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The Perceptions Of The Australian Education System

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Introduction

My Personal Interest Project focuses on the perceptions of the Australian education system. Through this project I have aimed to discover the differing perceptions of the education system, within different generations and ethnic groups. I chose to focus on two different ethnic groups, Australians and Indian migrants living in Australia. My focus sparked from the stereotypes that society has created, in regards to Indian people and the way they view education. From my standpoint, Indian people have been portrayed as highly intelligent yet tremendously strict in the way they treat their child’s education. Throughout my Personal Interest Project, I wanted to access whether or not this was true.

The use of primary research was crucial in this Personal Interest Project, in order to gather both quantitative and qualitative information relevant to my topic. The two primary research methodologies used included; interviews and questionnaires. These research methods were implemented as I found them to be the best suited for the topic chosen. I conducted various interviews with both Indian migrant and Australian parents from Generation Y and Generation Baby Boomers. Each individual was asked a series of open-ended questions in which allowed for in depth, concise data to be gathered. This data was eminently useful in identifying the perceptions of the education system as well as the analysis of changing and continuing perceptions of the Australian education system. The interviews allowed to me understand the beliefs and values of both Australian parents and Indian migrant parents. The interviews also allowed for the contrasting values to become clear. The questionnaire conducted consisted of both open and closed questions in regards to an individual’s personal experience with the Australian education system.

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The questionnaire allowed an individual to express their beliefs and opinions in regards to the topic. The questionnaire was sent out through google forms, to parents of various generations, although it was specifically aimed towards those of Generation Y and Generation. The clear and concise layout of the questionnaire allowed for valid and resourceful responses, in which contributed greatly to the reliability of this Personal Interest Project. Through the questionnaire, I aimed to uncover whether there was an ideology of the Australian education system within the two cultures and the two generations. Through the questionnaire I was able to analysis, synthesis and interpret my findings, which were interpreted into graphs and tables through Google Forms. Secondary research was also gathered for my Personal Interest Project. Scholarly articles, journals and reports relevant to my topic were analysed and summarised. The secondary information gathered reinforced the research conducted through the primary methodologies utilised.

Continuity and change was addressed through the generational differences and similarities of Generation Y and Generation Baby Boomers as a whole. The continuity and change of the ideologies, beliefs and values of Australian and Indian migrants throughout these generations was also explored.

Through my research and the execution of this Personal Interest Project, I have become further aware of the way persons within societies and cultures view education.

Log

I began brainstorming concepts and ideas for potential Personal Interest Project late last year, along with the help of my fellow classmates and my teacher, who had provided a variety of resources for inspiration. I came across a few ideas that I liked, and skim read over previous Personal Interest Projects. The idea for my project sprung from a conversation I had with my sister. She spoke of her experience as a teacher, and how she found that certain factors influenced how parents viewed the education system. I wanted to investigate whether this conception was true.

Coming from an Australian background and living in Australia, I wanted to explore the perceptions that Australian parents have on the education system, as the information could be collected and interpreted quite easily. During this time I hadn’t exactly decided what my cross cultural comparison would be. I began considering exploring Asian culture as I had been exposed to stereotypes that depict people of Asian descent as being incredibly strict when it comes to their child’s education. I knew that this would be far too broad, considering Asia is subdivided I’m forty eight countries. I narrowed my choices down to Chinese Culture and Indian Culture, as I found most interest in these cultures. It was when I began to write my Project Proposal that I determined that I would investigate the perceptions of parent of Indian culture, living in Australia.

With the feedback received from my Project Proposal, I began to consider ways in which I could carry out my primary research. I came to the conclusion that questionnaires would be one methodology to utilise. The questionnaire allowed for a variety of close-ended and open-ended questions to be answered. The results from the questionnaire could then be analysed, synthesised and interpreted into statistics for my Central Material. During this time I had also decided to conduct interviews to contribute to my primary data.

As time went on, I began to conduct interviews with Australian and Indian migrant parents from both Generation Y and Generation Baby Boomers. Through the interviews conducted I was able to gain in depth information and my understanding of the participants views was widened, which was quite complementary to the data I collected through the questionnaire.

I began collecting and collating my secondary information in conjunction with my interviews. Researching into articles, statistics and previous studies allowed me to broaden my understanding of the history of Australia’s education system and how far it has come over the past generations. This secondary data assisted in shaping my Central Material and allowed me to back up the data collected from my primary research methodologies.

With the completion of this Personal Interest Project I was able to reflect on my research and my understanding. When writing my conclusion I was able to come to the realisation that through this Personal Interest Project, that I had become a more socially and culturally literate person.

Chapter One: Cultural differences and perceptions

Existing for over 200 years, Australia’s education system has:

Throughout time, education has proven to be of utmost importance and the core of many societies and cultures. Education is an essential component to achieving and succeeding in one’s life course. This is especially true for western cultures, in which formal education is pivotal in gaining employment, thereby successfully contributing to the economy. When looking at different cultures, in the case of this project, Australian and Indian culture, it is clear to see how beliefs, values, ideologies and traditions have contributed to the perceptions that the persons of these cultures encompass towards the Institutional power that exists within the Australian Primary, Secondary and University education system.

The Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, describes Australia as “A nation that values the role of education in building a democratic, equitable and just society- one that is prosperous, cohesive, culturally diverse…” (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011). This statement establishes and encompasses the underlying values of Australian culture in relation to education, those being democracy, equity and justice. This statement is further supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Home Affairs statement, in which all Australians must confirm once they have reached the age of 18. “Australian society values respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, freedom of religion, commitment to the rule of law, Parliamentary democracy, equality of men and women…” (Department of Home Affairs, 2018). Through the research conducted, it was clear to see how these societal values have impacted the way Australian parents, as well as Indian migrant parents living in Australia view education and the importance they place upon it.

When asked how important education was to them, each and every participant, regardless of their ethnicity or culture, believed that education was one of the main foundations to life’s success. This was reflected in the questionnaire results, with 12.2% of participants rating the importance of their child’s education a 4 out of 5 and 87.8% of participants rating the importance of their child’s education a 5 out of 5. This notion was further explored throughout the interviews, where participants were able to express their thoughts more extensively. It was easier to discern the cultural differences in the interviews in regards to the importance of education, evident in the responses given. The responses from both Australian parents and Indian migrant parents are a reflection of the societal values and beliefs that have been ingrained upon them.

One participant believed that education “is the root of everything that goes around. It just helps you discern, and it helps the world around you and of course it gives you more opportunity to grow and be a better person, not just financially but overall.”

Australian perceptions

A recurring trend found within the questionnaire was that Australian parents perceived the Australian Education System teaching methods as ineffective. One area of concern was the teachers themselves, as one Australian parent states “The teachers think they know everything. Too obnoxious.”

Secondary info

In February 2013, Universities Australia conducted a research project in which aimed to gather an understanding of Australian public views of universities. The results of this study concluded that 58% of Australians perceived universities as ‘Mildly positive’.

Indian migrant perceptions

The perceptions that Indian migrant withhold are heavily influenced by the values and beliefs practiced within the rich Indian culture.

Every parent wants what is best for their child, especially in regards to education. The capability of the Australian education system to provide what is best for their child is a great concern for both Australian and Indian migrant parents with children attending Primary, Secondary and University level education. This was evident in the interviews conducted for the purposes of this Personal Interest Project. The interviews allowed for the establishment of perceptions and governed whether or not beliefs and values played a role in influencing these perceptions.

Chapter Two: Generational influences

Generational differences are what often divide us as a society. These differences come in various forms, including language, popular culture, technology and education. These factors are what define a generation and often have the capability of influencing, shaping and creating values and beliefs. At times, we feel as though our parents do not understand us, as we find ourselves encapsulated by the trends that shaped our generation. In the case of this Personal Interest Project, Generation Baby Boomers and Generation Y were looked at specifically.

Making up 22% of the Australian population (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016), Generation Y is made up of today’s societies parents, leaders and influencers. Growing up in a time of technological elevation and development, Generation Y has benefited greatly from the resources presented before them. Born between 1977 and 1995, Generation Y can be defined as the ‘Nintendo Generation’ the ‘Internet Generation’ or ‘Millennials’. With the influx of Aboriginal rights, women’s rights in the corporate world and Pauline Hanson, Generation Y’s political climate has greatly influenced many of the values and beliefs expressed by individuals. In comparison, Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1966) contribute to 23.7% of the Australian population (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014). The work centric individuals of this period were shaped by post WWII, the increase in peace and harmony movements and the rebellious notion of Rock n Roll. The beginning of this generation was defined by high rates of immigration, marriage and fertility, as well as higher rates of female participation in the workforce.

Over time, changes have occurred within the Australian education system, in different areas such as discipline and curriculum. Australia education has been reshaped in many aspects.

Suggested changes

The questionnaire revealed that there has been a slight shift in the attitude that parents possess towards the Australian education system. From the parents of the Baby Boomer Generation, to Generation Y, there is a clear sense that One of the main notions conveyed was that Australian schools should ultimately go back to basics. The idea of going back to basics was generally expressed by parents of the Baby Boomer Generation, who believed that in Australian schools, “teachers are teaching outside of their subject area” and that “too many subjects are being taught”. This idea is furthermore conveyed by the ASG Parents Report Card 2016, in which provides examples of Australian parents perceptions. This includes that “Teachers are so bogged down in what is in the curriculum that it doesn’t leave enough time to teach the basics” (ASG, 2016).

Personal experience is a key component in measuring how an individual interprets and understands something. Through the primary research conducted via interviews and questionnaire, the personal experience in regards to their own period of schooling as well as their personal experience of their child’s schooling, was required from the participants. Through the questionnaire, participants were asked to rate their personal experience in school in relation to various factors, of which included: grades, friendships, teachers and sporting activities.

Chapter three: Migrant Contribution

“Australia’s health system would collapse without the contribution of Indian Migrants” (Asian Century Institute, 2014).

A key focus of this Personal Interest Project was to look at how one’s ethnicity and culture may affect their perceptions or understandings of education. This chapter specifically explores the contribution of Indian Migrant individuals to Australian society.

According to the latest figures released by the Federal Government, Australia is the most popular destination for migration. Forming 1.9% of the Australian population, according to the responses of the 2016 census (ABS, 2016), Indian migrants have made a significant contribution to Australian society. This is especially evident in the areas of academia and the economy, with Indian born taxpayers generating almost $8 billion in the year 2011-12 (ABS).

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