Public Education Day
Since public schools exist in every local community and are accessible to all, they are microcosms of that community, reflecting a rich diversity of cultures and backgrounds.
There are a number of benefits that flow from diversity being stitched into the fabric of every public school. For a start, local and international research demonstrates that the greater the social mix of a school, the better the academic outcomes. But beyond the academic outcomes are the rich social and cultural learnings that accrue from students doing the hard work of learning from and through the diversity that is part of the daily life of every public school.
This experience serves to stretch personal horizons beyond the familiar, encouraging the capacity to appreciate and respect difference, even while it contributes to enhancing the cohesiveness of a multicultural society. In brief, public schools provide spaces in our society where young people can be inducted into a civic culture of recognizing and vigorously engaging with their differences. Such opportunities diminish in schools which comprise more homogenous student populations.
Thus, public schools are a major means by which our society can continue to nurture and build our democracy. For this reason alone, it is clear that the grossly inequitable funding arrangements which have short-changed public education for so long can no longer be tolerated.
On Public Education day 2021, Australia needs to recognize and celebrate the wonderful work that public schools do, through their diversity, to make for a more cohesive society.
Professor Emeritus Alan Reid AM
University of South Australia