University Of Tasmania
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Commonwealth engagement with school education : a history (1901-2015)

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posted on 2023-05-28, 09:33 authored by Rodwell, GW
Beginning in 1911 with the mandating of school cadets for all Australian school students from twelve years to eighteen years, the Commonwealth has exerted its influence on Australian schools and colleges. This is despite the Constitution implying education to be a state prerogative. Section 51 outlines the powers of the federal government, and those not listed, such as school education, remain the residual powers of states and territories. This research attempts to analyse what is so attractive to schools and colleges for Commonwealth governments in their policy making. How might this influence of political forces be understood? Through an organisational framework adhering to the changing nature of federalism, a notion of history acknowledging political imperatives, and the analytical lens of Kingdon's Agendas, this research argues school education has become an arena of competing political forces, and has been such since the beginning of Federation. The research establishes, however, Kingdon's Agendas requires some tweaking to take into account the rising influences of risk society theory, moral panic theory and the rising influence of social media. While recognizing federalism is composed of the legal, financial and political, each stage of federalism since Federation has been a party to its own particular kind of policy impacting on school education, broadly conceived. In examining the politics of Commonwealth leverage on school education, this research eschews any notions of progress, or altruism on behalf of governments in respect to school education policy. It argues school education has become a field wherein policies are developed for party political ends. Fully exploiting the Constitution since 1911, finding any possible loophole, agenda-setting in policy through school education has become a major task of federal political parties as they seek and maintain government.


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