Statements by Senators – Education, 28 November 2022

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (13:47): Senator Whish-Wilson, I agree with you. Julian Assange needs to be brought back home.

Australian education is in crisis. We are failing our students. We are failing the next generation. In international testing, the performance of Australian students has been nosediving every year since international testing began, and, frankly, it’s not good enough. We are failing to fix a system that is obviously broken.

One of the problems with our schools is that, for too much of every day, students are not engaged in education. Rather, they are engaged in indoctrination. Students are no longer taught how to think but what they should think. They are not being taught to think critically. Our curriculums are crowded with woke programs and alarmist climate indoctrination which have young, impressionable children living in fear of an impending apocalypse that will never come.

Australia also has some of the most disruptive classrooms in the world, with one recent study finding that, on student behaviour, we rank 70 out of 77 countries in the OECD. What we need to do, or should do, is take a leaf out of the book of Katharine Birbalsingh, who has been dubbed Britain’s strictest headmistress. She turned a school for some of London’s poorest students into one of the UK’s stand-out success stories. She created a culture where staff are not only respected but students are performing at an above-average level compared to other similar schools.

What is the secret? It is instilling good old-fashioned values and strict discipline, and, most importantly, implementing a back-to-basics curriculum and an insistence that children behave courteously and work hard. We can turn around our education system, have better outcomes and return to the top of the class if we just go back to basics.