Tuesday, August 20, 2019

UK: Remember those useless A-Levels? The people who took them now run the country…

Peter Hitchens

If you want to tell the truth in modern Britain, you need to be very patient. More than 20 years ago, I discovered just how badly English school exams had been devalued and hollowed out. I had suspected it for some time, and had noted the dilution and then the gutting of the old O-level back in the 1970s, and its 1980s replacement by the feeble GCSE. But direct evidence came my way that showed me the change was disastrous.

Proper knowledge was no longer required. In fact a child who had real, deep knowledge of the subject might actually be penalised for going off the script. The new exams were more like tests for Scout badges than the punishing papers I had taken in my own schooldays.

And the grades that were being issued were like 1920s German billion-mark notes – with a face value that bore no relation to their real worth.

I began to say so. I was immediately attacked for being unfair to the children involved. I was told sternly that they had all worked very hard for their worthless bits of paper, and shouldn’t be discouraged by cruel newspaper columnists. Actually, I don’t doubt that they had worked hard. The boring slog needed to prepare for these tests was hard without being useful, the educational equivalent of the treadmill.

No wonder so many schoolchildren were being drugged to make them sit still, with official encouragement, with pills almost indistinguishable from illegal amphetamines – the perfect way of getting someone to endure tedious tasks, if you don’t care what happens to their bodies and brains afterwards.

Bit by bit, the truth oozed out, though never officially acknowledged. Grandiose plans to ‘toughen’ exams were produced by Ministers – a tacit admission that they were too flabby.

Universities began to offer remedial courses – now common and known as ‘foundation years’ – for entrants who were simply not ready to cope with college. Others checked the records and found that grades simply no longer meant what they used to. And employers increasingly hired Eastern Europeans who had been to proper, disciplined, knowledge-based schools, instead of semi-literate British school products who didn’t know it was important to turn up on time. This was in spite of the fact that the Poles, Bulgarians and Romanians mostly spoke poor English.

More and more I think it was our failed schools and fatherless homes that led to this wave of migrant labour. If our own young people had been as brilliantly educated and well brought-up as the official announcements said, why did nearly a million of them linger among the jobless (‘not in employment, education or training’, as the phrase goes) while Poles arrived to do the jobs they should have been doing?

Well, after two decades of lies, we now have the absolute proof. Just 54 per cent is required for an A grade in this year’s OCR maths A-level exam. Remember that this includes the over-rated private schools (which only look good because the comps are even worse) as well as state schools.

You don’t need a maths A-level to see what that means. And if maths, where it is clear what’s right and wrong, is judged so feebly, imagine what it’s like in the softer subjects.

Will anything now happen? No. Our teenage Cabinet (and Shadow Cabinet) are made up almost entirely of people who are themselves victims of the educational catastrophe of the 1960s, and know no better. As we shall see during the next few months.


USA: Top 25 Public Colleges 2019: The Best Education For $30,000 Less

Although public colleges do not dominate the Forbes America’s Top Colleges List — only a quarter of schools in the top 100 are public and less than half of the overall list is made of public institutions — public schools provide some of the most accessible and high-quality education in the country.

More than 5 million students attend the public colleges that make America's Top Colleges List. The average in-state cost of attendance for the public colleges on the America’s Top Colleges list is nearly $30,000 a year less than private colleges on the list: $25,759 compared to $57,128.

Unlike the top liberal arts schools, there is no central hub of prominent top public colleges; the most notable public schools are spread evenly across the country — there are nine in the West, seven in the South, five in the Northeast and four in the Midwest.

The top two spots are the same as last year, going to the University of California, Berkeley — one of the most selective universities in the state’s system — and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, which has the highest research expenditures among public universities.

Although many of the top public schools remain the same as the 2018 rankings, there is much movement within the list. The biggest jump comes from the Georgia Institute of Technology — known for its strong engineering programs — which moved up seven spots to No. 13 of the top public colleges.

