The price of modelling has scared me away. (I'm young)Modelling or collecting? That's a question, not a criticism.
This question was being asked when I was a kid in the 50/60's.
In a way, it is good to see it is still being asked.
I see the biggest problem is poor quality, But still having a product that fits the purpose for example if you want a four year old to enjoy a model, a Thomas the tank engine is the obvious first point of interest, they are on the outside a reasonably robust model but the driving gears are woeful, I was buying them fairly often to replace my sons habit of striping them. This sort of replacement is easy enough with a good set of tools but most dads buying their son (or daughter) a first set won't be so well set up. What's needed is everything that comes in that kind of basic set and it to be strong and reliable, you could almost get away with a timber model if it went reliably, kids would still want to get the whole set, my son now five has just saved his pocket money to buy 'Henry' and is $5 into saving for 'James' he loves his trains but its because I can keep them going, if I couldn't his layout would be a storage space for something else. These models are made so they can't be passed down like the old Lima slot car 44's but limiting the life span so much is just sheer greed and it is something that would put most off when considering buying more of the same.Yes you have hit on something that until pretty recent times was not the case everything today is made to be thrown away after it packs up. I used to be able to get spare parts for the cheap LifeLike locomotives that we use on the NRM layout with parts the same loco could last years or more. But When Walthers took over Lifelike suddenly the parts dried up, they wont even repair them themselves either just telling you to buy a new one. At only $30 each in the States I suppose you cannot blame them, but those that still buy their trainsets are in for a shock when it finally goes though.
Also, schools don't see the educational benefits in running or supporting programs like this, and of course the students didn't help to raise funds. It still angers me to see sports programs, which I personally despise, receiving millions of dollars, and money distribution, comparatively, is unequal. Sports programs give the typically obnoxious 'Footy Jocks' their moment to shine, where in actual fact some of the more note worthy and intellectual pursuits were being overlooked. The sports fund wouldn't even prop up the well attended special education coquet club.You should try the US if you think there's too much money being spent on Sports in Australian schools! Not really relevant to what you're saying of course but couldn't help the observation. My (American) wife likes to compare what is spent on football with how her debate club had to raise its own money to hire (as opposed to owning like the football team) a a bus to go to debates.