Tactical retreat. Outsourcing. Diversification. Call it what you will, but the Government is decentralising its role in education.
On December 23, the Federal Government published a white paper on its roles and responsibilities in education, announcing a scaling back of its influence in the sector.
Hints scattered throughout the paper provided a glimpse into how the Government may be reducing its own role in favour of delegating responsibilities to less centralised authorities.
“What benefits, or costs, would arise from assigning full responsibility for school education to the States and Territories?” asks the paper.
It answers below:
“In general, the national interest will be best served through subsidiarity [responsibility given to the least centralised authority].”
Furthermore, the paper argued that the Commonwealth had already done its part by creating national education agencies and their architecture and said this work can now be continued by the states and the territories.
So what does this mean for the state of the education sector in 2015?
A decentralised role by Canberra might be seen by many schools across the country as a two-sided coin in which heads is further isolation and tails is more autonomy. Which view schools choose to take will likely depend on their funding capacity.
This is one of the issues that are likely to be debated as the contents of the Government’s white paper gradually flow into the public conscience.
Australian Council for Education Leaders (ACEL) welcomed the white paper as an opportunity for the public discourse into the “counterproductive and contradictory” areas of Government education policy.
“Our hope is that the resulting white paper will provide clarity around those areas affected by Commonwealth or state and territory policy that often appears counterproductive or contradictory,” said Peter Hayes, Director of Education at ACEL.
With the final report not due until 2016, how the attitudes of education leaders (and the broader public) develop towards the policies outlined in the paper will be crucial to what kind of education landscape takes form.