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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (30 July) . . Page.. 3087..


MR PRATT (continuing):

(3) calls upon the Minister for Education and Training to implement the teaching of, and the support for, core values across the ACT education system.

I moved this motion today to bring to the attention of the Assembly the current state of values in the ACT education system. Our kids are pretty important to us. As they will inherit society, it is our duty to prepare them to be good citizens. That has been society's historical duty since time immemorial. The family is primarily responsible for inculcating good values and respect for society, people, property, culture and the nation. But schools must also play a role in that. I vehemently disagree with some of the voices from the education community that have said that the teaching of those values should not be the province of schools; rather that they should be taught at home.

The Liberal opposition believes that schools must play a vital role in supporting families in their task of inculcating good values. Additionally, we strongly argue that schools must increasingly pick up the responsibility to kick-start the teaching and supporting of values for children who come from troubled families or those who are at risk of prematurely cutting short their education. Some schools do not teach and support values or, if they do, they are not doing it properly or against any firm ACT benchmark.

If, as some members of the education community are saying, there is no need for the teaching and supporting of good values, why has there been a constant trend over the past decade of students moving to the non-government sector, especially in their early high school years? For 21/2 years members of the community have been telling me that they want their children to develop a strong sense of values outside the home environment and to pick up a sense of self-discipline.

Members of the community have told me that they have lost confidence in the ability of government schools to teach and support educational values-a trend that is reflected nationally and against which we in the ACT fare better. That trend needs to be arrested. Schools that hold students for nearly 30 per cent of their childhood daylight hours should do more than simply deliver skills and develop a learning capability. They have an enormous responsibility to develop the character of students-which in part relates to developing their learning capabilities-and they must also prepare them for the world outside school.

Schools have to prepare students to be responsible and good citizens. We believe that some schools in both the government and non-government sectors already do that well and they have a long tradition of doing so. Given the growing distractions of modern society, it is not easy for schools to inculcate values or to sustain them if they have tried to kick-start programs. Regardless of external pressures, opposition members believe that schools must strive to inculcate those values. There is a widespread call for schools to formally adopt the supporting role of teaching values to children both nationally and in the ACT.

I would like to take some time to look at statistics relating to students who, for a number of reasons, are at risk of prematurely cutting short their education. I obtained these statistics from answers to questions placed on notice and from some other sources. In 2001, 986 school students in ACT government schools were suspended. One year later, 1,009 school students were suspended, and in 2003, 1,125 school students were


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