Gallery: Top 10 Public Colleges 2019

All five of the nation’s military colleges remained on the list, but the United States Naval Academy and the United States Military Academy switched spots to No. 3 and 4 respectively this year. The University of California, Los Angeles moved up two spots, bumping down the United States Air Force Academy one spot to No. 7. The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, College Park and University of Wisconsin, Madison moved up one spot, while the University of Washington, Seattle moved up three spots. The College of William and Mary, the University of Georgia and the University of Texas, Austin dropped two spots each and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the University of Florida dropped four spots each. The University of California, San Diego and Santa Barbara dropped one spot to No. 19 and 20 respectively, and the University of California, Irvine and Davis switched spots to become No. 21 and 22 respectively.

The newest arrival to the 2019 top public college list is the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO. Given the prominence of recruiting more students into STEM majors to prepare them for STEM-related occupations, the school is dedicated to ensuring that students are industry-ready; according to the Pew Research Center, one in three college-educated workers majored in a STEM field, but only about half of STEM majors have a STEM job after graduating. With specializations in engineering and applied sciences, students at the Colorado School of Mines have the opportunity to work with faculty on research during their undergraduate careers, and 88% of graduates have a job in the industry or go on to pursue graduate degrees.

The Forbes 2019 Public Top Colleges are:

25. University of Georgia (No. 99)

24. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (No. 98)

23. Colorado School of Mines (No. 94)

22. University of California, Davis (No. 88)

21. University of California, Irvine (No. 87)

20. University of California, Santa Barbara (No. 84)

19. University of California, San Diego (No. 79)

18. University of Texas, Austin (No. 76)

17. University of Florida (No. 70)

16. University of Wisconsin, Madison (No. 69)

15. University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (No. 68)

14. United States Merchant Marine Academy (No. 66)

13. Georgia Institute of Technology (No. 65)

12. University of Washington, Seattle (No. 64)

11. University of Maryland, College Park (No. 63)

10. United States Coast Guard Academy (No. 53)

9. College of William and Mary (No. 47)

8. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (No. 45)

7. United States Air Force Academy (No. 43)

6. University of California, Los Angeles (No. 38)

5. University of Virginia (No. 33)

4. United States Military Academy (No. 32)

3. United States Naval Academy (No. 24)

2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (No. 20)

1.  University of California, Berkeley (No. 13)


Australia: Top private schoolheadmaster defends privileged students and single sex schools

Timothy Wright, the head of Shore School, also defended his students against those who judged them because of their privilege. "I don't think it's right, as some people do, to say that because you come from Cremorne, you must be somehow a morally bad person," he said.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Herald ahead of his departure from the North Sydney school, Dr Wright spoke of the benefits of single-sex education for boys.

Dr Wright will step down at the end of 2019 after 17 years at the helm of Shore, and 34 years in education.

Shore, an Anglican school, is now in such demand that parents wanting to send their sons there must either be old boys, or lodge their son's waiting list application on the day of his birth. One family has sent their sons there since the 1890s.

Despite fears among some of his high socio-economic parent body that anything but a university degree amounted to failure, Dr Wright said the notion that everyone should get a degree was a "complete fallacy".

He has often encouraged his students to think about an apprenticeship as an option, as they head into an increasingly uncertain job market. "We would not get as many boys going into trades as I would like to see," he said. "I'm pretty confident [artificial intelligence] won't replace plumbers."

Shore costs up to $33,000 a year, and 83 per cent of the school's students are from the top quartile of advantage. But Dr Wright said parental wealth did not inoculate his students against difficulty, and was irritated by the assumption by some that their wealth was a character flaw.

"That sort of attitude that sometimes crops up really annoys me on behalf of these boys," he said.

"I know them. I love them. I do not understand how people can possibly take that attitude towards them. The boys are privileged, and it's not their fault. It's what you do with your opportunities in life that I think you are responsible for. [Wealth] will give you certain advantages, yes, but it does not protect you. Some of my boys have some pretty wicked problems."

Having taught in both single-sex and co-ed schools, Dr Wright said a boys' only environment gives the students a freedom they might not feel if girls were around. "One of the things you'll notice is boys in boys' schools sing," he said.

