There has been a dearth of exposure in the media, but the Business Council of Australia is proposing a revamp of the education system that would be nothing short of a revolution. The BCA wants Australia to develop a culture of lifelong learning and to abandon the dichotomy between Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training, placing the two on an equal footing, and a new role for business in the education sector.
It says it is essential to alter the view that Vocational Education and Training is a second-class citizen to Higher Education. It states the VET sector receives less funding now than a decade ago, government funding for the HE sector remains unresolved, and the sectors operate as silos.
“The perverse incentives will remain, and students will continue to be treated unfairly. Students will be encouraged into HE over VET, regardless of the suitability of the sector for the learner.
“The VET sector will increasingly become residualised to trades training, and this will happen at a time when Australian industries desperately need tertiary education that is responsive to their needs. Allowing the sectors to act as silos will come at an increased cost to taxpayers, and lead to uninformed decisions by learners and a lack of response to industry.”
Australia needs a national consensus on the purpose and priorities of universal formal education
The BCA says, while Australia has a national consensus that formal education is a priority, it does not have a national consensus on the purpose or priorities of universal formal education. It wants acceptance that education must be as much about training for work as about imparting broad general knowledge and creating informed citizens.
It seeks a single tertiary education system which provides a shared governance model and a single, sector-neutral funding model. The BCA says Germany’s dual training scheme “demonstrates the value of a high-quality and respected VET system”.
“In Year 10, German students choose a vocational, academic or mixed pathway. Students who choose the vocational pathway split their time between participation in classroom learning at a vocational school and on-the-job training at a company. The training is subject to a regulated agreement between the student, employer and vocational school.
“There are 330 officially recognised training occupations and training content is continually updated through cooperation between government, industry and trade unions. Vocational training is a highly respected career path in Germany, reflected by the fact that 50% of all students choose it.”
Australia’s HE and VET sectors “should focus on achieving outcomes relevant to who they are educating”
To do so, the BCA says, VET and HE sectors will need to:
- Embrace need-based funding,
- Recognise multiple forms of intelligence,
- Embrace multiple styles of engagement and learning,
- Empower and support teachers, and
- Take a new approach to help young people prepare for the future.
“Young people are expected to have multiple careers and … employers, and will be expected to upskill and reskill countless times. A traditional model of career counselling is not consistent with this new world. We propose that governments establish a single platform for market information to enable people to make informed decisions about tertiary education.
“The key to the proposal is that when people are considering tertiary education they start with two questions:
- What am I good at?
- What I do like/am passionate about/am inspired by?
“People then narrow down the kind of tertiary education they would like to do. This process should be brought into the schooling system, and from a very early age.”
The BCA also believes a universal tertiary system needs to be funded by government and the individual.
“We must have a realistic conversation about the trade-offs between access to tertiary education and how it is funded, and how we ensure the system is fair and sustainable for all Australians.
“Governments should fund tertiary education through two mechanisms – a subsidy and access to an income-contingent loan. A costing exercise should be undertaken to establish a base from which to determine the efficient cost of tertiary education, and the ratios of private and public contribution.
The quality of education is supposed to be improved by raising the quality of teaching
“It will also be important to define what we mean by teacher quality. The creation of an index for teaching quality could enable schools to have the data they need to improve their performance.”
It says the proposed system will require early learning and primary schools to:
- Provide a strong foundation for all learners that is not limited to literacy, numeracy, and digital capacity,
- Provide for community-wide values,
- Support play, fun, and development of creativity,
- Set learners on a path for higher learning.
Outcomes the BCA proposes for schooling are:
- A foundation that delivers to graduates the minimum levels of literacy, numeracy and technology-knowhow to effectively communicate, interact and work,
- The ability to think, participate and contribute,
- Depth of knowledge in core areas of English, the humanities, maths, sciences, and technology
- A foundation for future learning.
It wants young people leaving the education system to:
- Be prepared for the world of work, not just for a single job or employer,
- Be equipped with behaviours, such as adaptability, resilience and the knowledge that no one wins all the time, self-awareness, collaboration and a customer focus.
BCA wants the education system to become more learner-focused
BCA wants the learning process to be oriented towards an individual and their unique skills, recognise multiple forms of intelligence, and support a range of pathways including further study.
“It is unrealistic to think that a system oriented to one type of learning or intelligence could achieve positive outcomes for all learners. The reality is there is not a single and homogenous form of intelligence or style of learning. “
The BCA acknowledges an entitlement scheme is a more difficult funding model for government management of budget exposure than an allocative model and says that a priority for the federal government will be to make demand-driven funding in HE fiscally sustainable. It plans discussions with government and educators to bring about the transformation it seeks.
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