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Opportunities in Education

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This paper discusses access to education and training and the equal opportunity in relation to housing, healthcare and employment. Social groups with impaired access to training and education will also be identified alongside the reasons for this lack of access. Some current policies in place to overcome inequity will be discussed.

The perceptions around education are many. From different viewpoints it can be seen as the passing on of information inter-generationally, a mechanism to expand and maintain social norms and values or a means, at a collective level, to promote equality within a society. (Van Krieken, Habibis, Smith, Hutchins, Haralambos, & Holborn, 2006).

Australian society expects that children aged somewhere between four and fifteen attend school on a regular basis (Australian Curriculum and Assessment Reporting Authority, [ACARA], 2009). Public schooling is available to everyone for a minimal fee. Enrolment in the private school system is discretionary and subject to payment of fees and eligibility (Cranbrook School n.d.). Private institutions offer application for scholarships to families experiencing financial hardship (Cranbrook School, n.d.) In similar cases, public institutions will waive the minimal fee (NSW Department of Education and Training [DET]). This policy maintains equality of eligibility to receive education.

In December 2011, the Gonski Report was handed to the government. The review was established to recommend developments for an Australian school system of funding system which is "fair, financially sustainable and effective in promoting excellent outcomes for all Australian students". (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR]. The recommendations were for an injection of A$5 billion to the education sector, 75% of which would go to public schools.

According to Blake, Brady & Sanchez (2003) primary school has a significantly greater impact on childhood development and identity. The task of teaching cultural literacy falls mostly to the primary schools; laying the foundation for the admission of young people into a democratic community to participate as responsible adults. Teachers also give pupils an insight into their rights by embracing a political, cultural, and social position reflected in their families, communities, and schools. Schools expose children to early experiences with an organised social structure which helps the child define their own identity. No other institution, with the exception of family and church, is so influential in the development of children (Bennett, 1999).

Eliot (1999) states that the effect of schooling is so powerful and so cumulative that children who receive no formal education at all can fall into the retarded range by the time they reach adolescence.

The neighbourhoods in which schools are situated can be reflected in the school environment. The school may act as a provider of education and an agent of socialisation, alongside a type of sifting or sorting mechanism; this allows those high achieving and more successful students to consider possibility of a wider range of opportunities for life if they continue on with higher education. It seems that social class categories and success are linked. Jureidini and Poole (2003) comment:

"Viewed from a sociological perspective, the education system as a whole, and the secondary and post-secondary levels in particular, act as a series of filters allocating students to the various strata of the social structure and the workforce."(p.130)

Jamrozik (2005) describes education as being an essential prerequisite, and a key part, of a person's ability to function in the highly technological and industrialised social world we inhabit today. He also states that it has value as an "addition to enlightenment, knowledge-building and discovery" (p.206).

There is a consensus that a reasonably educated society can effect a lessening of criminal activity and dependence on provision of welfare. Overall, more workers equates to increased production. This accumulates wealth for federal governments resulting in availability of more funds for government to reallocate and develop infrastructure. (Van Kreiken et al, 2006: Ferrante, 2010). From another perspective, work or unemployment, financial independence or welfare dependence can be the difference when one is educated. (Anderson & Taylor, 2007: Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2011).

Education has become the way to teach the necessary skills, ensuring production levels are maintained and increased as needed (McCreadie, 2006). Many industries are now subject to regulation and explicit qualifications are necessitated and gained through tertiary institutions (University of Western Sydney).

Education has a part to play in ensuring that society and status quo is not interrupted - that there remains a balance between labour workers and the owners of the means, otherwise social mobility occurs (Van Kreiken et al, 2006). Holmes, Hughes and Julian (2003) refer to social mobility as the movement of individuals between different classes - usually in a hierarchical sense - according to income, either through inheritance of money or through hard work

Historically, educated children were the product of the wealthy classes. Wealthy families were able to fund tuition. (McCreadie, 2006) Poorer families either remained uneducated or would select one family member to be educated. (McCreadie, 2006). Society saw education as an asset to be valued, providing knowledge and skills in preparation for employment (Ferrante, 2010).

Today, Australian industry has been regulated and requires minimum requirements for skilled workers. To maintain equality in employment opportunities, education is a requirement; this ensures that each industry maintains professionalism and ethical standards and protects both workers and end users. On the other hand, this regulation of industry limits employment opportunities to individuals who have the specific required qualifications.

Issues and decisions such as access to and investment in private health care, or where geographically to live, are very dependent on financial remuneration and/or individual choice. (Ferrante, 2010).

Those who have limited education may only gain employment with minimal remuneration or may become unemployed. As a result, housing affordability may diminish and they may require public housing assistance and public health care. (Van Kriekan et al, 2006: DFAT, 2008). Reducing the choices over which direction their lives



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