BHP funding strikes fears for education

The WA State School Teachers Union and ALP have raised concerns over the corporatisation of education following reports of a $6.8 million BHP Billiton education sponsorship.

The West Australian reports that under its sponsorship contract with the state Government BHP has committed $2.8 million towards education and training in the Pilbara

It has also contributed $4 million to the refurbishment of Hedland Senior High School.

But in return for the funding the Government must promote the partnership through its magazine.

It must also push BHP’s graduate, cadetship, apprenticeship, and scholarship programs.

Opposition education spokesperson Ben Wyatt said he welcomed corporate philanthropy but did not support “… the Education Department becoming a PR service for corporate Australia”.

Teacher union president Anne Gisborne said corporate sponsorship deals should be commended for providing extra opportunities to regional students.

But she said the arrangements should not be used as reasons for the Government to cut its own funding.

“We don’t want to see Government increase its dependence on this type of funding and therefore cut back on its own funding,” she said.

RMIT University lecturer Alan Montague told Australian Mining earlier this year Australia’s education system needed more funding.

“The secondary system in Australia needs a shakeup, and we need more money injected into TAFE so the bridge to industry allows companies to select from much larger numbers of workers,” he said.

He said the school system needed to turn its focus towards science and maths to address Australia’s skills shortage.

“We need a much more interesting and engaging curriculum in the secondary system to develop more science skills,” he said.

Montague said it was not only mining companies that should be lobbying and funding the Government’s education programs but other sectors as well.

A BHP spokesperson said the company’s education sponsorship was part of its contribution to sustaining the communities and regions in which it operated.

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