Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sunday dollars+sense: Why do we love private schools?

So you think the inflation figures are wrong? That could be because you do the supermarket shopping. Food prices are climbing relentlessly. Or it could be because your children are in private schools.

Whereas the official inflation rate is around 3 per cent (3.6 on an underlying basis) the cost of private primary and pre-school fees jumped 5 per cent last year. The cost of secondary school fees jumped 7 per cent.

And according to a study released on Friday by the ANZ Bank the paradox is that we seem more willing than ever to pay them...

Private school enrolments have jumped 22 per cent in the last decade. By
contrast public school enrolments have climbed less than 2 per cent.

Some 30 per cent of our primary students are now in private schools
Australia wide, up from 26 per cent. Around 39 per cent of secondary
students are private, up from 34 per cent.

The Bank says that there are economic explanations for the shift in addition
to sociological and political ones.

It says more of us are in jobs than ever before and we are earning more than
ever before. Education is one of those things that people want to pay more
for the more they earn.

As evidence it cites the ACT. It says we have the highest average incomes
in the land and happen to have the highest proportion of our students in
private schools, even though our government schools are good.

At the last count 39 per cent of our primary students were in private
schools and 45 per cent of our secondary students.

The bank says by contrast the low-earning Tasmanians and Northern
Territorians had the lowest proportions of students in private education in
the country (25 per cent and 28 per cent.)

So we’ve ourselves to blame for what is about to happen. The Bank says the
more we shift our students into private schools, the more those schools are
forced into expensive expansions, and the more they have to push up their

It says in addition teachers - the raw material of teaching - are about to
become very expensive. Every state is Australia is short of them. At the
start of this year there were 600 vacancies in Western Australia alone.

Only things might take the pressure off private school fees. They are
higher interest rates and higher unemployment.

We might soon feel forced to take our children out, doing our wallets and
also our state education systems an overdue favour.


Graeme said...

I pay private shcool fees... yet I feel the biggest issue is not the cost, but the problems left behind in a non-inclusive public school system. At the current rate, schooling will not be the leveler it has been throughout the past century in Australia... The SMH reports that some NSW country public schools are now mainly indigenous, causing further 'white flight' and some city public schools are being 'tagged' as Muslim. How will these people go out into the world believing we are all equal?
[And on the whackier end of faith-based education, Richard Dawkins is right that the state has no role to promoting such education.]

Jacques Chester said...


As I pointed out at Club Troppo, the NT market is so small that one or two schools make the difference. There are only two large private highschools in the NT, neither of them is as far ahead of the leading public schools as might be the case in large markets like NSW and Victoria.

LETTERS said...


Fees an inflation symptom

PETER MARTIN in his article "Parents adding to fee pressure" in Dollars and Sense (March 16, p47), cites a recent ANZ Bank study in support of a theory that payment of higher private school fees is fuelling inflation.

The underlying facts, however, show that higher fees are a symptom of inflation, not a cause.

Martin is correct in saying that the cost of engaging school teachers is rising.

However, for many non- government schools, such as Catholic schools, the level of teacher salaries follows rises in the government sector.

Tuition fees are the primary income available to a non- government school to meet the difference between government recurrent funding levels and their costs of employing teaching staff.

The article's suggestion that the shift of students from non- government to government schools would help relieve inflation is also incorrect.

Evidence demonstrates the effect would be the reverse.

Such a shift would be a cause for significantly increased expenditure on schooling by state and territory governments, given the major financial saving provided to those governments by every parent who chooses a non- government school for their child.

Ian Dalton, executive director, Australian Parents Council, Launceston, Tasmania

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