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.