- Analysis of data from the My Schools website has revealed a mismatch between the ethnicity of school and the suburb in which they are located
- UTS researchers say Federal education funding policy over a number of years has led to culturally unbalanced schools
Education policy has led to culturally unbalanced schools and potential social problems in the future according to a new paper by UTS researcher Dr Christina Ho.
Analysing data from the My School website Dr Ho has contrasted the ethnicity within schools and the suburb in which they are located.
In her paper, 'My School' and Others: Ethnic segregation and white flight, Dr Ho argues that education policy needs to be linked to community rather than market and students need to have the opportunity to leave their own "cultural bubble".
"Sydney's wealthiest and high-performing elite schools have the lowest levels of cultural diversity and are almost exclusively Anglo students," she said. "Public schools in low socio economic areas have high cultural diversity and yet Anglo students seem to have abandoned their local area.
"Wenona School in North Sydney reports zero per cent of students with a language background other than English (LBOTE), while the LBOTE figure for the suburb is 23 per cent. In comparison, Birrong Boys High School has 94 per cent of students with a LBOTE, compared to a 55 per cent figure for the suburb.
"We need to see a reversal of the effect of the Federal Government's socio-economic status (SES) funding policy that has resulted in greater funding for non-government schools.
"The policy, which stipulated that no private school would lose funding, even if their socio-economic status improved over time, has meant that half of Australian private schools are now funded above their SES formula.
"In addition 'school choice' policies have encouraged parents to become more active in their search for 'good schools', but parents are unevenly equipped to make educational decisions.
"Working-class and migrant background parents are among those who are usually less equipped to engage with the complexities of the schooling system and school choice seems to be speeding up the process of ethnic concentration and segregation."
Professor and Head of the Social and Political Change Group at UTS, Andrew Jakubowicz, said that current and previous government funding policy had created a dynamic that would intensify social conflict and exclusion, through reinforcing centripetal forces of ethno-religious clumping.
"We are still waiting for policies that will provide some counter-weight and ensure opportunities for inter-group interaction, learning and engagement," he said.
"What we have now is a recipe for disengagement and isolation."
Dr Ho's paper is available on the Australian Review of Public Affairs website.
See also Professor Jakubowicz's discussion paper Cultural Diversity, Cosmopolitan Citizenship & Education: Issues, Options and implications for Australia.