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Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela

The Higher Education legislation has finally reached parliament but seems destined for a long process with two sides that do not seem, at this time anyway, to have much common ground. Having passed the House, the next stage will now be a Senate Committee of Review with a report coming late in October [two sitting weeks before parliament rises for the year]. However, on present indications this will simply be an extension of time and little if any movement on the part of involved parties. Hardly seems worth it if no one is going to be prepared to negotiate, give ground, actually discuss, … Maybe that is the idea ? Roll on 2015. Ah well, people will continue to push specific views and the wider population will just have to put up with the politics or tune out.

As the Campus Morning Mail indicates about the process, “There are two proposed lists of organisations and individuals the committee could seek evidence or submissions from” - Labor’s and the Government’s. Perhaps a combination of the two or was that perhaps the bell for the first round ?

While we are still getting doom and gloom statements from various quarters, some people have started to look at the existing situation and actually discuss what is proposed and whether there is genuinely any value to be gained, even if some modifications are desirable with particular aspects. Some simply provide an overview of their thoughts, others target specific areas.

Included among the commentators are Ben Etherington and his “anaemic academics”; Paul Kelly , who indicates “the political system threatens to sit on its hands and deny any solution”; Vin Massaro; Greg Craven looks at four good reasons in favour.

Others include Peter McPhee & Glenn Savage; Gwilym Coucher who finishes by saying “uncertainty erodes confidence in the higher education system, and nobody benefits from that”; and finally, Sandra Harding who concludes her article by saying “While many may not consider this an ideal solution, in the absence of political will to maintain government support at the levels needed, it is the best offer universities have available”.

Interesting aspects linked to this area are also to be found in pieces by Emmaline Bexley; Hannah Forsyth; Leo Goedegebuure; and Jane O’Callaghan Kotzmann.

Others tended to look at specific aspects, especially the potential fee structure, including the most equitable format for this. Some just quoted figures, e.g. $100 000 degrees, though this was refuted by Vicki Thomson, along with a brief description of the “vomit theory” [an interesting concept].

Gavin Moodie presents an interesting article on caps for fees; while Chris Ryan, Bruce Chapman [multiple articles including this one], Tim Higgins and others, have also concentrated on fee structures, rather than the deregulation aspect. It has also been a popular topic for media outlets in articles such as this one by Andrew Trounson or as in this one by Tim Pitman where he suggests what parts of the Reform Bill may be passed or not, and in numerous media discussions.

Are we any closer to some form of solution that will provide a degree of certainty ? [No] Are we likely to know any time soon ? [No] The government seems prepared to allow continuing debate. The opposition groups seem to be digging in even further. With some groups, who knows which way they will eventually go no matter what is being said now. Perhaps it is time to demonstrate a level of bipartisanship, with give and take from all sides. This may allow everyone to find a solution before it reaches a point where the system becomes damaged.

Other Areas of Interest

Chaplaincy in schools just never goes away. For example who would have thought that Chaplaincy would have had two runs in the High Court ? Now we have Chaplaincy in the news again with the scheme being implemented but without the option to have “secular” people in that role. Audrey Statham has an interesting article, for those unsure, about what exactly secular means.

Perhaps of greater interest is that politician who always makes you sure you know how he feels about matters in the education arena. Not sure who ? Having sent his feeling, plus research, to the federal government, they surely know how he feels and what he has to back up his beliefs - good, solid data. Maybe others could learn from him in this regard.

While other areas hog the limelight, TAFE and VET often slip out of view, which is sad to see. Peter Noonan, in a recent article, suggests that “snobbery, policy neglect and funding cuts are steadily eroding Australia’s vocational education and training sector”. If you have benefited from the VET area, have connections with it, or simply value it, this could be worth a few moments of your time to see what he and others are saying.

John Fischetti has looked at ‘Five trends that jeopardise public education around the world’ and come up with some interesting thoughts. In regard to schooling, he concludes that “Australia has a brief window in which to choose the best models from inside and outside the country. We should not accept theories that have already failed in countries that are going backwards on the journey to educate all of their people”. One can’t help but agree with the sentiment.

Lastly, but by no mean least, this was the week when Ian Chubb [Chief Scientist] released Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics : Australia’s Future. These are ‘his recommendations for a strategic approach to science and its related fields’, something which has been needed for a long time. .

You can download a copy of the document here. To hear what he has to say, watch a short video of his appearance on The Drum talking about this. Anyone with a concern about where we have been going with the STEM area and how we can improve what is presently in place, should use both links to see what he recommends, and how he believes we can achieve the aims included.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : Science Teaching Resources [Australian]. It can be accessed via the Resources link in the menu.

Updates have been added to the following pages : Calendar, Conferences, Journals.

7 September 2014.

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