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The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows. Sydney J. Harris

To begin with a positive note, it was pleasing to see a clamp down on some of the rorting that has been occurring with some VET providers. In a release entitled Government’s stronger training laws pass Parliament, Simon Birmingham, indicated a range of measures which had been taken. Interesting to note that support for this was forthcoming from ACPET through Rod Camm, including a later warning to recruitment brokers, TAFE Directors Australia and others.

One could perhaps argue that it did not solve all the problems which existed, especially for a number of individuals, but it was certainly a step in the right direction and one that was sorely needed.

As Stephen Matchett asks - ‘So what happens now in the great debate over the funding future of higher education everybody says is essential ? The short answer is nobody knows, that’s the long answer as well’. In the last few weeks we have seen a range of suggestions, proposals, complex schemes, concessions, “threats”, further rubbishing, denials, and everything else you can consider, desirable or otherwise.

After all that, we are back to where it started more than 12 months ago. A monumental waste of time and effort. Blame can be apportioned wherever you feel appropriate. The government certainly has a significant share to carry. If you have been following the process at all, I do not need to repeat the litany of negative comments about the overall process from sudden announcement to handling the cross benches, to implied cuts if it was not passed, … . However, this does not excuse others from their share either. A willingness to engage in discussion with a view to changing what was being offered may possibly have ended up in a process that was beneficial for everyone, both now and in the future.

A number of others have perceived this difficulty. Peter Beattie, in a recent article, indicated that if funding reforms are not achieved, we will be left behind. He stresses that ‘Only bipartisanship can end the nonsense’. David Leyonhjelm as part of an interview, indicated engaging with government allowed he and others to achieve changes.

While not always agreeing with Gavin Moodie, his article Six steps the government can take to pass deregulation makes considerable sense. Vicki Thomson, on behalf of the Group of Eight, suggests an independent committee [with no politicians] on a specific time frame. This has aspects of Nick Xenophon’s suggestion for a review but Thomson’s belief is politicians have become too polarised for any meaningful result to be achieved.

Belinda Robinson has indicated the defeat ‘has created a terrific opportunity for all parliamentarians to participate in a more comprehensive and inclusive process for having a look at all the options’. Not quite the same, but at least getting people together. Attila Brungs [UTS] agrees that there is a real opportunity at the moment. Certainly, if the government intends to return higher education legislation during the winter session, it needs to consider some of these options first and delay any such return until the chosen options is completed.

For those who argue for free higher education, they could do worse than read Bruce Chapman who covers this concept, stating ‘Free universities means free to students, not free generally’. As one who has been involved intimately in this area for many years,including the Hawke era changes, he has the gravitas to make such a comment.

While not directly on higher education deregulation, a piece by Paul Kelly gives rise to concern about any meaningful reform ever being achieved. If I wasn’t depressed before, I may just have been by the time I finished reading it. If you have read it, how did you feel about the future and the chances of reform ?

Finally, while they have been effective in opposing the present offering, one wonders what Labor actually stands for. There are hints. The word “compacts” keeps appearing but without a clear explanation. What will be the consequences of whatever their developing plan is ?. You might also find some answers in this piece from The Conversation. As Warren Bebbington indicates “The big picture for me is the Labor platform, we need to hear what the party has to offer”. Something positive would certainly be better than just the negative approach so far taken.

Meanwhile a group including Universities Australia, Business Council of Australia and others, have released a National Work Integrated Learning Strategy. You can find further detail in this Media release. The aim behind the process is to assist graduates become more “job ready”, an essential in a period when graduate employment is no longer as easy or certain as it was.

Other Areas of Interest

We thought it might be interesting to go back to previous items and let you decide see whether something has actually changed. The first of these is Primary school science education - is there a winning formula ?. What do you think ? Is there a winning formula ? Have things changed or not where you are and/or across the system ?

Meanwhile in other parts of the world … . Creativity is an area much in the news, in education as well as other areas. An interesting report from Stephan Turnipseed and Linda Darling-Hammond, Accountability is more than Test Score, looks at how aspects of the American system undermine the development of this. Are they correct ? More importantly, does the same thing happen here ?

We have now completed the link-by-link checking, removal, replacement, expansion of the 21 000+ links on the site. At the same time, we are working with the range of data now collated to look at what does and does not appear of value, and what we do as a result. In an age when there is access to much more information, on virtually every educational aspect, than when we started it is important we concentrate on what you are finding useful. There is certainly startling variation between page usages across the site from a total of 4 page visits over the nominated periods to 11 000 plus. Some hard [?] decisions are just around the corner.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : Remaining Australian History pages, Competitions, Teacher Librarians, Teacher Assessment. They can be accessed via the Curriculum, Resources and Teacher links in the menu.

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

22 March 2015.

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