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Revolutionary? As in: the wheel goes round again

Evan Hadkins is a Webdiarist who holds a Bachelor degree in Adult and Vocational Education from Griffith University and who - not surprisingly - holds strong views on education. In his first piece for Webdiary, Evan has some interesting commentary on the ALP's weekend policy announcements in this field.

Today saw the unofficial launch of the election campaign by Labor. Kevin Rudd delivered a speech in Penrith, in Sydney's western suburbs (allegedly the heartland of the Howard Battlers). The seat, Lindsay, is currently held by retiring Liberal MP Jackie Kelly.

The speech, among the usual rhetoric, contained one new announcement: on education. Education is perceived to be an issue where Labor has the advantage (along with IR and welfare). The government is seen as being strong on the economy and border security (expect to hear lots in the coming days about how well the economy is doing from the government).

So, what is the initiative announced in the speech? Effectively a committee. Not that it was called this, of course. Mr Rudd, announcing the new committee said: "Today I commit to the establishment of a new national institution, Skills Australia, to deal with the nation's critical skills needs." It will be an independent statutory body of seven members who will include: economists, business leaders, academics and training providers. It will be "advising government on the future skills needs of the nation" and also act as "a funnel for research on skills for it to be handed to government." What the government will then do with this advice and research, you may not be surprised to know, was not stated.

Here's what I think would qualify as an educational revolution. High schools are closed and we set up a child minding scheme that the children involved actually enjoy. We admit that 'education' is just window dressing (tell me the last time you used something you 'learnt' in high school). We tell employers that if they want trained workers then, horror of horrors, you should train them. (We could remind them of their rhetoric about their being no free lunches.)

The Labor initiative seems to suppose that there is not enough advice and research already done to have a world class educational system in Australia. Well, what is the advice and research that the other countries with world class education have that we don't? Put like this it just looks silly, doesn't it?

Here's a piece of relevant advice and research that every education student will be aware of. For effective learning, intrinsic motivation (that is, motivation supplied by the learner) is better than extrinsic motivation (motivation provided by things like marks, awards, teacher approval and so on). This is covered in basic educational psychology. And you can see its revolutionary implications: if you want learning, then get people interested in what they are learning and do away with exams.

The Labor education policy, far from being revolutionary is decidedly middle of the road and entirely compatible with the common place beliefs prevalent among politicians: that education is about economics, that an educated (in practice credentialed) workforce leads to prosperity, and that to give people more education will (somehow - but how exactly?) lead to more jobs. The Coalition does not disagree with any of this. In short both major parties share the same basic philosophy and approach to education.

It will be interesting to see, as the campaign begins in earnest, how the major parties present their education policies. But neither of them is going to be revolutionary.

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More of the same

Skills Australia, just another way to give more money to the well off, bureaucrats and academics. All these people happen to be the major cause of all our troubles. More committees, more inquiries, more empty rhetoric, not one valid idea for the real future ahead.

On the IR front

Spotlight was very embarrassed last year after using the serfchoices laws to rip off workers by giving them an extra 2 cents an hour to lose all rights.

Now they have failed Hockey Shrek's silly "fairness" test so they have turned to Bill Shorten to negotiate a union deal for the staff.

Go figure - serfchoices is a dog.

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