Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Friday, 27 June 2008) . . Page.. 2354 ..
What happens to those kids when they reach grade 8? One of the schools that they are likely to go to has a very, shall we say, formal approach and, I have heard recently, is very strong on giving kids reports in kindergarten. We have concerns about those things. Children who are failing in kindergarten, who are not getting As, when it is already important to get As in kindergarten, are not going to have high self-esteem; they are not going to love learning. I think it is a great pity that now so much is expected of children so early at school. Read John Holt’s book How children learn. They learn differently from each other. Boys tend to learn differently from girls. They do not establish their reading as early. And to have them demonised in kindergarten is a very sorry state of affairs, and I hope the minister for education talks to principals about this system.
The fact is that children will be going from the early childhood schools, where it is very special and very good, from what I hear, to other places where they will not be so nurtured, so cared for, and they may not even be with their friends. This is my concern. Next year, we will start to see that process. I really hope the resources are there; I hope the resources are there for transition; and I hope that primary schools and other schools are not neglected in the face of this new, you-beaut idea.
On the other hand, I hope the early childhood schools succeed, because they are a way of doing early intervention in a gentle, non-intrusive manner that does not single kids and families out. I think that that is really good. But we have got a complex equation here, and I would be very pleased to see it succeed.
MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (12.22 am): Many people in the ACT rely on the government, obviously, to supply a quality education system for their children, and they rely on this education system to turn their children from naive little bundles of joy into rational, intelligent and well-informed adults. The government has made some changes to its education system in recent years. It has closed some schools and increased funding to others in an effort to obtain greater efficiency. Despite the government’s efforts we have been observing a period of drift away from the public school sector to the private school sector. Members of the opposition have expressed serious concern about this issue in estimate committee hearings and pressed the minister on the proportion of students in public education.
I must say that I do not believe there is any inherent problem with parents choosing a private education for their children. I do not believe this is necessarily a problem, though it can be a sign of poor or falling standards in public education, and that is a problem. I find it a little bit strange that the Liberal Party, which says it is committed to smaller government and the principles of liberalism, would express such concern about the success of the private sector or private enterprise or church schools in attracting students away from government schools.
Nonetheless, the problems in the public education system are cause for some concern. For those parents that choose to send their children to public schools the government must ensure that these schools provide the best education possible on the budget they are afforded. Many parents I speak to express to me their dissatisfaction with both the curriculum and the behaviour standards of public schools. I believe that these issues are the primary reason that we have seen a drift towards private education.