Jacqueline Magee | Cohort 2 Associate | Hometown: Townsville QLD
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
Manager | Centre for New Public Education at the Foundation for Young Australians
Jacqueline Magee moved around Australia a lot when she was growing up. Living in a number of remote towns and regional communities, she saw that there were choices available to her that weren’t available to everyone with whom she went to school. While she was lucky enough to have a family that highly valued education, she realised that for a range of reasons many other kids didn’t have strong educational support.
It was a defining realisation for Jacqueline and one that eventually led her to sign up to teach for two years in a disadvantaged school with the Teach For Australia program.
Jacqueline was determined to do her part to change the fact that Australia’s high performing education system is one of the least equitable in the developed world. She couldn’t accept that a child born in the “wrong” postcode who lives in a low-income household or who has parents who didn’t finish high school is less likely to have access to a quality education and to do well at school.
Three years teaching at Mill Park Secondary College in Epping, Victoria, only strengthened her commitment to improving educational inequity. After completing the two-year Teach For Australia program, Jacqueline decided that she could have the greatest impact on educational equality by “applying the insights from the classroom to work at the system level”. Instead of returning to the school, she took up a position as Manager for an educational not-for-profit organisation.
“I was presented with an opportunity to have an impact on education from a systemic level. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still working for the same kids and for the same reason but in a slightly different way. I’m trying to change the game as much as one person can.”
For Jacqueline, the first step to changing the game is recognising that there is a problem with access to education in Australia.
“I’ve heard it said that Australia is a high equity country in terms of its student outcomes and in a comparative international sense, we are,” says Jacqueline.
“But we can’t really rest on our laurels unless we’re okay with the fact that being indigenous or being from a low socioeconomic community or living in a regional or rural area means that your outcomes aren’t going to be as good. I don’t accept that we are.”
Jacqueline stresses that educational inequity can be significantly mitigated by social policy reform.
“Any structural reforms that occur in pursuit of closing the gap in education have to focus on teaching and learning while supporting the people that are in classrooms all over the country, trying to make an impact on this problem every day.”