U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets students from several Sydney high schools
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets students from several Sydney high schools during his visit aboard a replica of Captain Cook's ship 'Endeavour' at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, August 11, 2014. Reuters/Jason Reed

To enhance academic standards in Australian schools, rolling out of more privately-owned public schools as in the United States can help. This has been mooted by libertarian think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, in a recent report.

In the U.S., such schools do not charge fees and they boost innovation by giving more freedom and choice for disadvantaged students, according to the report's lead author, Trisha Jha.

The report said these privately-run public schools -- also known as charter schools, operate in the U.S. with funding from the government though they are run by private entities with full autonomy in schools' finances, staffing and curriculum, reports Brisbane Times.

“Disadvantaged families are not currently catered for, either because their choice of public school is restricted by zoning, or because they cannot afford school fees, or they do not want a religious education for their children,” the report said.

In the report, the think tank made a controversial proposal to state and territory governments to consider for-profit private companies to run the charter schools. It said a for-profit school can attract more capital than non-profits, and the school can be run more efficiently.

But there are also critics who argue that charter schools fall short of better results when compared to public schools and more competition in the sector will breed greater inequality. They also warn against financial mismanagement and fraud in the sector.

Victorian schools

Meanwhile, Victoria’s experiments in adding more autonomy to public schools in terms of budget and staffing had positive effects and made its education systems one of the most autonomous in the country. Those initiatives were taken by former Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett.

According to Victorian Education Minister James Merlino, autonomy led to "some great local innovation" in schools but the policies of the previous Napthine government's "autonomy agenda" to set up "federated" school councils led to “cuts and abandonment.” Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the Australian government has been increasing autonomy in schools and has already allocated AU$70 million to make public schools more independent.

Gay film in school

Meanwhile, NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli clamped a ban on schools from screening a gay film on Aug.27, reports SMH.

Piccoli banned all public schools in the state from screening a documentary on children with gay parents during school hours. The minister’s memo to the state's principals instructed not to show the film “Gayby Baby” to avoid its impact on the delivery of planned lessons.

Some 50 schools across Australia, including 20 in NSW, had organised a simultaneous broadcast of the film as part of a nationwide Wear it Purple day campaign over sexual inclusion in schools. A spokeswoman for the minister clarified that the decision was taken to avoid students missing out on class and screening the film can be considered, provided it is an integral part of the planned curriculum for an age appropriate group.

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