The big Gonski give: warnings for universities in the new schools report

There are warnings of criticism to come for universities in the second Gonski report. Nothing immediate or appalling mind, but sure signs that the bright sun of unquestioning community support is showing signs of setting.

For a start, the Gonski group suggest that university is not the only post-school path that matters; “senior secondary schooling models have been largely static, remaining focused on academic knowledge and preparing students for university. It is essential that these models are reviewed to make sure they are giving every student the best preparation for life.”

And they give a Gonski about encouraging VET. “It is vital that a focus on university entrance does not overshadow a focus on vocationally-based education, including preparing young people for employment or for a combination of work and training.”

There are also three recommendations which will disturb the status quo.

The ninth calls for, “a comprehensive, national and independent inquiry to investigate and review the objectives, curriculum, assessment provisions and delivery structures for senior secondary schooling.” Depending on terms of reference and who is appointed this could become a wholesale assault on the ideas that Year 12 is a pipeline to university.

Recommendation 14 calls for “a comprehensive national teacher workforce strategy to better match supply with workforce demands, including skill and capability requirements.” At worst this could get government back into labour-force planning with implications for universities that rely on teacher education numbers to bolster bottom-lines. At not so bad, but still not best, it could impose quotas on what disciplines teachers are trained in and specify required skills and knowledge.

Recommendation 23 isn’t exactly an endorsement of the teacher education establishment. It calls for “an independent institution to coordinate the strategic development of a national research and evidence base,” to “improve student outcomes.” Surely this is something the deans of education could organise.

But there is good news, albeit slight, for the teacher education community. The Gonskis say there is “significant national progress” on the reforms called for by the Christopher Pyne appointed Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group.


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