The Australian Senate’s inquiry into “school refusal” sheds light on a crisis within the public education system. While the exact scale remains unknown due to a lack of standardised data, estimates suggest that at least 50,000 children are detached from education at any given time. Other statistics indicate that up to 1.2 million students, a quarter of the total enrolled, face well-being, medical, or disability crises affecting their attendance and educational outcomes.
Factors contributing to school avoidance include bullying, safety concerns, disabilities, mental health issues, and academic pressures. The rigid curriculum and high-stakes testing add to student stress.
Chronic underfunding of government schools has led to increased private school enrolments and concentrated disadvantages in the public system. Only a fraction of children with mental illness receives professional help at school, while the student-to-counselor ratio remains high. The pandemic has exacerbated these issues, with cases of severe mental health deterioration among students.
The ruling elite’s response is inadequate, with a focus on keeping schools open during the pandemic to maintain economic productivity. The crisis in public education and the consequences of social inequality go unaddressed. As the Senate report on school refusal approaches, it is unlikely to tackle the systemic issues that fuel this crisis, perpetuating the problems in the public education system.
The well-being of young people deserves more than political lip service. It requires comprehensive solutions, proper funding, and genuine care for their mental health and educational needs.
Our MissingSchool co-founder, Megan Gilmour, shares testimony in the Australian Senate’s inquiry. This highlights the importance of addressing the educational issues faced by students and the need for better support within the public education system. Her continued work is instrumental in raising awareness and advocating for solutions to this critical issue. Donate to MissingSchool here.
Read the full article here.