Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
Debate over funding of TAFE goes back to the Stone Age. While TAFE NSW receives funding from state and federal governments, it is operated by the NSW Government. Hence why in the run-up to election campaigns, there is always vigorous debate about the funding of TAFE.
TAFE NSW dates back to the 1830s when it was set up to provide technical skills and education to meet the growing labour market. Since then it has continued to expand its services across metropolitan and regional NSW. In 2016, there were more than a million students enrolled in a Vocational Education and Training (VET) course delivered by TAFE.
However, as the demand for more skilled workers continues, TAFE has become just one provider (albeit, a very important one) competing in an increasingly competitive post-secondary education marketplace. Over the past decade, we have seen more private and vocational providers offering similar courses. Universities also now offer a variety of vocational education courses.
New providers in the sector has lead to some inefficiencies, duplications and inequities when it comes to student subsidies. It’s not a level playing field because different providers operate under different funding models, different government regulations and different approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.
What we need is an integrated approach where all education providers, including pre-schools and schools, unite to deliver the best outcomes for learners. To do this requires a new framework for learning that covers early years through to learning beyond school. Such a framework must recognise that learning is lifelong and that are multiple pathways that allow for the continual development of skills and knowledge.
It is time we thought differently about education policy by consolidating, collaborating and creating genuine partnerships. Only then can we really call ourselves a learning nation.
Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta