Real choice in Australian education: Reshaping the role of government

Year: 1994

Author: Crump, Stephen, Walker, James C.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper reports on part of a project on the movement for choice and diversity in education, in several countries, which examines the related issues of public interest, private freedom, marketisation, commodification and State control.

It was fashionable in the 1960's and 1970's for educational reformers to be critical of the role of government, especially the "ideological State apparatus" in education. Now that "choice" and "markets" are buzzwords in educational policy, what has happened to that earlier concern about the State? For many it seems that the State is no longer part of the problem but part of the solution. This is not a point about the content of policy (e.g. "economic rationalism" or "corporate managerialism") but about who exercises power and how.

We argue that in Australia the role of the State has become so far- reaching that many instances of so-called "choice" and "market reform" have not increased choice or diversity at all. We are critical of State involvement in the detail of educational policy and practice and of union support for this. We suggest a general role for government as provider of resources and regulator in the interests of equity and justice. We advocate a strong role for the education profession as well as community participation in educational development. Thus we take issue with common positions on both left and right.