Monday, September 24, 2018

Vocational education for the 21st century - Australian context

Here is an Australian report - Vocational Education for the 21st Century -, with much of if of relevance to NZ as we reform our vocational education system. The NZ reviews include the way formalised education is accreditated through the National Certificate in Educational Achievement (NCEA) and a review of the institutes of technology / polytechnics (ITPs). See blog for overview of these reviews.

The report is written by Anne Jones, Emeritus Professor at Victoria University / University of Melbourne. She was deputy Vice Chancellor and Director of TAFE at Victoria University from 2009 and was the Executive Director of Academic Affairs at Box Hill Tafe prior to appointment at Victoria. The paper is part of a collection commissioned through theLH Martin Institute, to contribute to the reform and debate on tertiary education in Australia.

The article begins with the observation that the Australian VET system is more that about funding, neo-liberalism's effects on the market and systems design. It should be more about fitness for the current times. So NZ may be on a better track by reviewing the feeder into VET – i.e. NCEA and also the providers of VET – ITPs.

The first part of the paper, sets up the Australian context with an overview of the various reforms since the 1970s. In short, lots of activity, but not much momentum or political will to effect change to the actual system. The major challenges have been not giving attention to core skills, the needs of 21st century capabilities, underdeveloped pedagogies due to poor staff development and minimal investment in the scholarship of vocational education learning and unpreparedness for disruptions in the world of work.

Recommends the need to strengthen the emphasis on core skills, bring qualifications into the 21st century, move into 21st century teaching and integration of the tertiary education sector. So, nothing too new in the recommendations. It will be interesting to see how much the Australians shift towards addressing some of the challenges highlighted in this report.

NZ has moved a bit more due to there being a smaller population and the present government's commitment to seeing that the country if prepared for the coming 'future of work', impacted on by technological advances. The NZ Qualifications framework has already moved towards a more 'core skills' focus with the shift to graduate profile outcomes. This shift allows for specialist occupational skills to be 'quantified' along with some of the occupational characteristics which epitomise practice, many of which are core and generalisable across occupations. 

The next step of aligning the school qualification to VET pathways and outcomes, is presently in progress. The consolidation of a large number of ITPs, many of whom are struggling financially, into larger hubs, will hopefully provide resourcing for broader access to staff development and perhaps funding for the scholarship of vocational learning. 

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