It is often known that education forms the backbone of economic development and growth in any nation. The investment in pre-school, primary and secondary education as well as community college education ensures availability of human capital endowed with relevant skills and knowledge for enhanced productivity. This has proven to be a necessity for sustained economic development in any country in the world. Educated people are in no doubt different from the uneducated or less educated in a variety ways (Tiffen, & Gittins, 2004).
At the outset, the difference is eminent in attitudes and behavior, in their well being and health status, income as well as values regarding morals, religion, politics and employment among others. By instilling these positive characteristics to individuals in the community, education has therefore transformed the world people live in from the old ignorance-ridden era to the technologically-advanced modern life (Tiffen, & Gittins, 2004). Australia has experienced a steady increase in education levels in the last century.
The government has in the past centralized funding of education and imposed high taxes on high income earners in an attempt to finance education. Students are not spared either in this plan and have been included in the “user pays” principle where they reimburse for the education services received. However, this scheme has affected education in many countries and how the government plans to implement the principle together with high taxation is a matter of concern.
In Australia, the Government provides public funding for non-government schools as well as substantial assistance to government academic institution. Funding of state government schools is the primary responsibility of States and territories (Laporte, & Ringold, 1997). These organs can also provide assistance to non-governmental institutions of learning. It is estimated that more than two thirds of the students in non-government academic institutions are affiliated to Catholic as a religion.
Australian education system is a three tier model where children enroll in Kindergarten at the age of about five years, then graduate to primary followed by secondary levels from year one to twelfth year and finally tertiary education (Harrison, 2002). Education is mandatory for the children aged between five to about sixteen years but the federal government caters for the university education. This system has ensured a reduced school life expectancy thereby enhancing educational development in the country (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, 2008).
This however draws a sharp contrast to the old system. Australian education system was highly stratified and that only infants and primary education were provided for the children. Additionally, Selection for high school education was very competitive, and favored the siblings of specific people who used to be prominent in the society (Henry, 1990).
These individuals included industrialists, agriculturalists as well as businessmen among other professionals. Teaching profession was undermined since the government offered low wages to the teachers in addition to subjecting them to strict laws that restricted their personal as well as professional conduct. These factors reduced the productivity of the teaching staff thereby suppressing students’ performance in schools (Henry, 1990).
The tremendous increase in level of education in Australia has been largely attributed to changes in a variety of factors including social and institutional framework as well as economic changes and student financing much else besides (Evans & Kelley, 2002). To start with, changes in educational levels have been associated with urbanization.
The rural-urban migration brought about by the inadequacy of farmland as well as search for skilled jobs in the cities has enhanced the development of cities in Australia. This has therefore called for the provision of educational services in these highly populated regions hence increasing the educational levels. Evans & Kelley (2002) estimates the changes brought about by urbanization to about six percent over the last century.
Economic growth on the other hand has been articulated with the steady increase in the educational levels in Australia. This country has witnessed a considerable economic growth in the recent past. Australian GDP for instance is currently valued at 1050 billion dollars which is slightly above 1.6 percent of the world economy (Laporte, & Ringold, 1997).
Australia has so far recorded steady economic growth and unlike other OECD nations it did not fall to the economic recession witnessed in the recent past (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2007). Moreover, the country has recorded a growth rate of about 3.6% annually for the last fifteen years. This has empowered the government hence its ability to fund education as well as other sectors (UNESCO/OECD World Education Indicators Program, 2005). It therefore implies that most of the Australians are able to access education compared to the past where parents used to dropout of school after compulsory education level.
The current parents have therefore acquired high social status in addition to pursuing the available high skilled and well-paying professional jobs. The Australian children who hail from well educated families can now access proper education thereby increasing the levels of education in the country (Ruitenberg, 2010).
Economic growth has therefore contributed to about twenty six percent education growths in Australia. This change has mainly improved education levels in both the primary education which is compulsory as well as secondary education which the educated and socially as well as economically-empowered parents can now afford (Evans & Kelley, 2002).The duo however admit that the aforementioned factors only contribute to a little percentage of the sources of educational transformation so far witnessed in Australia and that the real sources of change in education trend in this century are still unclear.