"They don't, by and large, in co-ed schools. You'll find senior boys out there still playing handball." Girls often master language more quickly than boys, so "there are some real advantages for boys in an English curriculum that meets their needs."

Despite being a chemistry teacher, Dr Wright is passionate about reading. "The more we can get kids reading, the less work you have to do in educating them," he said. "A lot of well-read people are fundamentally self-taught."

He worries about the quality of some modern young adult and children's books. "To some extent I believe in the canon - I realise that's almost an heretical position," he said. "The notion that you are just reading words on a page, and a Campbell's Soup ad is just as worthy a form of text as Joseph Conrad, I'm struggling with that. I do agree that some [young adult fiction] is just churned out.

"I think the same thing with a number of children's books. There seems to be a flood of books [about] bottoms, farts and all the rest of it. I'm not sure that once you have read one or two of those, there's a whole lot more to explore."

Unlike many other private school principals, Dr Wright has resisted the temptation to expand Shore's numbers. He cannot speak for his successor, but believes there is a "sweet spot" at around 220 students per year.

"It's not like Coca Cola - you can't scale the experience of a school," he said. "It's like many complex human organisations, just to double its size doesn't mean you get twice as much of the quality."

About 26 per cent of its students are sons of old boys, but in the next decade the school may also open to the sons of old girls, as girls have been able to attend the K-2 campus in Northbridge for more than 15 years.


Monday, August 19, 2019

Parental Nightmares in Public Schools
Public schools are reopening for business across America, meaning it’s time to get back to reading, writing, arithmetic … and revolution. As usual in matters such as these, California is leading the way.

On the first day of classes at Denair Middle School near Modesto, science teacher Luis Davila Alvarado handed out a worksheet from a transgender advocacy group titled “The Gender Unicorn” asking students about their “gender identity,” “gender expression” and their sexual and emotional attractions.

These are children. And yet the teacher did not ask permission to hand the worksheet out. Most parents were outraged. The school estimated about 50 children received the worksheet. It turns out Alvarado was educating the children about his own life. He declared he rejects the term “Mr.” and prefers to be addressed with the newfangled “Mx.,” pronounced “Mix.” A school official quickly put a stop to it, but the damage was done.

In California, waiting until middle school for this boatload of propaganda is actually inappropriate! In May, the California State Board of Education established a set of guidelines insisting schools should begin discussing “gender identity” in kindergarten. “While students may not fully understand the concepts of gender expression and identity,” the guidelines insist, “some children in kindergarten and even younger have identified as transgender or understand they have a gender identity that is different from their sex assigned at birth.” Schools apparently must leap to address the “harm of negative gender stereotypes.”

Public schools aren’t just undermining parents with the curriculum. When children “decide” they “might” be transgender, parents better not object, or else they will be treated as a threat to their own children’s well-being.

On Aug. 12, USA Today published a chilling op-ed from Jay Keck, a parent in the Chicago suburbs, about how his autistic teenage daughter — who showed “no signs” of being unhappy with her gender — suddenly decided in 2016 that she was male and wanted to be addressed with male pronouns.

She first “came out” at school, and Keck says the school immediately addressed her with male pronouns and provided access to a gender-neutral bathroom. When Keck and his wife found out, they insisted the school address their daughter by her legal name — and were ignored. They met with an assistant superintendent, who asserted the school had to, as USA Today wrote, “follow the law” — a nonbinding directive from the Obama administration, which was repealed by Team Trump.

According to Keck, surprise, surprise: The American Civil Liberties Union has sent threatening letters to schools telling them that “students have the constitutional right to share or withhold information about their sexual orientation or gender identity from their parents, teachers, and other parties.”

Then the real nightmare kicked in. Put yourself in the position of the Keck family.

“My daughter told me that the school social worker was advising her about halfway houses,” he said. “The social worker confirmed this when I scheduled a meeting with him to discuss it. This felt like a horrifying attempt to encourage our daughter to run away from home.”

