Jason Clare and Educational Priorities

Jason Clare seems to have a burning ambition to contribute to the enhancement and development of education’s offerings to Australian students. His enthusiasm is commendable and his acceptance of advice from Tanya Pliberseck (along with her willingness to offer that support) is commendable.

I hope that within the educational domain, Mr Clare is able to discern the wood from the trees. There has been far too much experimentation and allowance of teaching to be subjugated to the whims of researchers whose experimentation turns students into educational guinea pigs.

Good, sound holistic education, as declared essential in the preamble of the Melbourne Declaration on Education in 2008 needs to be revisited. The declaration stated education should take account of the academic, social, emotional and moral/spiritual needs of students. Sadly, that ambition now seems to have become lost in history.

Parents should Parent

Janet Albrechtsen’s column (‘Parents must do their job so teachers can do their own’, Weekend Australian Inquirer, 2-3 July) brought back a memory of education being describe metaphorically as a tripod supported by three legs, students, teachers and parents. The strength, value and balance of education is determined by the awareness and support each ‘leg’ offers the other. If, as Albrechtsen writes, parents abdicate the primacy of their roles, education destabilises.

Unfortunately, education systems have been far too prepared to accept an expanded ‘loco parentis’ role, hand-balling additional responsibilities for student development and upbringing to schools and teachers. Teaching responsibilities are being diminished and diffused as teachers “… play the role of social worker, psychologist, mediator, police officer, judge and then find the time to teach …”.

Teachers are being forced into becoming “Jacks of all trades and masters of none.” It is small wonder that Australian education has declined. Unless authorities take note and act on the advice of Albrechtsen and others to reprioritise (and return) to the prime functions of teaching, teachers historically fulfilled, necessary corrections will not happen any time soon. This has to be predicated by parents returning to their parenting roles.

TRADES TRAINING MUST BE REVITALISED

Natasha Bita’s column (‘Unis get the cold shoulder as the young turn to trades’ in ‘The Australian’ 29/6) shares good news on employment prioritisation to which younger people are now aspiring.

For decades, vocational education and trades training have been regarded as the poor cousin to academic degrees. The result has been a surfeit of people with academic qualifications and a dearth of those trained in key trades areas. While many university graduates have had difficulty in gaining employment suited to their graduating qualifications, Australia has had to rely on skilled labour from overseas to try and fill trades vacancies.

Many secondary schools now offer experiential trades learning opportunities, with studies that lead to undertaking apprenticeships. Schools and potential employers are sharing training partnerships which uplift the value and worth of trades study to students.

As Bita points out, these efforts are now bearing fruit. Hopefully the resurgence of interest in vocational and trades training will be satisfying to those who complete training. Boundless opportunities exist for those who are trades qualified. We certainly need to fill positions which have been vacant for far too long.