Thursday, September 22, 2011

Huge rejection of government High Schools in Australia

On previous occasions, I have extrapolated from State statistics that about 40% of Australian High School students go to private schools. This compares with about 7% in England and probably reflects at least in part the greater Government financial support for private schools in Australia. But private schooling is still a considerable expense for families so the 40% figure probably represents just about every family that can afford those expenses.

Government schools are clearly on the nose. Discipline has largely been abolished there over the last couple of decades so such schools have a reputation for being chaotic and thus providing a poor learning environment.

Although I attended State schools myself, I sent my son to a local private school. There are so many private schools in Australia that one does not usually have to travel far to find one. At his school my son had (male) teachers who were enthusiastic about mathematics, something rarely found in State schools, I'll warrant. Since my son now has a B.Sc. with honours in mathematics and is working on his Ph.D. in the subject, he is an example of the effect that school choice can have.

Fortunately, my 40% estimate can now be firmed up. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has just released Australia-wide data on schools. See the excerpt below. It turns out that for Australia as a whole I was only one percentage point off. The figure is 39%, not 40%:

In 2010, there were 3.5 million students formally enrolled in all Australian schools (an increase of 7% since 2000). Of these students, seven in ten (66%) were enrolled in government schools, two in ten (20%) in Catholic schools and one in ten (14%) in Independent schools (compared with 69%, 20% and 11% respectively in 2000).

Although government schools continue to educate the majority of students in Australia, the number of students enrolled in non-government schools has been increasing at a faster rate over the last decade. Since 2000, Catholic and Independent schools had the largest proportional increases in the number of students (11% and 37% respectively) while the number of students in government schools increased by only 1.3%.

In 2010, there was little difference between the proportions of male and female students enrolled in government and non-government schools.

In primary and secondary schools

In 2010, around two million students were enrolled in primary schools and around 1.5 million students were enrolled in secondary schools. A higher proportion of students were enrolled in government primary (69%) and secondary (61%) schools than students enrolled in non-government primary and secondary schools. The proportion of students enrolled in Catholic and Independent schools was lower in primary schools (19% and 11% respectively) compared with secondary schools (22% and 17% respectively).

Many students may not remain in one particular type of school (government or non-government) for their entire schooling. For example, some students may attend a government primary school and complete their education in a non-government secondary school.

A media report on some other aspects of the new ABS data here. Private school graduates are much more likely to go on to univerity etc.

Even emergency patients have to wait in government hospitals these days

The report below is from South Australia but there are similar reports from all states

A PREGNANT woman suffering a miscarriage was stranded in an ambulance for more than two hours before being admitted to hospital as overcrowding in the state's health system reaches breaking point.

Queues of up to eight ambulances, with patients on board, are being forced to wait at Flinders Medical Centre as all of Adelaide's major hospitals this week reached the highest level of overcrowding - code white - and are stretched well beyond capacity. Patients who have been forced to wait in ambulances at Flinders include:

A 56-YEAR-OLD man with a suspected spinal fracture from a fall who had to wait 3½ hours.

AN 86-YEAR-OLD woman with a serious infection who waited 4¼ hours for admission.

A 61-YEAR-OLD female cancer patient requiring on-going pain relief who spent an hour in a vehicle before being admitted.

ANOTHER woman, 70, suffering an infection waited an hour and 40 minutes.

Ambulance officers will hold a crisis meeting with SA Health tomorrow as the ongoing strain revives threats of expensive industrial action.

The State Government admits problems exist at Flinders and has enlisted more nurses to cope with the strain. A spokeswoman for Health Minister John Hill said yesterday work on the new emergency department at Flinders was ahead of schedule and was expected to be completed before next winter. Medical staff were continuing to provide care "in sometimes difficult circumstances".

The miscarriage was reported late last week and involved a 33-year-old woman 10 weeks into her pregnancy. She was finally taken to the Women's and Children's Hospital and treated after waiting for an hour and 55 minutes in an ambulance parked outside Flinders Medical Centre.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Phil Palmer said it was unlikely faster admittance would have saved the child but delay would have exacerbated the mother's physical and emotional distress.

He said morale among paramedics had hit "rock bottom" and cases like the miscarriage distressed both patients and medical staff. "This was someone who needed some serious medical intervention," Mr Palmer said yesterday. "An ambulance is set up to do a lot of things, but it does not have the complex diagnostic equipment that a woman going into a difficult miscarriage needs. "That patient would have been suffering. That's not good patient care, that's an outrage."

Paramedics will tomorrow meet SA Health chief executive David Swan over the matter and are demanding immediate measures to increase hospital capacity.

Mr Palmer has called for more nursing staff for all emergency departments and an upgrade of Modbury Hospital, and for the Government to fund private hospitals in order to free public beds.

The union says it will refuse to accept billing information from patients and consider other industrial action if the Government does not take new steps to ease backlogs. The move would cost the Government an estimated $200,000 per day in lost revenue.

Mr Palmer said paramedics wanted to direct their protests at the Government and would not take action that affected patient care.


Abbott is a man of the people

But wrong on immigration

While dining out this week I was regaled by a friend who dismissed Tony Abbott as a "bogan" [uncultured working-class person].