Keck had his daughter evaluated by a psychologist approved by the school district. He said, “He told us it was very clear that our daughter’s sudden transgender identity was driven by her underlying mental health conditions, but would only share his thoughts off the record because he feared the potential backlash.” When his daughter graduated high school, parental wishes that her birth name would be announced were again ignored.

This growing gender-bending orthodoxy is what Pope Benedict called the “dictatorship of relativism,” or, if you prefer, “the tyranny of tolerance.” Dissent — even from parents — is being condemned as bigotry, cruelty and hate speech.

This will not stop until the nuclear family is destroyed. Or until parents stand up as one and declare a commitment to destroy this movement.


Methodist University Hires a Muslim Chaplain

The word Christian means something to me. Likewise, the word Islam means something to my Muslim friends. And although we are friends, we also recognize that our religions are not one and the same. In fact, the claims of Christianity and Islam contradict each other, meaning that both religions are not equally valid; both can't be right. Shenandoah University, a Methodist school, believes that Christianity and Islam are equally valid and that their students will benefit from the spiritual guidance of both. To help facilitate this, Shenandoah University has hired a Muslim chaplain. By doing so, the Methodist institution signals that Christianity means nothing to them.

Located in Winchester, Va., Shenandoah University boldly proclaims on its website that "Shenandoah University is one of six United Methodist Church-affiliated institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The spiritual life team is dedicated to calling, forming and sending leaders for tomorrow’s church and world, offering a wide mixture of programs throughout the academic year."

I say "boldly" because it requires a level of hubris to take the tithes of Methodists and claim to use those tithes to form and send "leaders for tomorrow's church" all while showing utter contempt for the Christianity they claim to believe. In the press release announcing the hiring of Hanaa Unus to serve as chaplain and Muslim community coordinator, the school explains:

"Unus will work with both Muslim and non-Muslim students to address their spiritual care and needs, creating a safe and understanding space where they can practice their faith and discuss their concerns. She will work with Rev. Dr. Allen and the Office of Spiritual Life on education through interfaith programs."

The school can couch the hiring of Unus in as many leftist buzz-words as they want; that doesn't change the fact that her hiring demonstrates that Shenandoah University does not care about the spiritual well-being of their students. Christianity teaches that there is only one way for humans to restore their broken relationship with God and enjoy eternal life, and that way is through repentance of sins and faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Islam teaches that's not true.

The spiritual guidance that students at a Christian university should be receiving is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Methodist parents who send their children to Shenandoah University should be mortified that during those times when their child is hurting, confused, and questioning, their spiritual leadership may very well come from a Muslim chaplain. Think about it: when a homesick freshman who is struggling goes to Unus, will that hurting student be directed toward Jesus? No, of course not. And, frankly, it would be unfair to expect Unus to do so.

Spiritual relativism masked by the desire for "diversity" is leading people to hell. Shenandoah University is using the tithes of Methodists around this country to deny students the gospel of Jesus Christ and, instead, to point them to a false religion.


Australia: Girls not welcome at Randwick Boys' High

The NSW Department of Education has rejected a proposal to turn Randwick Boys' High into a co-ed school despite a survey showing strong support within the eastern suburbs community.

The idea was floated by the Coalition government in the lead-up to the March election to counteract a promise by Labor to build a new, co-educational public high school in the marginal electorate of Coogee.

The NSW Department of Education ran a survey in January and February to discover community attitudes and held meetings with those who would be most affected, such as parents, students and representatives from surrounding schools.

Of more than 2220 community respondents, 57 per cent strongly supported the idea, 10 per cent were in favour, and 28 per cent were opposed. The rest were neutral.

Parents and carers of girls made up more than half of the respondents, and two-thirds of them supported the idea.

But in making the final decision, the department said it weighed the survey results against the feedback from those who would be most affected, such as staff at surrounding schools and existing students of Randwick Boys' and Girls'.

Of the 192 female students who responded, 70 per cent said they would not be interested in attending a co-ed Randwick Boys', and more than half of the 300 parents at Randwick Girls' who responded said they would not send their daughters there.

