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Decentralised Education

Education is a lifelong process of discovery and growth, and is the responsibility of individuals, families and employers. Education is far too important to be relinquished to governments and central planners with their cookie-cutter moulds. The Libertarians want to empower people to learn and grow in ways that benefit each person’s unique talents, interests and ambitions.

Governments claim they are investing in education by simply shovelling more money into their own failed institutions and hoping that somehow this time it will be different. While education spending has skyrocketed over the past 50 years, there is little to show for it other than bloated institutions that fail to innovate and fail to serve their students’ needs, while pushing their own narrow agendas. True educational reform means taking power away from bureaucracies and decentralising decision making, with decisions being made as close as possible to the individual learner. Schools, childcare centres and higher education institutions should compete for students by offering a better product, and new alternative institutions should be allowed to innovate and compete as well.

  • Allow schools to opt out of the National Curriculum. Instead of an endless political battle over who gets to be the gatekeepers of knowledge, curriculum decisions should be devolved as close as possible to the individual level. Some schools would continue to use it, but others would opt out. More curriculum options mean more choice and better matching to individual needs. Parents would be able to choose a school that matched the needs of their children.

  • Abolish centralised testing such as NAPLAN. A single ‘measure’ of learning is a ridiculous notion, and it causes real, useful learning to suffer, as teachers teach to the test. Many teachers will say it is an impediment to quality education.

  • Fund students not institutions. At every level, any government funding should go to the student through an education ‘voucher’. If an educational institution or childcare centre is offering a valuable service they have nothing to worry about, as people will use their education voucher there willingly.

  • Allow new and innovative business models. Currently there are three major cartels – the childcare industry, the school industry and the university industry. Each of these are protected from competition by a raft of regulations that make it virtually impossible to start up and compete by using any different or innovative model. We want to see a market process where entrepreneurs can innovate and see what works.

  • Allow home education co-ops. There has been a substantial increase in home education as parents are uniquely positioned to cater to the unique needs and strengths of their children. Parents should be able to start co-ops and micro schools in their homes without being forced to comply with all the regulatory burdens placed on larger institutions.

  • University reform. The current university system has too little competition, too much power, and not enough free speech. Senior academics often act as the "high priests" for big-spending politicians, being paid handsomely by the government to argue for ever-more government power. Australia should retain a HECS-style delayed payment system to ensure that everybody can always access university, but there is no good reason that non-university students should be forced to subsidise the choices of (relatively more wealthy) university students. There should be less regulation on setting up new universities, and universities should have to compete in terms of price and quality to attract students.