By Tracy Sorensen
and Peter Boyle
Australian education has been battered almost beyond recognition by 15 years of cutbacks. Just to repair the most recent damage, the NSW Teachers' Federation is demanding the restoration of the 2500 jobs lost in three years under Greiner's Liberals. Beyond that, say research officers, thousands more teachers should be employed to bring standards up to scratch.
Federation member John Poulos, an officer of the union for 10 years before returning to teaching, estimates that the state's teacher numbers should be increased by around one-third, or some 20,000, to provide quality education throughout the system. It's not just a matter of reducing class sizes, Poulos says. Also needed are librarians, physical education teachers, laboratory attendants and other ancillary staff.
Simon Marginson, a research officer for the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations, says higher education facilities are badly overcrowded and understaffed. A staff increase of at least 25% is needed just to get back to 1980 levels. "There has been a deterioration of buildings, plant and equipment of a scale not experienced since the 1950s."
Since 1983, the retention rate in years 11 and 12 has increased from 57.4% and 36.2% respectively to 80.8% and 76%, doubling demand for higher education, yet the Hawke government has cut expenditure by 10%.
Paul Burn, national secretary of the TAFE Teachers Association, said an estimated 100,000 people were turned away from TAFE colleges last year, yet funding was cut in all states — in Victoria by $300 million and in NSW by $803 million.
Norrian Rundle, a Victorian State Teachers Association state councillor, says funding to Victorian state schools has been cut by 1.5-2% annually since 1982. "They got rid of 1600 jobs last year by increasing teacher workloads, yet the system is absorbing a new bulge in the school-age population."