There was also strong opposition from staff at other schools in the eastern suburbs network, including Randwick Girls', JJ Cahill, Matraville and South Sydney high schools, who were concerned about the impact on enrolments.

"The department has accepted [an] independent assessment that the consultation process was inconclusive in determining a meaningful community position," said Murat Dizdar, the department's deputy secretary of educational services.

"The independent analysis shows quite clearly that when you dive deeper, the views of the families and students who would be most directly impacted by a change of the provision there at Randwick did not provide clear support for the change."

Mr Dizdar said the eastern suburbs schools operated as a network, rather than a series of stand-alone schools, and there was existing capacity at schools in the south of the district, such as JJ Cahill and Matraville.

Without Randwick Boys’, eastern suburbs parents would not have the option of a public boys’ high school.

Two new or upgraded schools – Inner Sydney High and Alexandria Park Community School – were about to open, and the two Randwick single-sex schools were part of the "tapestry of provision in the area", he said.

The department would now proceed with plans to upgrade the two Randwick schools. It would also develop a strategy to improve infrastructure and curriculum offerings across the whole eastern suburbs network.

Community groups have been campaigning for a new co-ed high school in the eastern suburbs, saying there is not enough capacity to cope with the numbers of students who attend the area's primary schools.

They say the new school is needed in the northern part of the region, and that schools in the southern parts – such as Maroubra and Matraville, some of which have many vacant classrooms – are too far away for students to travel to.

"We will look at strengthening our provision across all of those schools," Mr Dizdar said. "We are well placed to cater for the demand."

Randwick Boys' P&C president Birgit Schickinger said parents would be "extremely disappointed by this outcome, especially given that the majority of people surveyed were in favour of turning Randwick Boys' into a co-ed high school".

"Randwick Boys' will continue to be a strong, caring, nurturing school for the boys in this area, and we will work with the department to make sure it gets better facilities and resources."


Sunday, August 18, 2019

What European Countries Sacrifice for Free College

It’s not just higher taxes.

The higher-education system in Finland is supposedly every American progressive’s dream. The Finnish government pays 96 percent of the total cost of providing young Finns with a college education; almost all domestic students at Finnish universities pay nothing in tuition. Indeed, Finland subsidizes its universities more than any other country in the developed world. American advocates of free college say that if Finland can do it, so can we. But there’s a catch to the Finnish model, and it’s not just higher taxes.

Finland offers a nice deal for students only if they are lucky and talented enough to get in. In 2016, Finnish institutions of higher education accepted just 33 percent of applicants. That’s the degree of selectivity we’d expect from an elite college in America, yet that is the admissions rate for Finland’s entire university system. There is a price to pay for that kind of selectivity: Finland ranks in the bottom third of developed countries for college-degree attainment. Meanwhile, the tuition-charging United States ranks in the top third, thanks to open-enrollment policies at many of our colleges and universities, along with private financing and plenty of spots offered through a diverse range of institutions.

The Finnish example reveals a reality often glossed over by politicians and activists who advocate mimicking European-style free-college regimes in the United States: government budgets are finite, even when taxes are high. If a government elects to pay for a greater share of each student’s college education, something else has to give. Perhaps the university system will accept fewer applicants and produce fewer graduates, as is the case in Finland. Or maybe it will spend fewer resources per student, potentially lowering the quality of education. Finland is evidence that such tradeoffs are not mere theory or a false choice manufactured by miserly conservatives. Nor is Finland the only country where such stark tradeoffs are on display.

In a new report for the American Enterprise Institute, we compare the performance of 35 developed countries on three aspects of their higher-education systems: how many college graduates the system produces, how much funding is available per student overall, and what share of that funding comes from government sources. In a world of finite resources, these three qualities are inherently in tension with one another, and a government that tries to prioritize one quality usually has to sacrifice one of the others.

