Preprimary & Primary Education
In most states and territories, except Queensland and Western Australia, there is one year of part-time preschool education followed by one year of full-time preprimary education. In Queensland, one year of part-time preschool is available. In Western Australia, one year of part-time preprimary education is accessible. As preprimary education is not compulsory in Australia, the teaching of preprimary teachers is not as regulated as the preparation of primary and postprimary teachers, though universities such as Curtin University and Macquarie University have flourishing early childhood teacher preparation schemes.
Primary education is largely the responsibility of the states: State governments are responsible for around 88 percent of the funding for government schools. They are also the major employer of primary principals. Federal funding tends to come back to state primary schools through general allocations such as the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Act 1996; and Indigenous Education (Supplementary Assistance) Act 1989, and through the funding of particular programs (such as support for literacy and numeracy programs, book purchases, foreign language, special needs, among others).
Federal government expenditure exceeding $16 billion was spent on school-based education (1997-2000). From 1997, under a conservative government, any school recognized by a state education department (public or private) could access government funding from 12 categories of eligibility.
Shifts in funding are affected both for primary and secondary by government policy targets, and the Government School Recurrent Costs (AGSRC) and Building Price (BP) indices. An example of the former is the arrangement whereby the Australian government channels funds provided by the Italian government (through the organization Co.As.It) for the teaching of Italian (Australia's largest non-English language group) in Australian schools.
The progressive movement of federal agencies into primary education is marked by the fact that Commonwealth funding (worth $2.1 billion in 2000) is increasing at a faster rate than state funding. This remains a sensitive issue, however, as the constitution delineates states rights over these areas. The Federal government has proclaimed its interest to emerge out of:
pursuing the Government's broad national, social and economic agenda and in improving the well-being of all Australians, promoting national consistency in the provision of schooling across Australia, the reporting of nationally comparable data on student achievement and other outcomes of school education, and improved accountability by education providers for schooling outcomes to parents and the wider Australian community. (DETYA 2000c)
The priorities driven through these funding and standards mechanisms are numerous and include the following: improve the literacy and numeracy skills of all young Australians in order to articulate into higher levels of education and serve the labor market; increase focus on vocational education and training in the senior secondary curriculum; enhance teacher and principal development and professionalism to meet the ever increasing demands of educational, social, economic and technological change; support educationally disadvantaged students; improve educational outcomes of schooling for Indigenous students; support the right of parents to choose the educational environment which best suits the needs of their child, whether the school is public or private; use new technologies and scientific principles; increase focus on civics and citizenship education; teach designated priority languages other than English; and aware students of and economically cooperate with the Asia-Pacific region, through the encouragement of Asian studies and languages. Despite priority 10, Asian languages have developed comparatively slowly, with Indonesian, Japanese (the largest at the HSC level), and Chinese among the favorites.
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