Do some private schools harm job prospects?

By Rob Burgess

The idea of Gonski, in the words of senior lecturer in education at Monash University, David Zyngier, was not only to iron out that discrepancy, but to create a funding model “blind to sector [that] funds students and schools according to need.

Another way of reading Chesters' study is that averaging out the low-fee private sector schools with 'elite' schools produces outcomes broadly similar to the government system.

In the meantime, however, questions are being raised about the independent and Catholic school systems in general — the schools that, according to Labor, were often privileged in funding terms by the Howard system.

For those who were asleep at the back of the class, that involved promising to be on a ‘unity ticket’ with Labor with regard to the implementation of the needs-based funding model for all Australian schools worked out by investment banker David Gonski.

A great acceleration in that process occurred in 2001 when the Howard government expressed a strong predilection for the marketisation of school education as a way of providing greater ‘choice’ for students — including, it said, low SES students.

During the increasing affluence of the late Howard era, parents increasingly saw sense in sending their kids to private schools — the wealth effect of a property and share market boom, plus the terms-of-trade and income boosts of the mining boom helped that process along nicely.

She notes: “After taking into account the effects of level of education, sex and age, having attended a Catholic school is associated with higher, on average, levels of occupational prestige than having attended a government school.

The first of these questions relates to the long-term trend of parents moving students from government sector to the private system.

Importantly, the data set from which Chesters drew her study — the huge longitudinal Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study — includes both ‘jobs’ and ‘self-employed’ (i. e. business owners) when it asked respondents about their work outcomes.

One thing the Chesters study doesn’t consider is the fact that some government schools, by virtue of the price of real estate in their catchment areas, may function as social-economically selective schools anyway.

Chesters even suggests that: “The massive growth in the number of private schools since the 1990s may be having the effect of diluting the advantages perceived to be attached to private schooling.

Several news articles have raised a second big question in the public/private debate in past months: what are high fees for private schools buying the students involved?

That might be unsurprising to many, but it would point to the fact that parents paying the lower fees (which are still a big hit to the family budget), may actually get worse outcomes than if their kids went to the local government school.

Read more here: Business Spectator


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