Vouchers won't fix the TAFE system

Jennifer Westacott and the Business Council of Australia’s proposals for Education and Skills released at the National Press Club today are another disappointing suggestion that fails to recognise the very real issues facing vocational education in this country.

“Better” market information, vouchers, and more governance will do nothing to alleviate the problems facing our TAFEs.  We need more than bandaid solutions to combat the combined forces of under-funding, marketisation, privatisation and cuts to campuses, courses, curriculum and teachers.

At best, the suggested reforms will do nothing.  At worst, they will further shift the costs of education from the government onto students, while doing nothing to address the systemic problems facing TAFE.

The BCA’s announcements today follow Rod Camm, CEO of ACPET, musing in his National Monday Update that it’s time to “move on from the issues we’ve confronted as a consequence of some recent government program failures” (and assumedly from the unscrupulous behaviour of several private, for-profit providers)and time to “consider how we develop a sector that has the flexibility, innovation and yes, quality, necessary to respond to the unprecedented skills changes (and opportunities) we face.”

What the BCA and ACPET are missing is a deep understanding of vocational education, and a commitment to students, teachers and above all – education.

While the BCA may be looking for quick solutions to solve their members’ labour force needs, and ACPET continues to support its members’ opportunities to prosper and profit – the Australian Education Union is working on something bigger.

On Friday 20 October in Sydney, the AEU will be holding its inaugural national TAFE conference The future of public TAFE institutions: new social policy.

The current social settlement in vocational education in Australia is broken, and a new social policy is needed to reimagine the role of TAFE.

This national conference will begin the process of reimagining TAFE’s future as anchor institutions in their communities that support individuals to realise their aspirations; communities to be resilient, strong and socially inclusive, and, industries to be sustainable and innovative and ensure people have access to decent jobs.

This conference will contribute to the development of new social policy in vocational education as the basis for a new social settlement. In particular it will begin the process of developing TAFE’s mission. It will consider what TAFEs should look like and what they should do, including the qualifications that they deliver, and the curriculum and pedagogy that underpin them.

It will bring together academics, researchers, policy makers, teachers and unions, and will be important for the professional development of TAFE teachers.

Speakers include Professor Leesa Wheelahan, Dr Jim Stanford, Professor John Buchanan, Professor Valerie Braithwaite, Professor Anne Jones, John Pardy and Craig Robertson.

Our TAFE system cannot be revitalised with quick fixes.  This conference will be the beginning of a process towards guaranteeing the future of TAFE.

For more information and to book your tickets www.aeufederal.org.au/futureofTAFE

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