Claire Field says it is time to invest in skills and that takes on-line learning


There is plenty of evidence of its educational benefits

As we all reel from the scale of business closures and layoffs across Australia this week, we are also all increasingly cognisant that more business closures and more staff layoffs are inevitable. Informed estimates say that 2 million Australians could end up unemployed, with an unemployment rate as high as 15 per cent by the time the COVID-19 crisis is over.

The months ahead are filled with uncertainty, but from a tertiary education perspective there are two groups who are particularly vulnerable:

* domestic and international students who lose their employment, and

* workers in a range of industries who lose their jobs and need help to stay motivated and engaged – especially during a likely period of enforced self-isolation across the country.

The government has recognised that domestic students who lose their jobs need proper financial support and has made them eligible for the coronavirus supplement. This was a crucial decision and international students will need similar help if they face the same circumstances.

For other workers facing unemployment – Australia must follow the lead of Singapore and use this time to invest in the skills base of the population.

To do this we will need to get past our bias against on-line learning and concerns that a rush to on-line learning is a recipe for poor educational outcomes and wasted public money.

There is plenty of evidence of the educational benefits of good on-line learning. And in an on-line world the auditors can be on-line too – auditing provider’s records, lessons and assessments in real time. There’s more here on the specific measures I think the tertiary education sector (and different providers) need in the months ahead, on the Singapore government’s initiative to lift skill levels during the coronavirus crisis, and how ASQA and TEQSA can regulate effectively for high quality, engaging online delivery.

Claire Field advises on VET, international education and private higher education