We find that the nations of the developed world approach this trade-off in different ways. South Korea, for instance, has the highest college attainment rate in the developed world: 70 percent of young Koreans have earned a college degree. But all those sheepskins have a steep opportunity cost. South Korea ranks near the bottom on our measures of funding and subsidies, leaving Korean students to pay most of the cost of their education and Korean universities to operate on tight budgets. This is the natural result of a system that seeks stratospheric college attainment rates with finite public funding: to keep total spending under control, policymakers must make sacrifices.

While some countries prioritize a heavily subsidized higher-education system and others pursue a high college attainment rate, the evidence suggests that it’s almost impossible for a nation to do everything at once. No large country ranks in the top third of developed nations on all three measures. A nation inevitably has to pick and choose what its higher-education system should emphasize. Does it want free college at all costs? Or does it want higher degree attainment or better-resourced universities, even if that means that students have to pay some tuition?

The United States has chosen the latter path. America ranks eleventh out of 35 countries on degree attainment, and a striking third on our measure of the total resources available to colleges. (Some might argue that administrative bloat and unnecessary amenities on American campuses makes the U.S. ranking on this last measure not entirely desirable.) The United States achieves this high ranking precisely because its government does not insist on picking up every penny of the costs of higher education; we do not prohibit colleges from charging tuition. Students and their families share the burden, and so the higher-education system can do more than it could if it relied on public funding alone.

America is not the only nation to follow this route. An analysis of the English higher-education system found that the end of free tuition at English universities preceded remarkable increases in both student enrollment and funding per head. Universities in the United Kingdom are now the best-funded in the developed world (by our measure), and also post impressive numbers on degree attainment.

Whether the American higher-education system is “better” or “worse” than its peers overseas is the wrong question to ask. Rather, it’s more instructive to compare the world’s higher-education systems on multiple dimensions, because different countries prioritize different outcomes. America is behind Finland on government subsidies, but ahead of it on degree attainment and total funding. Whether that makes America better or worse than Finland depends on your own subjective preferences.

Trade-offs are a fact of life, and higher education is no exception. As Americans debate how to best reform our higher-education system, considering the trade-offs involved will enable clearer thinking about policy proposals such as free tuition. Copying what we like about Finland might mean sacrificing what we like about America.


NY univ. promotes paper comparing cow insemination to 'rape,' milking cows to 'sexual abuse'

A paper currently being promoted by a New York university calls on society to consider the rampant “sexual exploitation” of dairy cows by the milk industry in order to “fully fight gendered oppression.”

Specifically, the author compares cattle insemination to "rape" and the milking of cows to "sexual abuse."

Titled “Readying the Rape Rack: Feminism and the Exploitation of Non-Human Reproductive Systems,” the paper was published Friday in a journal called Dissenting Voices, which is published and edited by the Women’s and Gender Studies program at the College at Brockport State University of New York.

The published piece aims at discussing the “sexual exploitation of non-human bodies, specifically dairy cows.” The author notes that “as a vegan and animal rights activist,” she feels compelled to reveal the “feminist aspects of animal agriculture,” a topic she says is unfortunately “under-researched,” but is nonetheless important because “the same way women’s health has been at  stake for years, a dairy cow’s reproductive system has been poked and prodded.”

According to the publication, “the dairy industry is a host for sex-based discrimination,” and a “site where sexual assault and objectification based on biological makeup are highly prevalent but ignored as we choose to neglect non- humans with whom we share a planet.”

The paper argues that “in order to fully fight gendered oppression,” society must also address the plight of dairy cows, which it asserts are “still subjects to sex-based discrimination and violence,” despite their voices being “not always lifted or comprehensible.”

The piece begins by first attacking the widely contested notion that cow’s milk is even at all beneficial for humans, pointing to the government-funded “Got Milk?” campaign and the questionable motivations behind it.

But author Mackenzie April, an intern for Brockport's Women's Studies Department, goes further than the assertion that milk is bad for humans, by claiming that the practice of dairy farming “also supports and exemplifies the degrading way in which we treat female bodies and reproductive health,” adding that she hopes the publication will inspire feminists and other “social justice”-minded individuals to “incorporate non-human bodies into their own feminist perspectives.”

