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How Can A Child From A Disadvantaged Family Grow Up To Lead A Different Kind Of Life?
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How Can A Child From A Disadvantaged Family Grow Up To Lead A Different Kind Of Life?

If you read the recent Gonski report on education funding in NSW you will notice that a lot of time and energy is spent considering how to improve the lives of children from so-called disadvantaged backgrounds.

The report suggests that the key is to increase funding and resources to schools in disadvantaged areas. The problem with the report is that it does not:

  • Define what disadvantage is and this is very subjective as you can’t simply look at financial criteria. You also have to look at ‘happiness’ which is in itself subjective. In particular who is to say that a child of unemployed parents who place no expectations on him to perform well at school is not as happy as the child of professional parents who expect the child to do three hours homework a night and receive a merit award each speech night; or
  • Recognise the fact that unless the child has a mindset that values education funding and resources will have little impact as the child will not be willing to put in the effort to learn and excel.

What Is The Role Of Our Schools In Changing The Lives Of Our Youths?

Although, without a doubt, schools have an important role to play in ensuring that our children can develop their full potential and secure rewarding careers, they cannot miraculously teach children who do not want to learn. It does not matter what types of literacy and numeracy programs are available and what resources are in the schools, the extent to which they are used and the effects that they have depend on the value that the child places on learning. It is asking too much of our schools to require them to change the mindset of our children.

Responsibility for the values and beliefs of our children rests primarily with the parents and ideally the parents and school then work in close partnership. If a child goes home each day to parents who ask no questions about what happened at school, what homework they have, who they played with, what assignments have to be handed in over the upcoming weeks and what other school activities are on the agenda the child will place low value on education.

These children are likely to get behind with their schoolwork, or, at best do the minimum possible and are often disruptive and undisciplined in class as they know there will be few consequences.

The school is not the cause of these problems but is left to deal with them and the result is that teachers become disillusioned and reluctant to teach in these schools. They stop giving 100% as they feel there is no point. Similarly children who want to learn cannot learn as the school environment is not conducive to learning and parents who value education tend to remove their children from these schools. This causes the overall results of the school continue to fall with the school being increasingly seen as disadvantaged and the children labelled.

What Is The Solution?

The only solution in this situation is for the Government to provide community programs where mentors replace parents as the instigator of a love of learning. This is a tough ask as the mentor must earn the respect and friendship of the children if anything they have to say is to be given credibility. They must also tread a fine line between criticising the parent and inspiring the child to deviate from the values taught at home.

Once the children start to value education and what it can give them, well resourced schools, rich in literacy and numeracy programs become valuable. Until then the government is placing its limited funding in the wrong area.


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