Realigning the Governance of Schools in Australia

Energising an Experimentalist Approach

Brian J. Caldwell is Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Educational Transformations and Professor Emeritus at the University of Melbourne where he served as Dean of Education from 1998 to 2004. This paper was presented by Professor Caldwell at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University workshop on the theme of ‘Twenty-first century public management: The experimentalist alternative’ on Tuesday 11 February 2014.

A realignment of structures and processes for the governance of public schools in Australia is likely to enhance outcomes and address several seemingly intractable problems in current arrangements. This paper proposes a shift from federal to state governments, from state governments to schools and, within schools, enhancing the professional autonomy of teachers.

The federal government’s role in school education in Australia has increased steadily over the last half-century, especially since the landmark Karmel Report of 1973. However, its involvement is problematic given the trend to make the school a more significant entity in the governance of education. Aside from the fact that powers in relation to education lie with the states, there is no good reason why two levels of government should be involved. The paper draws on international research and offers comparisons with Canada where the federal government has no role in school education.

Current initiatives to increase the autonomy of public schools are explored, with a commentary on their consistency with an experimentalist approach. The work of Charles Sabel serves as a touchstone in this commentary. Mechanisms to ensure a continuing federal role in funding are briefly canvassed. Success calls for a response at the state and school level. Reference to states throughout the paper is understood to include the territories.

ANU Caldwell Paper

ANU Caldwell Paper

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