“If we are going to argue fairly for the rights of all beings in a world soured with sex and gender-based oppression, then dairy cows deserve to be taken into account when discussing issues of reproductive women’s  health,” April, who then compares barren female cattle to human women who choose not to have children, writes.

“If women do not choose to become mothers, they are shamed. If a female cow is incapable of successfully bearing a calf, they are sent away for slaughter. Their reproductive system is useless, therefore, they, as a being, are useless,” April notes, arguing that this is indicative of a “double standard,” as civilized society would cringe at the thought of murdering women once they become infertile.

“The outdated stereotype about women being caretakers and most importantly child-bearers remains consistent in the dairy industry, especially when we take into account the means through which these animals are exploited,” April argues, pointing specifically to the insemination of cattle, which she compares to “rape,” the milking of cows, which she compares to "sexual abuse," “emotional trauma related to pregnancy,” and “nonconsensual hormone treatments.”

April encourages readers to attempt to “place the importance of animals’ lives as equal to your own,” and address the plight of dairy cows “similar to how you might validate and advocate for the struggles of women that you personally do not endure due to the privilege of race, gender, class, etc.”


School Choice means more than a public-private pick

The Australian Scholarships Group (ASG)’s flagship annual publication — the Parents Report Card — dishes up some choice findings about school choice in Australia. It provides a sober account of what matters to parents and dispels the claims of school choice opponents.

For detractors, choice in schooling is scorned as synonymous with educational ‘segregation; into gated school communities. They argue choice is a luxury enjoyed by the rich, while the rest are ‘stuck’ with their local school.

But choice is about more than those who can afford to fork out for private school. Parents in NSW enjoy more options than in other states — for instance, with more selective schools and specialist performing arts and sports schools, all under the public school tent. But when it comes to choice, more is more.

And choice in public schools is now threatened by the crackdown on the number of out-of-area enrolments permitted in NSW. This makes it harder for parents to send children to schools on their way to work, or to where their siblings go, or where their needs are best served.

To be sure, for some parents, choice is a non-starter. And, by all means, parents are free to choose not to choose. But, most parents — and increasingly, their children — value choice and don’t take it lightly.

Many already opt for private school. Over 40% of students in high school and 31%  in primary attend a non-government school. Enrolment growth in independent schools, in particular, has been outpacing that of public schools.

A lot goes into the process, but the top considerations according to the ASG are a prospective schools’ reputation, sector, and performance. ABS data shows that for those at private school, reputation is by far the primary reason for choosing a school. For those at public schools, being close to home is the decisive factor.

ASG emphasises that ‘choosing a school with confidence’ is about finding the ‘right’ school, not necessarily the so-called ‘best’ school. This reflects that school reputations are formed by more than scouting the MySchool website ­­— though the tool certainly doesn’t hurt.

For many, choosing a school is also not a decision hatched overnight. 42% considered their high school before commencing primary school — including 61% of those in independent schools, though only 33% in public schools. Another study found one in four consider schools from the time of a child’s birth.

It’s true that choice is not enjoyed equally and fully by everyone. The main barriers reported are cost, waiting lists, and zoning — with barriers more commonly reported by parents of children in public schools.

Cost of some schools is prohibitive for many parents; more than two-thirds report feeling the pinch financially. More efforts to make private school affordable can relieve some of this pressure and make it a viable option.

Waiting lists are tough to nudge, but it pays to remember that they are an indication of demand. One way waiting lists could be reduced is for there to be a greater supply of desirable schools.

The zoning of school catchments compels students of public schools to go local – even if they would prefer to go out-of-area. Zoning also means the composition of schools is less diverse than they would be otherwise – since local areas tend to share demographics. Zoning hurts those living in disadvantaged areas the most — forcing them to pick between public and private, rather than weighing up diverse school offers.

OECD research has argued that to deliver on its promise, choice must be ‘real, relevant, and meaningful’. In Australia, choice needs to be more than just a public-private pick.