Philanthropy and School Education
- Margery Evans, Chief Executive Officer of AITSL, 10 July 2013.
I like to think all of us in Australia have a spirit of generosity and a willingness to use our collective time, talent and resources to help others. The Australian Giving Trends report highlights that in 2012, 4.4 million Australians donated an average of $373 a year. This is in addition to funds provided through corporate giving and through charitable trusts and foundations.
There are also countless organisations providing scholarships and financial assistance to students, families and schools to promote ongoing access to, and participation in, education. This is a vitally important contribution, and long may it continue.
However, philanthropy is much broader than the provision of scholarships and financial aid, and relatively little is known about its intersection with school education.
The most comprehensive study into this has been undertaken by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) as part of their Leading Learning in Education and Philanthropy (LLEAP) work.
A growing focus on schools engaging more with philanthropy presents a number of important questions about who is setting the agenda and highlights a range of understandably different views. Naturally those who are generously donating funds should have full discretion over where funds are directed and how they are spent. Equally, when it comes to school education, our school leaders should be in a position to provide expert advice about school and community need and aspiration.
I have a real concern about how we build bridges between schools and those with resources to assist in the complex task of overcoming disadvantage and inequity. The dilemma rests between schools contorting their needs and aspirations to fit within tight funding guidelines and potential donors often having limited direct advice from teachers and school leaders about how funds can make a sustained impact over time.
In response to a recommendation from the Review of Funding for Schooling, the Australian Government has recently announced the establishment of a $5 million philanthropic fund to attract new resources for schools in need. In addition to this initial investment, the fund aims to generate up to $10 million per year to further support schools. This model is not uncommon, with initiatives such as the Education Endowment Foundation in the UK demonstrating both the need for, and impact of, this approach.
In addition to more traditional philanthropy, there is an increasing global trend towards online giving. The largest example of this in education is the website Donors Choose, which has generated over $180 million for students and schools in the US. In Australia, crowd funding website Pozible is averaging $1 million of new giving every month, with a small number of schools now utilising this platform.
Through Pozible, Mahogany Rise Primary School (VIC) has raised over $11,000 for an international exchange program to Scotland and Kingswood High School (NSW) has raised over $1000 for their Film Festival. The teachers leading these campaigns, Daniel Riley and Tim Creighton in particular, deserve much praise and recognition.
One of the most significant challenges with this type of online campaign is that it requires us to think differently about building communities of interest around our schools. Our communities no longer need to be defined by geography, or by a direct personal relationship with the school, and instead can connect with the hearts and minds of a much broader audience.
At AITSL, we’re particularly interested in what this means for teachers and school leaders and how it highlights the transition in our profession from school leader to community leader. Building communities, telling our stories and driving complex partnerships may not be new concepts for teachers and school leaders, but how, where and why this work occurs is certainly shifting.
Has your school had any engagement with philanthropy?