Australian Schools Need Support
Education is something that is highly undervalued not only by the kids that are receiving it, but by the people who are supposed to be supplying it. Education cuts are being made left right and centre and it is in no way beneficial to society. The next generation are supposed to one day be running the country.
How can we successfully do this if the senseless people currently running the country don’t supply us with the equipment we need to succeed? Programs such as VCAL are being discontinued in several schools, or the occasional best case scenario is that they have to pinch money from other areas of the school to keep certain programs running. Michelle Roberts, Principal of Mordialloc College said that the State Government made severe cuts to the schools VET program. “There is no way we can’t run VCAL, so we’re delivering it as best we can”. Although they are without their usual $50,000 VCAL coordinator funding, the program is vital for many students. This is the case in many other schools.
The principal from Parkdale Secondary College, Greg McMahon, said that they were able to cover their $42,000 funding loss by taking money from other areas of the school. The VCAL coordinator funding was only ever intended to start the program and now that it is up and running, the government has taken the funding away resulting in the suffering of other areas. An article by Jewel Topsfield (The Age) outlines the reality for many schools. Not only is funding for VCAL being cut, but music programs, teacher aides, electives and specialist teachers have been forced out. Students have a right to learn. We should not be disadvantaged in any way, and we should be able to learn about what interests us.
Upon arrival in Werribee, my older brother and I attended The Grange Prep – 12 College. We sadly and somewhat reluctantly left the school in 2008 after having been there four years as the Principal made no room for our shared passion of music. We were sent there because the school we were zoned to and I now attend were not taking any more year 7 enrolments, which was seen as a good thing as Galvin Park was not as musically inclined. We were taking music lessons, getting involved in guitar ensembles, choirs and my brother was taking year 11 music at the time. For several years the head of the music department had been building up the schools program.
At the end of 2007 she decided her job was done and she moved on to another school to make the same improvements. However, we suffered. In 2008 there had been no replacement teacher, which was supposed to have my year 8 class for the first semester, the second semester we would go onto Visual Art. After the first term a teacher was instated who only lasted until the end of the year. The Grange were then not attending the Combined Schools Music Camp like we had the year before, and we were all appalled.
It was the one thing in the year that we most looked forward to. It was becoming evident that we should be worried, so one day around 15 kids of all different ages and abilities went to see the principal and we were told to write a letter stating our problems and what we wanted done. A year 12 student and I wrote the letter and personally delivered it to the principal, but we never received a response. November of that year we were told that year 12 music would not run the following year and my brother was going to have to choose something else, or move to a different school – so we chose to leave. Although I was only in year 8, I decided that the sooner I left the better off I would be, so I came to Galvin Park and my brother went to Footscray City College. At both of our schools the music department made us feel welcome, even assisting my brother to do music group and music solo as one was not running.
He was not able to do the four other subjects he wanted to do, but he was able to pursue music and that was all that mattered. Not only did we leave, but to our knowledge, two other people left the school due to the circumstances. The Grange does not currently run music through their senior years, and I know many instrumental teachers who have left due to the next to nothing number of instrumental students they have. Many people I talk to these days are unaware that the school even has a music department. At one stage the school had three different concert bands of low, intermediate and advanced levels, a jazz band, a thriving choir and a guitar ensemble.
It was such a shame to leave a school that had once promised us so much. However, this is not the only school that has had such problems. Elisabeth Tarica (The Age) writes that ‘many young people are missing out on the joys and benefits of music, despite extensive evidence here and overseas that it not only promotes brain function and social skills but helps improve literacy and numeracy’. Scientists say that children who play or study music are more likely to get better results in school. In America in 1999, the SAT Scores were studied and an average score was derived.
People who studied or appreciated music got the highest mark, a 538 verbal and a 534 math, while students who did music performance still got 530 for the verbal portion, and 531 for the math. The pupils who had no musical affiliations whatsoever only got a 477 verbal and a 492 for math. Although the SAT scores have very little, if nothing at all to do with the Australian education system, the scores provide an insight into the differences music education makes. Music is not only beneficial for our overall learning; it can also be used as a way to relieve us of stress. The gratification of learning an instrument slowly teaches you discipline and you end up with an achievement.
