Friday, November 6, 2015

Trans-Pacific Partnership Applies to Educaiton

The full text of the draft "Trans-Pacific Partnership" (TPP) agreement between Australia and eleven other countries, most notably the USA, but excluding China: (Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam). What is not clear is the extent to which the agreement applies to education and qualifications. Is a qualification awarded by an educational institution in a TPP country accepted for employment purposes in Australia? Must students of TPP countries be charged the same fees by Australian universities as Australian students? Must the Australian government provide the same subsidized loans to Australian students enrolling in TPP institutions, as they do for Australian institutions?

This will become increasingly important as e-learning is applied for vocational qualifications. As an example, will Australia be required to recognize qualifications which Australian students obtain on-line from US universities? Will the Australian government be required to provide the same student loans for US university courses as they provide for Australian courses?

There is currently concern in Australia over unscrupulous Registered Training Organizations (RTOs) signing up students to unsuitable courses to obtain government subsidized fees. However this is minor compared to the problems with student loans in the USA.

A search of the text for the word "education" (excluding the names of education departments), finds 60 references (twenty mentioning Australia). There is a section about "Strategic Partnership" arrangements for education, but which does not seem to be binding. One aspect of the agreement is that many details are still to be worked out, as the "Summary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement" says: 
"The Development chapter includes three specific areas to be considered for collaborative work once TPP enters into force for each Party:  ... (3) education, science and technology, research, and innovation."
The "TPP Fact Sheet" (presumably not part of the formal text) says:
"Peru ... Increased services trade in education and tourism is expected along with growth in tourism related investment."
There are provisions for people to reside temporally in each others countries for "research, guidance of research, or education at a university" ("Japan's Schedule of commitments for temporary entry of business persons"). 

One interesting aspect of the agreement is the mutual recognition of qualifications. "Canada's Schedule for Commitments of Temporary Entry for Business Persons" says: 
"Canadian educational requirements for professionals shall be deemed to be met for the purpose of entry whenever an Australian professional has met Australian educational requirements ..". 
However, this excludes:
"All health, education, and social services occupations and related occupations
All professional occupations related to Cultural Industries
Recreation, Sports and Fitness Program and Service Directors
Managers in Telecommunications Carriers
Managers in Postal and Courier Services
Judges and Notaries"
So an Australian teacher would not be qualified to work in Canada, but an computer programmer would.
(a) Explore potential for collaborative work in curriculum development including curriculum materials;
(b) Share experiences on the use of information technology in education, including education portals;
(c) Share opportunities for professional/executive training encourage possible joint programmes between institutions; and
(d) Share experiences on language training and encourage collaborative programmes for professional development and training of language teachers, including exchanges of language teachers (English/Spanish/Chinese);
(e) Share information on opportunities available to post graduate students in each other’s countries in areas of mutual interest to each of the Parties. 

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