Australia has one of the highest-quality systems of medical research in the world. It has helped underpin the high standing of Australia’s health system — it’s ranked as one of the finest in the world.
An interesting Australian discussion about the public interest implications when we apply the biomedical expectations and requirements for consent to school-based research. In practice, the considerations are different. For example, the need to discuss time away from learning and peer-group considerations are likely to be more pertinent than matters relating to physical risks. Are these matters best considered by teaching staff, as part of their loco parentis?
Australia’s National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research is the primary guidance not only for medical research in Australia but for most research involving people, which includes education. But the harm and impact of educational programs — that are, on the surface, deemed important to educational improvements and well-being — face far less scrutiny in the applications process than do those of medical research.
No-one wants our children to be used as research guinea pigs. High standards of ethical oversight are needed to ensure no child is exposed to possible harm. While the medical research ethics model was developed to provide exactly this level of protection, perversely, in education, it may be exposing our children to harm.