We are now days away from the Federal Budget, and speculations have run amok in the news and on social media. The government faces an uphill battle when it comes to pleasing everyone. But despite its best efforts, our government’s decisions don’t always reflect what the Australian public truly cares about. So our Insights Team has been analysing conversations on social and in traditional media around education and this year’s budget reveals an interesting picture of what people really think of the changes.

The overall outlook

Education is a big concern to Australians, perhaps more than the government realises. In the news, 21 percent of conversations around the Budget have focused on education, while on social media, it’s making up 38 per cent.

Sentiment has also varied. In the news, positive articles expressed how lucky Australians were to have access to tertiary education, while negative articles focused on the Gonski 2.0 ‘funding wars’. Online, the posts with neutral tones were predominantly from users sharing news articles. The negative conversations focused heavily on Turnbull’s proposed reforms not supporting innovation in the country or that these funding cuts mimicked previous Budgets too closely.

Surprisingly, hardly any discussions around education were positive — with 1 percent of positive stories in the news and no positive conversations online at all. The two most contentious issues, both on social and in traditional media, have been the University price hikes and the needs-based school funding reforms.

University price hikes and funding cuts

In the wake of the news that university price hikes and funding cuts were on the cards, discussions around education have become even more heated. Online, people are arguing that the government is coming down too hard on young Australians, with graduates now forced to start HECS repayments when they start earning $42,000 a year. According to media reports, student fees will also rise 8 per cent, and many Australians are voicing concerns about the impact of this.

Of all the conversations happening online about education, tertiary education received the majority of negative social media coverage, with people saying that University students and low income earners were being “attacked” and were “copping it” from the government.

School funding reforms

While funding will increase for some schools, independent Catholic schools are furious at receiving funding cuts, which they argue will negatively impact many families who won’t be able to afford the higher school fees. The media was quick to jump on this debate and make it seem as if the public were extremely upset about it. However, online these conversations skew a different way, with many arguing that Catholic schools need to accept needs-based funding.

It’s clear that education funding is of great concern to the people, with the university price hikes in particular causing distress. If Australians are placing such a high value on education funding, the government should tap into this knowledge to make more informed decisions. Gathering insights from both traditional and social media allows governments to keep in touch with what Australians are really concerned about. It’s important the government takes advantage of the technology available and use the insight to inform policies that more closely aligns to what everyday Australians want.

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