Mainstream School System Failing Young Australians
31 May 2011 at 12:12 pm
The Federal Government’s ‘learn or earn’ policy has been labeled by education experts as another ineffective one size fits all policy for young people.
Professor Johanna Wyn, Director of Melbourne University’s Youth Research Centre told the National Youth Sector Conference that one size fits all policies like learn and earn go against the diversity of young people in the community.
The policy, which was introduced in 2010, requires young people under the age of 21 who have not finished year 12 or have equivalent qualifications, to be studying or working full time (at least 25 hours per week) in order to qualify for youth allowance. It is the first policy that links youth allowance eligibility to full time work or study.
The conference heard that more Australian students leave school at the age of 16 than in most other OECD countries. Only 80 per cent of young people complete year 12 in Australia, including TAFE and other courses, compared to 88 percent in the US and Canada, 91 per cent in Germany and 95 per cent in Japan.
Wyn says this illustrates that the mainstream school system is failing to reach the needs of a significant proportion of young people.
Over 35,000 students are in alternative or flexible learning programs that cater for students that would otherwise not continue with schooling. However Wyn says the estimated demand for places in such programs is another 70,000.
Speaking to over 500 youth workers at the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition’s National Youth Sector Conference, Wynn highlighted the success of alternative, or flexible learning programs.
Over 35,000 students are in alternative or flexible learning programs that cater for students that would otherwise not continue with their schooling. However the estimated demand for places in such programs is another 70,000.
Youth workers heard from teachers and students from three different alternative learning programs, including the flexible learning centre in Noosa, Alesco learning centre in the Central Coast, and Hands on Learning in Frankston, Victoria.
Students spoke eloquently and honestly about why the mainstream school system had not worked for them. Connor, a year 10 student at Alesco learning centre says he learns differently to other students, but with such big class sizes, he could never get the attention he needs.
Connor’s teacher, Wilhelm Trappe, says there are less special subject teachers, because the teaching is more about building relations and taking the students through a year long journey.
Alternative learning programs concentrate on practical skill building and emotional learning. They often cater for students who come from broken families and who have a lot of responsibility in their home life, so they need an environment where they are treated as equals their teachers.
Wyn says communities work differently, young people have different pathways, and we need to support them.
Dale Murray of the Edmund Rice Education Australia says that the message is clearly about relationships, compassion, care and love.
The conference is being held by the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition and is taking place at the Sydney Convention centre between May 30 and June 1. It is the first national youth sector conference since 2007.
*This report was filed for Pro Bono Australia News by Tamara Newman