|Policy Development and Implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for Economic Development in Asia and the Pacific - Conference Proceedings - UNESCO - UNEVOC Regional Conference (RMIT, 1997, 520 p.)|
Presented to the UNESCO Conference on Vocational Education and Training, Melbourne, 11-14 November 1996.
John Garrick and Clive Chappell
(University of Technology, Sydney)
Australian strategies for training its vocational education teachers and trainers are inseparable from micro economic reforms. The professional preparation of VET teachers and trainers in Australia has been, over the past ten years, directly linked to reforms in the workplace and industrial awards. These reforms have been in response to global trends such as the technologisation of information and culture, and global market prices. Governments have increasingly striven to produce skilled workers who will enhance local competitiveness. This pursuit is occurring throughout OECD nations and increasingly throughout Asia and the Pacific region. At the centre of Australia's VET strategy is a notion of education that is training for work.
This paper examines the effects of this strategy for VET, with particular reference to different approaches to training VET teachers and industry trainers. These approaches, despite substantial common ground, hold some different assumptions about the purposes of vocational education and training. Current policy directions favour the preparation of VET practitioners to deliver competency-based skills that are required in workplaces now. We argue that important critical and generic skills still ought to be fostered away from the immediate demands of the workplace. The paper consists of three parts: firstly, a brief history of Australia's approach to training VET practitioners; secondly, current factors that impact on VET and, thirdly, training futures that suggest VET faces some major crossroads.
VET: Some historical legacies
Technical education is now seen by governments as an important area of education after years of having been the most neglected sector of public education (Fooks 1994:29). For much of its history in Australia, VET has been regarded within higher education as a somewhat narrow and instrumental endeavour. Indeed, it has had an ambiguous relationship with the social and educational goals of schools and universities. It has also been accused by industry of failing to provide the workforce with the skills necessary for 'real-life' work. At the heart of this ambiguity and critique is the long standing dichotomy between general education and vocational training and the assumed superiority of the former over the latter. This history has, to an extent, shaped the ways in which practitioners working in VET are trained today.
For instance, public provision of technical and vocational education and training has until recently been synonymous with State Technical and Further Education (TAFE) systems. Practitioners working in this sector have always laid claim to the title - teacher; in Victoria the term lecturer has been in use for many years. Historically, these titles were based on a claim to specialised vocational knowledge of a trade or other occupation. What distinguished them from others in their trade was that they passed on their specialised knowledge and skills to others in educational institutions away from the workplace. A key emphasis now is the transmission of knowledge and skills in the workplace.
Following the principles established in the landmark UNESCO
report (Learning to Be: The World of Education Today and Tomorrow, 1972) - the
right of all people to education and lifelong learning - the Kangan Report
(1974) established Technical and Further Education (TAFE) as a distinct sector
of Australian education. For the first time, an educational philosophy was set
out for VET. Based on the principles of access, equity, the primacy of the
individual learner in the learning process and the need for continuing
vocational education and training it emphasised a broader educational and social
role for TAFE. It conceptualised vocational teaching as a means
satisfy the needs of the individual as a person and to his or her development as a member of society, including the development of non-vocational and social skills that affect personality. (ACOTAFE 1974: xvii)
In Australia, it still took until 1991 before degrees in vocational teacher training were offered (Chappell C, Gonczi A & Hager P 1994: 183-186). These were generally in-service training programs with participants undertaking training concurrently with their teaching. All of these programs were located within Faculties of Education emphasising specialist pedagogical knowledge and skills, and full-time TAFE teachers were recognised as having equivalent status to school teachers.
In much of the 1970s and 80s the training that went on within industries and organisations was invisible - with the notable exception of apprenticeships. These contained elements of both supervised on-the-job and TAFE based off-the-job training and was thus officially recognised within the credential awarded to apprentices. Nonetheless, the day-to-day, informal training that occurred within industries and occupations largely went unrecognised. Personnel responsible for this training often learned to train by trial and error. This ad hoc approach to workplace training began to change with an emerging interest in Human Resource Management (HRM) as a strategic component of business and organisational development.
HRM supported the notion that an organisation's workforce was its most important asset and therefore training was highlighted as an important organisational investment. Indeed, Smith (1993) claims that industries and organisations have been slowly increasing their training efforts in Australia since 1982. Accompanying this movement has been a burgeoning of train-the-trainer courses - especially following the introduction of the now suspended Training Guarantee Act (1991) - dealing with training needs analysis, on-the-job training, presentation skills, competency-based standards, assessment and evaluation. These have been provided by a number of universities (as continuing professional education programs), private companies, consultants and TAFE systems.
As a field of practice, industry training has developed straddling two traditionally distinct fields of study: business and adult education. An effect of this, assert Kane et al (1994:112), is that training has been dominated by an overly narrow focus on micro issues in design and implementation and by humanistic and adult education views of the purpose of training and staff development. Indeed, human resource development (HRD), unlike teaching, has been based on an uneasy relationship between these two fields of study which often hold different philosophical and ideological assumptions. Unlike TAFE teachers before them, trainers in industry have not had a coherent occupational orientation, nor a recognised field of study, within which their training programs could be developed. It has therefore been the workplace trainer standards (1 and 2) which have been deployed to guide the workplace skill development of trainers. We are thus making a distinction between the professional development of VET teachers and 'train the trainer' approaches in industry.
