Education is a dynamic process occurring in a continually changing context. The nature and structure of education is influenced by and intertwined with the society, culture and community of which it is a part. In recent decades education has changed significantly. Welch (2013) argues these changes have been affected by “forces well outside education – and all too often, it seems, according to principles that have little to do with education”. Today, more than ever, education functions within a highly political context involving a large range of stakeholders both from outside and inside education. In addition to students and parents, these stakeholders include “communities, governments, political parties, industry and commerce” Each stakeholder seeks to influence the direction and outcomes of education so that their own agendas are met. The organisation and implementation of education continues to be widely debated. Education now operates in a complex context which is influenced by political and economic pressures at both national and global levels. This report discusses the emergence and rise of neoliberalism that has resulted in a refocussing of priorities in education policies and practices.The concept of education and the learning that is offered continually evolves. Education plays a significant role in supporting society to develop and gain the knowledge, skills and attributes a society seeks at a particular time. During the 19th century educating children was significantly influenced by industrialisation and a rapidly growing population. Less child labour was required and, in the name of progress, children were educated to become literate and moral citizens who could contribute to society by providing labour in the work force During the latter part of the 19th century in Australia, state-funded education through legislation became available to the masses, which was “free, secular and compulsory”. The turn of the century saw educational reformists beginning to argue for the need for compulsory secondary education in order to strengthen communities and build the nation. However, educational inequities in opportunities and outcomes remained. The model of education available at this time was not one of equality and inequities continued on the basis of “class, gender, race and geographic location”. Education continued to adapt in a changing context.
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