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Australia - Constitutional & Legal Foundations

education system discrimination australian

The provisions of relevant Commonwealth and State or Territory Anti-Discrimination and Affirmative Action legislation are set out in the Affirmative Action (Equal Employment Opportunity for Women) Act 1986, The Disability Discrimination Act 1992, The Racial Discrimination Act 1975, and the Sex Discrimination Act 1984. Following the path of teacher education, the process by which other sub-professions (such as nursing) reached the status of professions (through the status of university entrance), was accelerated by the 1990s. This process has further strengthened the links between vocational and professional education and makes the offerings of universities, in many ways, connected with the technical system.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) authorities by the end of the 1980s sought a new formula in Competency Based Training, which effectively stripped teaching of its content-orientation. It reoriented vocational and technical education away from disciplines and towards the needs of particular employers. The focus was outward, on standards rather than content, and on the transformation of knowledge into a commodity in order to sell it into a market. The construction of an Australian Qualifications Framework may be seen as the logical outcome of these trends, whereby the formation of a single great federal system (called, under the Dawkins' scheme, the Unified National System) embracing technical, vocational, and university education, assumed the continuity of all forms of learning in fitting national industry-specific standards. For such discipline- or community-specific areas as clergy training or the human relationship end of medical practice, it has generally been acknowledged that the imposition of such external standards was not always successful and led to considerable heat and public discussion in Australia through the 1990s.

Though Australia has not used monetarist policies to the extent that trademarked the Thatcher government in Britain, there is a simmering discontent over the so called "economic rationalism" evident in handling national and intellectual assets on both sides of politics, the Liberal-National Party Coalition, and Australian Labor Party. The rise of non-establishment parties, such as the Greens, Democrats, and even the One Nation Party is further evidence of the fragmentation of Australian opinion over issues such as education. The one common denominator is the opinion that education is important. In 1999, about 88 percent of respondents to a Commonwealth Bank survey put "ensuring everyone has access to good education" at the top of all issues surveyed (Australian 19 June 2000). Meanwhile, the debate over how to rebuild the social status and effectiveness of teachers within the education system continues, in seeming ignorance of the fact that it is the progressive rationalization of education into an objectified system that assists in the destruction of such social status and effectiveness.

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