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Issue #1675      March 4, 2015

Education – Where we stand

The Guardian has traced the education policy trajectory of successive state and federal governments as they work to achieve their neo-liberal dream. Put simply, they want a voucher-based school system in which sub-standard, under-resourced public institutions are left for those who simply can’t afford the high fees charged in the dominant private sector. Universities will be corporations training for the benefit of other corporations. Hideously expensive qualifications will be for sale to the children of the wealthy. The rest will be saddled with a debt the size of the mortgage on a home. TAFE will struggle in a marketplace flooded with fly-by-night operators.

Relentless “culture wars” have been waged to remove the history of struggle and collectivism from course content and constant testing and measuring have reinforced antiquated rote learning approaches. Australians will pay a high social price for this nasty experiment in turning back the clock. But, if the Communist Party of Australia had control of policy in this area, what would it do? Haven’t authorities been forced to their current position by the financial pressures of an aging population and the use of more expensive technologies?

A look around the world will show that not all countries, even capitalist ones, have adopted the approach now being applied so disastrously in Australia. While they are subject to the same pressures from the international capitalist ruling class, the people of countries such as Finland and Denmark have held out for high quality public education and see it as an investment in their countries’ future, not a “drain” on the budget.

Socialist Cuba, blockaded and hampered at every turn by US imperialism, embodies the sorts of values that the CPA would like to see applied throughout the education system in this country. People suffering in the aftermath of natural disasters and in circumstances of poverty have benefited enormously from the efforts of Cuba’s selfless doctors and teachers. The doctors of Cuba’s Henry Reeve Medical Brigade have been nominated for the 2015 Nobel Prize. There are currently 256 Cuban health professionals (more than any other country) working in West Africa to overcome the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

Australia will host more of the Cuban “Yes I Can” literacy campaigns on Aboriginal communities after very successful programs at Wilcannia in NSW in 2012 and 2013. The popular education model is an inspiration for us and the influence can be seen in the CPA’s education policy, which is reproduced below:

“The Communist Party of Australia supports an education system which promotes collective and democratic values, co-operation not individualism, equality not discrimination, multiculturalism not racism, and the ideals of peace and progress.

“The guiding principle and aim of the education system must be the provision of free, universal and secular public education for all children from pre-school right through to post-secondary, to produce a highly educated and cultured society. Education involves much more than passing numeracy and literacy tests. It is about the full development of human potential, equipping people for life as well as preparing them for further studies or work.

“Education is a basic human right not a privilege for those who can afford it. Australia has the wealth to be able to provide every child with a quality education. This applies to all levels of education and to lifelong access to education and re-education such as workers attempting to upgrade or develop new skills The CPA puts forward following policy measures:

  • Increased funding for teaching and non-teaching staff, for the building and maintenance of classrooms and other school facilities, and the purchase of resources.
  • Phasing out of state aid to non-government schools.
  • Removal of the MySchool website.
  • All teaching and non-teaching staff employed centrally by education departments on a permanent basis for ongoing work. The education system needs democratisation not privatisation.
  • No voucher system, the CPA believes there is no place for class-based choice or competition in education.
  • The CPA calls for the abolition of fees in public educational institutions at all levels.
  • Public education and apprenticeship programs must be properly funded and subsidies to private institutions phased out.
  • Universal student unionism and former student services restored, in particular, subsidised childcare.”

Supporters of private education will argue that it’s too late for such a program; that the neo-liberal genie is out of its bottle. It’s true that it won’t change without a mighty struggle but it can be done.

Next article – Workers’ rights

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