Equity in Secondary Schools Bill Passes Youth Parliament

Benjamin Clark
Education Reporter
YMCA Youth Press Gallery

Kangan Institute Youth Foyer team
Kangan Institute Youth Foyer team

The Kangan Institute Youth Foyer team have had a huge victory in their fight for a fairer education system, with their bill being given the seal of approval by the 2015 Youth Parliament.

The team succeeded by the slimmest of margins in their bid to pass education reform in the Legislative Assembly, with 26 in favour and 25 against.

The Broadmeadows team were all members of the Kangan Institute Youth Foyer in Broadmeadows, a program established by the state government in 2014 in partnership with The Brotherhood of St Laurence and Hanover Welfare Services. The program provides 40 youth who are at risk of homelessness with stable accommodation in exchange for a commitment to complete education and training programs.

Team member Matthew Schubert spoke passionately about the need for reform. “The current funding model indentures inequity. As international education expert Dr Sahlberg has recently said, ‘we cannot have excellence in our school system without having equity’.”

The Bill sought to address the “substantial gap in the education system between public and private sector schools” through a 12% increase each year until 2020, at which point they would reach parity with private schools.

Other provisions of the Bill included a state-wide healthy eating program, financial assistance for extracurricular activities, improved access to modern technology and maximum teacher-student ratios of 20 students per teacher.

Team member Belal El Baba said he very pleased with the result. “Children are todays tomorrow, so we want to set them up adequately for the future.”

One provision was not adopted, with students expressing concerns with mandating that teachers have at least a Master’s degree qualification.

“We want to place teachers in higher regard, and studies have proven that higher levels of competitiveness in professions such as law and medicine produce higher levels of self-respect,” El Baba said. “Since the clause mandating a post-graduate education was omitted, teachers will no longer receive the respect they truly deserve.”

Belal reflected on his own experience of public education at Hume Central Secondary College which informed his push for reform. “The teachers at my school were treated with high levels of disrespect, and we experienced systemic injustice throughout the whole public school system. That is why we need change.”

The bill will now be handed to Deputy Premier and Education Minister James Merlino for consideration. “I hope that he considers our proposals and is able to adopt a few of our ideas,” said El Baba.