People for State Education (PFSE) is an national action and lobby group convened in May 2005, which
supports access to high quality government education which is both free of cost and free of religious influence for all.
Specialised programs a focus
PFSE has many concerns about maintaining the
integrity of the public school system, but the current focus is the introduction
and operation of specialised curriculums into government schools.
There are many specialised programs being offered
in Australian public schools, including Montessori, Reggio Emilia and Steiner.
Many of these schools are experiencing division, and as a result PFSE
is conducting a campaign (see the Media Resources section) currently questioning the validity of these specialised programs.
The cart before the horse - no proper implementation
PFSE has serious concerns about the operation of these schools
across the nation. The government management in Victoria seems to be typical of state governments when implementing these special programs. For many years, the current Victorian state government, Department of Education and Training (DoE) and the various Ministers for Education had no policy on the introduction of specialised programs in that state, no monitoring of existing programs and no guidelines for their operations. In September last year the government released new guidelines for the introduction of specialised curriculum into government schools.
What the government did not do, however, was any research at all on the teaching methods and philosophies of these streams. Many parents assume that the guidelines means that the government stamp of approval has been given. That is not the case. No research has been done and no monitoring of the challenges facing schools with an existing alternative program has ever been undertaken.
Unfortunately, the guidelines do nothing to improve the situation at schools with existing alternative curriculum who are experiencing difficulty and no effort is being
made by DoE to ensure compliance with current legislation and policies.
Self-managing schools the issue
Governmental insistence on self-managing schools means that school councils and principals make the decision on implementing new programs. This is a great idea in theory. What happens in reality is very different. This means a special interest group within the school can lobby, stack school council and vote for programs to go ahead. Legislative requirements can be ignored. Yet, school communities change and what might suit the school community one year might be objected to by others in the following years. Lack of governmental monitoring means there is no guarantee that a school council will not vote for certain books to be banned, or for a class in Intelligent Design to be added to the school. These programs must then be removed - but usually are not. The governments and their respective Departments of Education must make it clear that programs cannot be introduced in breach of existing legislation regarding secularity, cost and availability to all.
Checks and balances must be implemented
As students in these specialised programs receive the same level of funding as
a government student and as they operate on a government school campus, PFSE believes that they should be subject to the
same checks and balances as the government or state school program. This includes rigorous examination of the curriculum, demonstrated
proven outcomes, examination of "values" being taught, along with open and transparent operations, processes and procedures in relation to relevant legislation and government policy.
PFSE has no particular view on any educational method that may exist.
However, PFSE questions the validity of any of these specialised curricula, particularly those with a spiritual or religious basis,
and their place within the public school system without the appropriate examination.
Join us now!
PFSE is open to people of all ages across Australia who believe in
state education. You do not need to pay anything to join PFSE. It is your choice how active a
role you wish to play in the group. If you would like to receive our regular newsletter, be
made aware of events, or tell us of your experience - particularly if you have had to leave a school due to the introduction of a specialised program - we would love to hear from you.