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CHAPTER VI.

EDUCATION IN AUSTRALIA.

By Professor A. Mackie. It is impossible within the limits of a short chapter to do more than give in brief outline an account of some of the main features of the educational systems of the Australian States. The historical development of education in Australia is of much interest, but cannot here be dealt with. The structure of the State systems, though similar in character, shows differences that in a fuller treatment would require careful examination. So far no attempt has yet been made at a comparative study of education in Australia. As the development seems to be proceeding along the same lines and the rate of advance is governed mainly by financial ability, and not by differences of public opinion, it will, perhaps be not seriously misleading if only the main features are described and an attempt made to show some of the forces which are shaping the growth of the school systems.

Some provision for school education was made in the earliest days of the settlement in New South Wales. In the instructions to the early Governors there was one which required them when laying out a township to set aside 200 acres for the maintenance of a schoolmaster, but this instruction seems never to have been carried out. Voluntary effort, supplemented by some support from the Government, provided the schools of the early nineteenth century. As population grew, attempts were made to provide for school education by means of Boards or Councils appointed by the Government for the purpose of distributing State funds to schools under Church control. At a later stage, National Councils were charged with the control of

all schools receiving support from the State. In each of the colonies similar attempts were inade to provide for public education by means of nominated Councils administering public funds. The attempt has everywhere been abandoned, and all the States have now adopted the same form of administrative structure. The present form of education in the Australian States was fixed by a series of Acts extending from 1872 till 1893. The Victorian Education Act came first, in 1872, Queensland followed in 1875, South Australia in 1878, New South Wales in 1880, Tasmania in 1885, and West Australia in 1893. The main principles of these Acts were the same. All schools receiving support from public funds were transferred to a responsible Minister of State. In every State the public schools are now under the sole direction and control of the Minister for Public Instruction. With hardly any exception, State funds are spent only on public schools. The teachers have become civil servants, and are paid entirely from State funds. The public schools are wholly undenominational. Attendance is compulsory for all children of a certain age range who are not being otherwise educated. Primary schooling at least is free.

The marked similarity in administrative structure is certainly very striking, especially since it departs so widely from that in existence in Great Britain, with its combination of local and central control and support. It seems to show how very homogeneous the Australian colonies were in social experience as well as in population, and how much mutual imitation and rivalry, emphasised by the relative isolation of Australia, have counted for in its social growth. The neighbouring Dominion of New Zealand, it may be interesting to note, has followed the British plan of joint central and local control.

The very centralised character of the public school system in Australia is perhaps its most striking feature. Neither central nor local councils with administrative powers exist in any of the

States. The School Boards provided for in New South Wales by the Act of 1880 possessed no executive powers, and are now completely mori. bund. They rarely meet and are entirely ignored by the central department, which makes no reference to them in its official reports. Recently, however, there seems to have been a greater stirring of local interest, and in various States there are developing school committees, though these, as a rule, have no statutory position. Victoria, however, is an exception, and has secured for these committees certain definite functions. There have also been established during the past few years various types of advisory councils. Again Victoria seems to have led the way with a General Educational Council established by the Act of 1910. With the development of public high schools and trade schools there has been a growing feeling that the departmental officials required the co-operation of advisory bodies. In New South Wales there has thus been established a Bursary Board, a secondary school examinations board, and various trade committees to advise on the courses of the recently established trade schools.

In other States similar movements are noticeable, and it may be that the extreme centralisation which at present exists will be much modified by the growth and development of these general and special councils.

In each State the great majority of the school population is in attendance at the State schools. For each State nearly the same percentage is in private or non-State schools. For the Common. wealth only one child in every five attends a private school.

During the past ten years it has been clearly recognised by each of the States that public provision should be made for each stage of education. In consequence, the Education Departments no longer concern themselves so exclusively with primary schooling, but have shown much activity in the development of secondary, technical and

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University education. It has come to be quite definitely recognised that the duty of a Stäte does. not now end with the provision of a bare minimum, of schooling.

In some of the States primary education has long been free. In all it is now free. Generally the State high schools, established during recent years, are free, and the present tendency is to extend the principle of free education to the higher levels of education as well.

The public systems of education in the Australian States are secular in the sense that the public schools are not under church control, and that no sectarian or denominational religious instruction may be given by the State teachers. In most of the States, however, facilities allowed whereby dogmatic instruction may be given in school and during school hours by representatives of any Church which so desires.

The teachers in the public schools are civil servants, with security of tenure, appointed by the Minister or by a Public Service board, and they are paid solely from the State funds.

School buildings are provided and maintained solely from the State revenue. In some States textbooks and other school material are supplied free to the children.

Each State is autonomous regards the management of public education since this is not one of the powers transferred to the Commonwealth by the Constitution Act. Consequently the Commonwealth Government exercises no control over the State education and provides no financial assistance. Each State may develop its own education system independently. It may be that it would be beneficial were the Commonwealth Government to co-operate with the States, even if only by the establishment of a central office for educational information as in Washington. So far, however, there is no indication that public opinion desires the exercise by the Commonwealth of any educational function.

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Yet circumstances have compelled the Commonwealth Government to concern itself in some measure with education. The regulations for the training of junior cadets are drawn up by the Minister for Defence, though the actual training is carried out in the State schools by the regular staff. This scheme of training is bound to have a far-reaching influence on the Australian people, and in this way the Commonwealth Government exercises a very definite influence. The Naval College at Jervis Bay and the Military College at Duntroon are under the control of the Defence Minister, and train officers for the navy and army respectively. A training ship for boys entering the Navy is located in Sydney. The schools in the Federal Capital area are conducted by the New South Wales Education Department, but those in the Northern Territory are administered by the Commonwealth. Beyond this very limited sphere the Commonwealth Government does not at present go.

Some account will now be given of the internal structure of the State school systems. It will, however, be impossible to describe in detail that of each State, and comparison of the systems is at present difficult on account of the different ways in which the official statistics are compiled. conference of Directors of Education held in Adelaide in 1916, it was decided that a uniform method of compiling information should be adopted, but this has not yet been fully carried out. The differences which exist among the various school systems are due not to difference of intention or policy, but rather to difference in the amount of public money made available for education in the several States. All are travelling in the same direction, but some

further advanced than others, either generally or in particular respects.

The general direction of the public schools system is in the hands of a responsible Minister of State. An Under-Secretary or Director of Education is the chief professional officer, and upon him the general

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