I knew what he meant, and didn't even argue, because the quality he was referring to is Abbott's strength and Labor's nightmare.

Even though Abbott was a Rhodes Scholar; has three degrees in economics, law and philosophy; was educated at four elite institutions, St Aloysius, Riverview, Sydney University and Oxford University; is highly articulate; has written three books and raised three daughters who are all pursuing tertiary studies, Abbott does have a streak of bogan in his essence.

This essence has put fear and loathing into Labor because it connects to an electorate where a large majority have neither the time nor inclination to follow politics closely, and whose overriding concern is their own household's wellbeing.

Abbott understands that politics is a simple art beneath the mountain of detail, and he has mastered the art of the simple, pungent message, an art never as simple as it appears.

So when an inner-city Green voter like my friend scorns Abbott as a bogan, he is not merely indulging in cheap snobbery but referring to the cut-through quality that makes Abbott appear an island of humanity in a sea of spin.

At Sydney University he played rugby, in the front row of the scrum, not a place for the faint-hearted. At Oxford, he boxed. In Sydney, he lives a muscular life - surf lifesaver, volunteer bush fire brigade member, and up at dawn every morning for a long cycle. He's physical, not ethereal. He has a big mortgage, a swaggering gait and a history of making gaffes but these qualities have underlined his authenticity to an electorate with a bias towards authenticity.

It is why this accidental leader, who won the Liberal leadership on December 1, 2009, by a single vote in a contest not even he expected to win, has been able to transform federal politics, galvanise a demoralised party and would become prime minister with a thumping majority if an election were held soon.

But I think Abbott, for the first time, has not listened to that essence which connects him with blue-collar voters willing to desert Labor. His decision to join the Greens in opposing, and thus sinking, legislation that will toughen up the Migration Act to allow for offshore processing of asylum seekers is, I think, the first serious misstep of his leadership.

His decision may prove successfully pragmatic but as a matter of principle it has an aura of cant and hypocrisy. The great majority of the people who would vote for an Abbott-led Coalition want strong border protection. It is a core issue. It is a matter of principle. This large constituency loathes the human rights industry and immigration industry thriving off the chaos of current policies. This constituency wants punitive policies in place to end people smuggling. It hates the idea that people can self-select to come to Australia. Above all, this large constituency loathes the idea that thousands of people are gaining permanent residency in Australia after destroying their identity papers.

Abbott's move this week is the move of a gambler with a gambler's nerves. He gambled when he ran for the Liberal leadership, and won against the odds. He gambled when he bet the house on an election over a carbon tax, and won the campaign. That he did not become prime minister was thanks to the two politicians with the lowest Labor-Greens vote in the entire country, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott, who turned local anti-Labor landslides into a mandate for a Labor government.

Yesterday, the government introduced amendments to the Migration Act to enable asylum seekers to be processed in countries that are not signatories to the United Nations convention on refugees, such as Malaysia. The Coalition's opposition to these amendments has produced indignation in the government that is palpable and genuine.

When the Prime Minister stood at the dispatch box during question time on Tuesday to respond to Abbott's goading about her refusal to reopen an immigration centre on Nauru, she thundered: "The national interest requires us to work together to amend the legislation . . . There is only one reason that the Leader of the Opposition did not agree . . . he is terrified that the Malaysia arrangement will work. What he wants to see for this country is more boats because he believes that will serve his political interest."

Cynical words, harsh words, but I think most people will see them as true words.


"Extreme weather" in Australia?

Greenies claim that warming is global and that one of its effects is more extreme weather. So shouldn't we expect all that in Australia too?

Discussing: "Li, F., Roncevich, L., Bicknell, C., Lowry, R. and Ilich, K. 2011. "Interannual variability and trends of storminess, Perth, 1994-2008". Journal of Coastal Research 27: 738-745.


Among the highly publicized changes in weather phenomena that are predicted to attend global warming are increases in the frequency and severity of various types of storms. Storms are a concern of the residents of any coastal city, as high winds, water surges and high-energy waves carry the potential for damage via flooding and erosion.

What was done

Citing "unprecedented public concern" with respect to the impacts of climate change, Li et al. (2011) set out to examine the variability and trends of storminess for the region of the Perth metropolitan coast of Australia. To do so, they conducted an extensive set of analyses using observations of wave, wind, air pressure, and water level over the period 1994-2008. The results of their analysis, in their view, should serve "to validate or invalidate the climate change hypothesis" that rising CO2 concentrations are increasing the frequency and severity of storms.

What was learned

As shown in the figure below, all storm indices showed significant interannual variability over the period of record, but "no evidence of increasing (decreasing) trends in extreme storm power was identified to validate the wave climate change hypotheses for the Perth region."

Annual storm trends defined by (a) stormy hours and (b) number of storm events, as determined by wind speed, significant wave height, non-tidal residual water level, and mean sea level pressure. Adapted from Li et al. (2011).

What it means

As the earth experienced what the IPCC has characterized as unprecedented warming over the past two decades, Perth has not experienced an increase in storm trends. Thus, the results of this study lean toward invalidating the hypothesis of a CO2-induced influence.


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