Publication Details

Ashbolt, A, The myths we are taught about schools, New Matilda, 21 July 2006. Original article available here.


Certain mythologies pervade the assault upon public education. One of these is that Labor's education policy at the 2004 election damaged the party electorally. I will explore this next week. First, however, I will address a more recent intervention in the schooling debate which has received much attention. Emeritus Professor Brian Caldwell, publicizing his book published by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), has pointed repeatedly to an AC Nielsen survey conducted for the ACER showing that a significant number of public school parents would send their children to private schools if they could. The survey, from July 2004, revealed that 34% of such parents would choose to send their children to private schools if there were no additional cost, while 54% declined the temptation to move private. Given the funding bias towards private schools now, it is that 54% statistic which is significant but Caldwell and newspaper reporters taking up his concerns chose not to focus on this. Peculiarly, on Radio National's Late Night Live (July 4), Caldwell referred confidently to this particular survey but used a statistic not found in the survey itself. He suggested it indicated that 70% of parents would send their children to private schools if they could afford the fees. This figure was repeated in the Sydney Morning Herald's report (July 5) on his reflections about the parlous conditions at public schools. Even if you were to add, with little legitimacy, the 34% surveyed to the 32.4% who already send their children to private schools, the 70% statistic is inaccurate. It does, however, serve a useful ideological purpose.