full-fee places more affordable, increasing the liklihood that people will recognise Labor's politics of envy for what it is: blatant scare-mongering.

Contrary to popular opinion, the ALP's 2004 schools policy did not intend to take money from non-government schools and give to public schools. Rather, it outlined a view of taking money from a select group of non-government schools and giving to other non-government schools - about $378 million to Catholic systemic schools and $206 million to low-fee independent schools.

Few voters would have read the fine print on Labor's education policy under Latham. The Government's propaganda was too effective. I suspect many will form their opinion on Labor's universities policy in a similar fashion, mainly because it's so easy to point out the 'envy' involved.

4 Comments:

At September 27, 2006 8:13 pm, Blogger skepticlawyer said...

I've come to the view that 'cut-offs' are essentially meaningless - and this is from someone who's done irritatingly well throughout both school and university - with little real effort.

In Qld, anyone with an OP of 5 or better (I think the equivalent is 95 in NSW and Vic) is capable of doing pretty much any course they choose. If they miss the cut-off, then let them pay their way. Quality will out in the end.

That said, there should be scholarships for the poor and bright. I didn't need an academic leg up at uni, but I sure as shit needed the money.

Private philanthropy, anyone?

 
At September 27, 2006 10:45 pm, Blogger Sukrit Sabhlok said...

Anyone should be able to pay their way into a university if the university is willing to allow it.

"That said, there should be scholarships for the poor and bright."

There was a good discussion on this at Andrew L's place a while ago.

'I didn't need an academic leg up at uni, but I sure as shit needed the money.'

The comments on this thread are worth checking out for reasons why inflating a student's marks because of poverty is a silly idea - as you say, the money is more important.

 
At September 28, 2006 3:54 pm, Anonymous mikey said...

I kind of agree with you about 'cutoffs' sl but I think you're throwing the baby out...

The HSC (and i would guess the Qld equivalent) is fairly ridiculous on a number of levels, in particular as a guide to who can access university places, which are ineveitably limited. I think we ought to have a much better system for judging skill, achievments and ability. I think we need a firmer link between school and unis/tafe not a weaker one.

I don't think Sukrit's post addressed the downsides of full-fee places, such as the pressuring of professors to pass below satisfactory students simply because they have 'paid for their degree.' My Dad is one of those professors and tells me that standards have been regularly slipping over the last few years, due to this (and other things probably.)

Full-fee places are perceived by many people as a second chance to get into the course of their choice.

How many is 'many'? I'm sure Mr Norton has calculated the appropriate figures, somewhere.
I'm not a fan of Lathams policy or politics, but seriously who can blame him for seeing the Kings School and their many swimming pools as a legitimate target. Problem was that Labor didn't have a convincing framework to back it up.

 
At September 29, 2006 11:33 pm, Blogger Sukrit Sabhlok said...

ah, mikey, i see justin as not convinced you with his education post (yet) ;)

'many' is 3% of the undergrad population, according to the roskam article. off the top of my head, at melbourne uni we've got about 11% of students on fee places.

downsides of fullfee places? hmmm, only if you think the pressures of competition reduces standards rather than increasing them. i would like to see a tertiary sector where everyone pays fullfees. no government subsidies whatsoever. that doesnt necessarily mean they will be high fees - competition reduces prices as well as improving quality

what about the downsides of having only hecs places? there are only a limited bunch of places to go around - remove fullfee places as an option and many smart people miss out on uni completely

only those who view the economic wealth pie as fixed and to be divided up would think private schools and swimming pools are legitimate targets...but the economic pie is not fixed!

 

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