Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Turning Australian VET System Up to Eleven

Yesterday the Australian Productivity Commission released their five year productivity review into the Australian economy "Shifting the Dial" (2017). This includes assessment of productive investment in human capital, particularly education and training. This is focused on in Chapter 3 "Future skills and work".

Much of the Commission's analysis and recommendations is focused on vocational education, proposing more federal government intervention and involvement of industry. However, this is an area where the Australian Government has had difficulty with relatively modest reforms. It is not clear the more complex policy proposed by the Commission could be successfully implemented, given the problems with the previous simpler system. As an example the proposed proficiency-based assessment, combined with "independent" accreditation, could result in more rorting of the system by providers, as experienced with the  previous VET FEE HELP scheme.

Chapter 3: Future skills and work

Recommendations on Education and Training

Recommendation 3.2: Proficiency not just competency
"The Australian Government should develop tools for proficiency-based assessment for skills where employers want to know how well an employee can perform a task, rather than whether they can perform it at all.
How to do it
The Australian Government — in conjunction with State and Territory Governments and the Australian Industry and Skills Committee — would initiate planning for proficiency-based assessment processes. The Australian Government should not compel vocational education and training (VET) providers to adopt proficiency-based assessment."

Recommendation 3.3 Disruption of Education Through Independent Assessment

The Australian Government should develop a framework to facilitate the independent accreditation of skills obtained through any learning method. 

How to do it

"A capacity to assess and accredit skills and competencies acquired outside of traditional settings should be established and funded by the Australian Government. For university-level qualifications, this may be the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.

The Australian Government, in conjunction with employers, the Industry and Skills Committee and
the Australian Skills Quality Authority, should investigate areas of vocational education and training where an independent certification model could robustly test a person’s skills"

Recommendation 3.4 Covering Universities Under Consumer Law

"The Australian Government should monitor consumer law developments in Australia and the United Kingdom (UK), to ensure that the Australian Consumer Law applies to the higher education sector.

How to do it

If, on further examination, it appears that action in Australia is difficult to mount and that the UK arrangements have had a positive impact, the Australian Government should clarify in legislation that the Australian Consumer Law does relate to higher education. This should give the student the right to compensation or the ‘right to a repeat performance’, on the same basis as other products that prove to be not fit for purpose. "

Recommendation 3.5 Make it easy to access learning options

"The Australian Government should ensure that Australians of all working ages can readily access comprehensive and up-to-date information about career and education options, including how to make career changes later in life.

How to do it

As a first step, the Australian Government should consolidate the existing range of career guidance and education information websites into a single portal to provide school leavers and existing workers with a comprehensive one stop shop.  ...

A further step is for the Australian Government to establish a cross-portfolio review of the policies needed to develop a workforce with greater capacity to adapt to structural change. The review would examine the changes needed in the education and training and tax and transfer systems along with the need for awareness raising approaches."

Education is also mentioned in Recommendation 2.5 Embrace technology to change the pharmacy model:

  • Consult with the relevant training institutions — most likely in the vocational education and training
    sector — to develop courses for such qualifications.

  • Inform the various university departments of pharmacy about the reduced need for future supply


Productivity Commission, Shifting the Dial: 5 YearProductivity Review, Inquiry Report, 24 October 2017. URL

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