A single system for running universities and vocational education, putting literacy and numeracy first, business incubators in schools and individual careers advisers could be part of a radical overhaul of education.
The chancellor of Western Sydney University and former head of John Howard’s Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peter Shergold, said too many school leavers find themselves trapped in career “dead ends” and spend time and money on qualifications they don’t need.
As part of the Gonski 2.0 reform package the government wants a shake-up of the transition between school and work, training or university and the federal Education Minister Dan Tehan commissioned Professor Shergold to report back to him.
In his discussion paper released on Friday, the former top public servant said the demarcation between university and training was outdated and too many school leavers were making bad career choices from which there was no return.
He said a single system that gave money equally to skills training and university should be on the agenda. And he wants TAFE students doing certificate courses to get fee help which is now denied to them.
“Funding models with high upfront contributions may influence decisions about students’ skills instead of their passions or interests.”
Literacy and numeracy get a high priority and Professor Shergold said there should be mandatory, reportable minimum standards which should feed into a new type of secondary school education certificate, or “learning passport”, to which other qualifications could be added.
This would have to take into account skills that were in demand in the new economy, such as “enterprise, digital, technical, critical and analytical skills, resilience, active citizenship, emotional intelligence and self awareness”.
Director of the education program at the Centre for Independent Studies, Fiona Mueller, said Australia was coming from a long way behind in setting pathways for school leavers, especially on vocational education versus university.
There were problems setting national minimum standards for literacy and numeracy but it was good Professor Shergold wanted students to make choices that were in their interest without compromising learning basic skills.
Reform meant the states had to be given flexibility even though this was a “hugely expensive duplication of effort”, Dr Mueller said.
Meanwhile, duplication of effort looks likely to plague the training sector after a meeting of the new COAG Skills Council in Melbourne on Friday.
Skills ministers are deciding how to implement the Joyce Review of vocational training which deals with the same demarcation between university and TAFE as Professor Shergold is considering.
But the skills ministers’ meeting broke up after agreeing individual states would implement the Joyce Review with variations that suited local conditions.
NSW skills minister Geoff Lee told AFR Weekend every state had reserved the right to “custom build” its own set of Joyce principles.
Other problems included delays in getting new courses approved.
“It can take up to six years to develop some packages, by which time they’re out of date. We have to be more responsive to industry needs,” Dr Lee said.