Last week, the Federal Government and the states and territories struck an agreement to push forward with an ambitious agenda for the nation’s education system at the Education Council meeting.
The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration sets out two goals: that the Australian education system promotes excellence and equity and that All young Australians become confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners, and active and informed members of the community.
Across Australia, schools and universities have welcomed the Declaration as a positive step forward that ends a long and frustrating impasse for the education sector.
‘The Mparntwe decade’
The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) national chair, the Rev. Chris Ivey, said educators also appreciate the extensive consultation process that was undertaken in developing the Declaration.
“Including students in that process is a great example of the importance of giving young Australians a voice in policy deliberations that will have a direct impact on a foundational stage of their lives,” The Rev Ivey said.
He said there are several additions to the Mparntwe Declaration that are “welcome improvements” to the exposure draft.
“These include the insertion of a Commitment to Action to the primary years of schooling, and a recognition within Goal 1 that support for all education sectors – ‘government and non-government, secular and faith-based’ – is integral to promoting excellence and equity in Australian education,” he said.
The Rev Ivey said the acknowledgement in the Declaration of the “quality and professional expertise of Australia’s educators and the critical role they play in developing Australian education and pursuing the national goals” was particularly welcome.
“As we prepare to enter the ‘Mparntwe decade’, it is my hope that all school education policymaking in Australia will begin with that premise”.
‘An opportunity to refocus efforts’
Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) executive director, David Robertson, said the Declaration represented “an opportunity for everyone with a stake in education to refocus their efforts towards these nation-building goals for schooling”.
“This renewed declaration sets the strategic directions for schooling. It provides the overarching ambitions and aspirations that should serve to inform and direct every education policy, decision and activity going forward,” Robertson said.
“The independent sector – which educates 15 percent of the state’s school-age children – will play its role and continue to strive for improved teaching, learning and wellbeing outcomes for all staff and students”.
Newly appointed Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network executive officer, Justine Cirocco, welcomed the national commitment to schooling and the recognition of parents as critical partners in the education of Australia's children.
"Parents and schools have the same goal for children - to see them enjoy learning and to achieve their best – and that will look different for every individual child," Cirocco said.
"This new declaration provides us all with the chance to renew our commitment to the education of our children individually and to the children of Australia. Respectful, collaborative partnerships, between schools, families and communities are critical to achieving education improvement for all”.