Youth participation in education including vocational education and training has also improved in Australia. According to Sue et al (2009) a variety of factors have influenced this upsurge in the education trends in Australia.
Factors such as how the young people’s families as well as community value education, the socioeconomic status of the general population, available education and training and the school curriculum, existing policies on education and youth employment, financial incentives and obstacles, economic structure in regard to industry and occupation have changed hence improvement of youth participation in education and vocational training in Australia (Kilpatrick, Sue, Baynes, Chapman & Hazel An indexing term that provides specific identifying information in a category: geographic names, laws and legislation, or tests and testing., ()), 2009).
Australia just like other developed States has recorded a steady decline in fertility rate which has brought about the ratio of two children per couple (Tiffen, & Gittins, 2004). It is always presumed that the higher the number of children in a family the reduced ability of the parents to provide quality education to an individual child. This is because the available resources such as finance, energy and time are shared among the many children thereby reducing the amount received by an individual child (Evans & Kelley, 2002).
The reduced fertility rate in Australia has ensured reduced number of children in a family which the parents can afford to provide quality education for thus contributing to increased level of education in the country. These changes in education levels brought about by changes in family size are only noticeable in secondary schools and tertiary levels and not in primary level where the government funds education (Harrison, 2002). The government’s commitment to provide quality education has also influenced to a greater extent the steady growth in education levels so far witnessed in Australia. The Australian government has increased its spending on education of both males and females compared to the last century.
There have been issues of gender inequality in education and females have been stereotyped as underperformers in the past (Evans & Kelley, 2002). It is note worthy that in all countries except New Zealand; there have been lower performance by females than their male counterparts especially in mathematics literacy (Marginson, 1993). This traditional stereotype is being overcome by the Australian government through equal provision of educational services to both the sexes.
Philosophers such as Martin Roland have also contributed to this issue of gender equality and education of the girl child. Roland argues that the old tradition was a barrier to the equal distribution of resources to both the sexes in the society since it discriminated against the females and favored the males. She reiterates that gender issues should be embedded in the curriculum as well as in teaching and schooling activities to ensure that the product of such a system is an ideal educated person.
John Dewey is another renowned philosopher whose contribution to education, politics as well as philosophy has been globally recognized. According to Dewey, education was the cornerstone to intellectual development and progress of the society. He stressed on the improvement of moral and social nature of schools as an attempt to fostering democracy and community prosperity (Paringer, 1990).
Dewey asserts that provision of education service to a single child in the society empowers the child towards self- effectiveness which consequently provides a guarantee to a lovely, worthy and harmonious society. Democracy never used to prevail in the ancient society as a result of lack of knowledge by then. According to Dewey, the nature of things should be viewed from a perspective of change and growth and therefore the continuous transformation in education is inevitable (Dewey, 2007).
Nel Noddings is an additional prominent philosopher whose argument revolves around the moral reasoning, beliefs and values in education. She states that the current education trends encourages moral development hence the need to adopt educational structures that incorporates ethics and the use of motherly interest to inform moral learning. She however blames politics that fulfills the interests of particular groups for threatening the establishment of strong ethical foundation of learning as well as teaching in the academic institution (Palmer, Bresler, & Cooper, 2001).
Education in Australia has undergone commendable changes since the first half of the last century. The Australian government as well as other stakeholders in the educational sector has contributed towards the social progress which is primarily dependent on the enhanced education standards in the country. Education has so far transformed from the old system characterized by repugnant traditions and values to the modern technologically- advanced era where education is the basic requirement for community sustainability.
The progress in science and technology in the current era has created the knowledge and skills necessary for the developed industrial economy, while growth of education has provided workforce that is needed to utilize these new opportunities. Australia currently enjoys a socially-friendly environment with high paying professional jobs as well as improved living standards courtesy of development witnessed in the education sector.
Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (2008). Trends shaping education. OECD
Dewey, J. (2007). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education.
NuVision Publications, LLC.
Evans, M. & Kelley, J. (2002). Australian economy and society, 2001: education, work, an welfare. Federation Press.
Harrison, J. (2002). Excel senior high school: community and family studies. Pascal Press.
Henry, M. (1990). Understanding schooling: an introductory sociology of Australian education.