The latest published offering by The University of Western Australia's Anthropology and Sociology researcher Dr Martin Forsey compares Australian values associated with private education to those in other countries and suggests our desire for choice is creating a wider class divide.
The Globalisation of School Choice, published by Symposium books and written in conjunction with international academics University of Oxford Professor Geoffrey Walford and Professor Scott Davies from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, compares and contrasts private education across a range of political and social settings: in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, England, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Tanzania, and the United States.
Together they show that, while the language of school choice has spread globally, it has done so unevenly across and within nations.
When it comes to Australian education, there is now ‘no choice but to choose' argues Dr Forsey.
"Parents interviewed for this study reflected on how when they were children you just went to the local school. Whereas now parents often agonize over which school will be best for their child."
"There is a real pressure to get it right which reflects a general trend towards governments shifting responsibility for educational outcomes from school systems to individual "consumers."
Dr Forsey's interviews with parents, students and teachers show that the increases in enrolments in the non-government sector can be attributed in part to a sense that private schools have more extra-curricular activity and may be better at community building than government schools.
But it is not all one way traffic, he points out. "I interviewed parents and students who have moved away from the private sector into the government sector for reasons that include the greater resource base in government schools when compared with low fee private schools, a greater tolerance of difference in the government sector and a more robust curriculum that allows students to succeed on their own terms rather than a misguided attempt to protect their self-esteem."