Open schools to for-profit sector, says senator

by Brett Henebery20 Jul 2015

With many schools increasingly entering into arrangements with technology giants like Microsoft and Google, new devices, innovations and programs are giving the education sector a shot in the arm.

The corporate world’s investment in education is a two-way street, with cash-strapped schools benefiting, while the companies link their brand with education and open their market to thousands of potential new customers.

But how readily should schools be opening their doors to the for-profit sector? There are differing points of view as to how compatible the two sectors are when it comes to achieving the real goal in this equation: providing quality education to students.

Most Australian schools are not-for-profit, which allows them to receive government funding. Any profit they make must go back into their school’s coffers. Currently, state governments do not permit their schools to be for-profit, but one NSW senator has proposed changing this.
 
A recent article by David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democrats senator for NSW, published last week argued in support of the idea. Among other benefits, Leyonhjelm believes the move would improve student choice and save taxpayers money.
 
“If they were permitted and could attract funding, for-profit schools would offer a service that is not currently available.  While government schools offer free education, religious schools offer religious education,” wrote Leyonhjelm.
 
“Many other not-for-profit schools cater to parents for whom high fees are not a barrier; indeed some compete on the basis of how high their fees are.”
 
However, Save Our Schools (SOS) national convenor, Trevor Cobbold, told The Educator that opening schools to the for-profit sector would be a mistake, adding the poor track record of for-profit schools in terms of improving learning outcomes should send a message to schools in Australia considering the same move. 
 
"For-profit schools have a very bad record. They have failed to provide better student outcomes than other schools and often deliver worse results,” Cobbold told The Educator.

“The priority of for-profit schools is to cut costs and make a profit rather than ensuring successful outcomes for their students. Their focus is on quantity rather than quality.

“This has led to larger class sizes and lower teacher quality. For-profit schools employ more unqualified teachers than other schools. Those who are qualified are generally younger and less experienced than in other schools."