According to social researcher Dr Christina Ho, ethnic segregation is becoming entrenched in selective high schools throughout Australia. In the study, Dr Ho, from the University of Technology Sydney, uncovered a distinct pattern of cultural disparity, with few Anglo-Australians attending selective government schools.
In Melbourne, for example, more than 90 percent of Mac.Robertson Girls High School students come from migrant families. At Nossal High School, the numbers are similar, with just under 90 percent of pupils from a migrant family background. Language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE) dominate admissions at elite selective schools, with Chinese and Indian backgrounds the most common.
Migrants appreciate elite selective schools
Just under 10 percent of Australians speak an Asian language at home, so it comes as a surprise that almost every selective high school has such high numbers of LBOTE pupils. It could be that high student fees are a barrier to migrants sending their children to private schools. Public selective schools are well known for achieving academic results well above average, so the reluctance for parents to send Anglo-Australians to these schools is a disturbing trend.
“Anglo-Australians’ shunning of public selective schools is less explicable, particularly among those families with talented children who might achieve the required standard on the selective schools [entry] test,” said Dr Ho. Her findings have been published in the Australia Review of Public Affairs journal.
Anglo-Australians becoming the minority
According to some analysis, the “white flight” of Anglo-Australian students turning away from elite selective schools has come about due to a reluctance to attend school as an ethnic minority amongst migrants. An analysis of school photos during recent decades shows the dramatic change in ethnic make-up of selective high school students.
Dr Ho cautiously surmises that the current trend could lead to a highly unbalanced racial mix in school communities. It would seem her research is looking back rather than forward, as the scenario she fears is the one that already exists. Instead of selective schools representing diversity in society, they have become a haven for segregated migrant student populations.
Even Principals of some elite selective schools seem to have a difficult time accepting the situation. Jeremy Ludowyke, the principal of Melbourne High School, said “We don’t see a white flight expressed in the pattern of applications,” even though 60 percent of his students are from families where at least one parent was born outside Australia.