Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Barnett government and hidden privatisation

The announcement this week by the WA Premier and Education Minister to create independent public schools is a perfect example of a policy of "privatization by stealth" that will no doubt become an increasing feature of the social policy and public policy agenda of the Liberal National State Government Given the public hostility to privatization among citizens it is not surprising there was no announcement of the policy before the last election and certainly no mention of the dreaded "p" word at the policy announcement.

The Premier claims that the policy will cut red tape, allow parents more say, raise educational standards and transform education. The claims are ridiculous.

The Government plans to choose 30 schools for a demonstration program in 2010 and then allow schools to nominate to be involve next year. Details of the program are, as usual, sketchy but seem to include the following:
  • allowing schools to shun the officual curriculum
  • offering programs normally offered by private schools
  • giving principals budgetary power and power to hire teachers
  • expelling students more easily
The Barnett's government announcement is consistent with a trend towards hidden privatization in public education, a trend documented in a recent report by Stephen Ball and Deborah Yodell at the University of London

Ball and Yodell report that:
  • More and more the trend towards privatisation of public education is hidden from public view or couched in the rhetoric of educational reform and choice
  • The trend towards privatization of education reflects an increasingly market based, competitive and consumerist orientation in society
  • these various forms of privatisation radically change the way education is organized, delivered and managed
  • Hidden privatization of education carries many ethical and policy dangers

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