There is no greater feeling of accomplishment than when you master your first piece. Not only are high schools cutting out music departments, it is seen in primary schools, too. It is estimated that as many as 700,000 Australian primary schools are not receiving music education and, where many private schools have extremely beneficial music departments, public schools have very little, if any at all. Music education is compulsory from prep to year 8. There are many schools around Australia that could be supplying their students with an amazing education, however, the government needs to support it. If there is no support, then schools cannot achieve anything.
There are exceptions to this as schools like University High and Blackburn High consider music and other arts subjects to be a necessity, or at the very least an option. I went to University High a few years ago to rehearse for a Westiside Arts performance and the school as a whole seemed almost flawless, but their music department was in a whole league of its own in comparison to any other that I’ve seen – and I’ve seen my fair share of music facilities. All schools should get a chance to at least offer their pupils classroom music with a program that will promise success if they wish to continue their music studies. These cuts are not the only problem. In Tasmania, students with special needs are most affected by the cuts to the budget.
Lauderdale Primary School is just one of many schools affected by the loss of funds. The Australian Education Union and Kristen Desmond from Autism Tasmania said that schools had been using money from their own somewhat flexible spending funds to top up the inadequate support from the State Government for special needs students. People who are unable to provide for themselves should be top priority. Many students with special needs may not be able to learn properly without a teacher aide. Moreover, many of them may not be able to function appropriately in a classroom, disrupting other children’s learning.
This not only does not help the special needs children, it does not do any good for the children in the class with special needs children. Some kids with special needs find it hard not to misbehave or act inappropriately in social situations. They need the proper care in school so that nobody has any disruption to their learning. Australia is not the only place that is cutting funds. In the UK money is being dropped from library funds.
The decrease in funding means that school librarians in the UK are not in demand and are in fact almost unnecessary. For the first time in years, schools are no longer making an effort to get students hooked on reading and writing by cancelling regular visits from authors and poets. If literacy is not encouraged, students will not be able to learn an important life skill at an advanced level. If the skill cannot get to an advanced level, how are they expected to get good marks when they get to their senior years? Librarians not only help the kids learn these skills, they also teach them how to find books and provide them with information on how to ‘locate, evaluate and use information’. Education in the UK has more dilemmas than cuts to libraries – careers advisors are losing their jobs or having their hours cut and music, sport and art teachers are in the same boat.
Many after school clubs may need to close down. A grant to assist year twelve’s in choosing their universities or colleges has had distinguishable budgets cuts. All around the world money is being taken from people who need it to get an education. Education is hard enough to pay for without people picking money out of the bottoms of their couches just so their children can learn an instrument or a sport away from school because schools aren’t supported enough by the government. The more money that the government invest in the education system, the more prepared the next generation is. If children are not educated adequately enough today, many countries will be in trouble in the future.
At the moment, Australia is ranking sixth against other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries. We’re behind South Korea, Finland, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. The ranking is derived from a test taken by fifteen year olds. The test includes a reading portion, a maths portion and a science portion. We are above the US and the UK who rank fourteenth and twentieth, respectively, so how is education in the UK supposed to go from twentieth to first? It’s not. And It’s not going to if the government doesn’t support it.
This is the same for us. Sixth isn’t the worst spot out of a possible thirty four positions – but it isn’t number one. We should be worried about our future. These cuts should worry us as individuals and as a nation. If we do not receive a quality education, we will have no future – we will not be able to live independently, if at all, and have a career.
A country full of people without careers is a country that will not have a future. Prime Minister Julia Gillard wants us to ‘move forward’. In a video that I saw on Youtube, Gillard said she wants us to ‘move forward’ with ‘first class schools’. There is absolutely no way that Australia will have first class schools if schools are not provided with the assistance they need to improve.
How can we ‘move forward’ without the governments support? We can’t. Gillard should not make the suggestion of having first class schools if she isn’t going to provide us with the facilities, teachers, equipment and money needed to get them there.