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By Brian J. Caldwell


schools will become safety net schools of last resort within a decade in some parts of Australia (Caldwell, 2004a). I suggested that a major priority for governments in some states might be to save their systems of government schools. The good news was that the seriousness of the situation had been recognised. The bad news was that measures to date were nowhere near bold enough. I suggested that a major problem lay in the apparently entrenched views about the distinctions between public and private, absence of social capital in support of public education, and disrespect for the working conditions of the profession. I argued that a system of public education is strong if it has high levels of social capital, that is, all with a stake in public education hold the same views and values about its purposes and programs and are prepared to work together to make it the best system it can possibly be. An indicator of weak social capital was contained in the findings of the AC Nielson / Fairfax / ACER survey of June 2004 that revealed that significant numbers of parents do not see their values reflected in government schools. Support for public education from foundations and trusts is weak. For the most part, the private sector is locked out of capital works programs while teachers in many schools are forced to work in buildings that are, as I described it at the time: ‘state-of-disgrace’ rather than ‘state-of- the-art’. My purpose at this Sustaining Prosperity conference is to reflect briefly on what has occurred in the intervening months, paying particular attention to initiatives of the Australian and State Governments; report briefly on some international developments, notably in England; and to suggest that a ‘new enterprise logic ’ is taking shape in public education and this holds promise for moving Australia toward ‘the tipping point ’ in achieving the transformation of its schools. The heart of the matter Three issues lie at the heart of the matter. The first is that, despite high overall levels of achievement of the nation’s students in tests of international achievement, such as the Program for Internationa

Year: 2009
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