Current approaches to VET in Australia
Kemp (1996) points out that the Federal Government's intentions are to ensure that the national vocational education and training system is both industry led and industry driven. The linkage of industry and education is resulting in strong interest in workplaces as sites of learning and in ways of assessing (in some instances measuring) workers' achievement of employment related outcomes or competencies. Further, the public sector of VET has also been required to demonstrate a greater commitment to quality, accountability, flexibility and efficiency. A National Framework for the Recognition of Training and the National Qualifications Framework, based on competency-based standards and competency-based curricula, has also been developed in the last five years.
For many teachers and trainers in the VET sector, these policy changes have directly challenged the educational purposes of their work. Having achieved professional status, Stevenson (1994) asserts that TAFE teachers are now facing a fragmentation of roles that places great pressure on the unified title 'teacher'. It is also worth noting that workplace trainers continue to face inchoate training programs and ambiguous career pathways. Teachers and trainers operate in different contexts with significant implications for the competency-based standards that have been developed for TAFE teachers and trainers. For trainers, it is the Workplace Trainer Standards, developed under the auspices of the National Training Board (NTB), and the Assessors and Workplace Trainers (1992, 1994) that are central because of the primacy given to immediate workplace skill requirements.
In establishing competency-based standards for TAFE teachers, the VET sector is faced with important choices. For instance, it can develop competency descriptions based on the model promulgated by the NTB and used by industries, or, it can develop additional competency descriptions that apply to professions and higher education. In Australia, States have taken different stances on this matter. Victorian TAFE Teacher Competencies are explicitly linked to the Workplace Trainer Standards - six of the seven competency units mirror these standards (Denning 1993:15). Knowledge and other attributes of competent practice are not emphasised in this format which has the effect of narrowing the professional dimensions of teaching (and training). This approach contrasts with recommendations of the influential VEETAC (1993) report - Staffing TAFE for the 21st Century. In some other states, attempts have been made to emphasise the professional nature of teaching in the development of TAFE teacher competencies. The orientation towards competency-based standards and the conceptualisation of the professional status of teachers and trainers is contributing to the framing of their future staff development.
VET at the crossroads: some possible futures
The Minister for Schools, Vocational Education and Training (Dr Kemp) made the Government's position on VET clear when he launched the Modern Australian Apprenticeship and Traineeship Scheme (MAATS), (August 20,1996). This position is for 'small government' and an industry-led education sector in which small - medium sized business is more involved in VET, and training is more integrated into schools. The MAATS policy direction is, to an extent, linked to the passing of the Government's Workplace Relations Bill (1996). An implication for VET, if this Bill is enacted, is the distancing of VET (and competency-based standards) from industrial relations. The MAATS policy indicates an increasingly 'de-regulated' TAFE system, with control of curriculum and standards shifting towards industry and private enterprise.
MAATS indicates a movement away from National curricula (in training), replaced by flexible training packages, designed to combine competency-based standards with assessment. A policy framework that enables private providers to develop their own competencies and curricula - and approve them - will dramatically alter the VET sector. At present, TAFE teachers have to comply with National Standards and the Australian Qualifications Framework. It would be consistent with the government's reform thrust, however, for these National mechanisms to be made subject to competitive market forces. Should such changes be made, TAFE teachers and industry trainers would be more directly in competition with each other. When MAATS is read in conjunction with the 1996 budget, the Workplace Reform Bill and reforms to Higher Education, such direct competition is not merely speculative. It is being constructed.
At present industry-led VET is dominated by large organisations and multi-national corporations. These situate workplaces as central sites of learning. For smaller organisations the situation is more complex. Some see that the only place truly relevant learning can occur is in the workplace. Others don't regard themselves as learning places at all and refer their employees to TAFE, Adult and Community Education (ACE) or other providers. Workplace learning, and thus workers as learners, presents considerable opportunities and challenges for the theory and practice of VET and in this paper we wish to locate these challenges within the broader context of globalisation. The national approach to VET will for some time rest heavily on competency-based standards and their assessment, and this is not unproblematic. As Marginson puts it:
the national education systems have been broken open... but they have changed those systems rather than abolishing them. The government ordering of education is now located within global systems of control as much as cultural and economic, in which international regulatory agents, private and public multi-national companies, credit rating agencies, GATT... have increasing effects. (1994:17)
UNESCO is itself a key player in these global movements. Our concerns are, therefore, that local/global strategic planning of VET is not framed exclusively by economic goals and the readily appropriated narrow, task-focussed competencies. Rather, it is the pursuit of balanced approaches that include economic and social, local and global futures that offers the best solutions to our crossroads of choice. The balancing act ought not to lose sight of the enormous contributions of a VET history grounded in broad social and cultural goals.
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