The Future of Schools: Lessons from the Reform of Public Education

The Future of Schools: Lessons from the Reform of Public Education

The Future of Schools: Lessons from the Reform of Public Education

The Future of Schools: Lessons from the Reform of Public Education


This text provides an analysis of the efforts to establish systems of self- managing schools around the world. The core of this book is the description of the transformation of the education system in the state of Victoria, Australia, from dependence in a highly centralized and bureaucratized structure to one that values local decision making and the creation of a system of self-managing schools. The text goes on to show how these and similar programmes in other nations could lay the foundations for similar reform.; The authors propose that there must be changes in the role of key stakeholders, including government, community and profession; traditional approaches must be challenged and new ways to fund schools to be canvassed.


Public education continues to be the subject of major reform around the world. Despite profound changes that have occurred in many places, there is a broadly held view that things are not right and that more needs to be done. This book is a reflection on what has occurred in recent years and offers a policy framework for further action intended to achieve lasting school reform in the public sector.

We believe this is the first book to be co-authored by a former Minister for Education and a currently serving Professor of Education, and only the second to be authored by a Minister of the Crown following a sweeping reform in public education in the modern era, the first being from the pen of Kenneth Baker, former Secretary of State for Education in Britain, who served immediately before and following the 1988 Education Reform Act. It is important to set down the reasons why this book was written and to explain why we came together to accomplish these purposes.

Former Ministers frequently write to ‘set the record straight’, describing and explaining the events of office, giving reasons why actions were taken or not taken, often revisiting matters of particular public note. As Minister for Education during the first term of the Kennett Liberal National Government in Victoria, serving from October 1992 to April 1996, Don Hay ward embarked on the most dramatic transformation of public schooling in Australia, known as Schools of the Future. There is likely to be public interest in his account.

Schools of the Future was not the only major change at the time. On assuming office, the Government was faced with the task of reducing a crippling public sector debt that was placing the future of the State in jeopardy. As Minister, Don Hayward was required to manage the task in the Education Portfolio. It is only by recounting his early life experiences and his period as Shadow Minister for Education prior to assuming office that one can separate Schools of the Future from these other events, revealing it to be a coherent and thoughtful plan, some may describe it as a vision, for a future of public education in Victoria that would raise the quality of schooling and be more responsive to the interests of students and their families. It is only by appreciating this vision that one can also see that the work is unfinished.

Brian Caldwell is Professor of Education at the University of Melbourne who has had a scholarly interest for more than two decades in an approach to the management of schools that was a key component of Schools of the Future, namely, the decentralization of authority, responsibility and accountability to the school level. This started with his doctoral research on the pioneering scheme of school-based budgeting in Edmonton, Alberta in the late 1970s, and gathered momentum in the early 1980s in studies of effective schools in Tasmania and South Australia.

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