The ‘Industry/Business-led’ hijacking of the Australian Vocational and Education and Training System


copyright-symbols-and-rules-you-need-to-know-04 2015

Intellectual Property of Dr. Bruce D. Watson, DEd Melbourne and attributed authors as noted.

For Private individual use. All rights reserved.


Australian VET System designers knowingly or unknowingly adopted and manipulated two distinct theoretical approaches to curriculum, being constructivism and instrumentalism.

Instrumentalists typically call into question whether it even makes sense to think of theories as corresponding to external reality and Constructivism says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world. Both are positions that lock VET trainees out of access to disciplinary knowledge, and belie advances in understanding vocational education and training. It is well known, that educationists were explicitly excluded from the development process (unless, perhaps, they adopted the philosophical positions above)

Therefore, it appears this was a way to largely bypass the irrevocable interrelationship of theory and practice in a skewed world view of ‘anti-academia’ and a constructed ‘authentic’, atomised, work place practice model.

As Wheelahan says, “CBT translates knowledge from being general and principled knowledge to particularised knowledge, because its selection and usefulness is determined by the extent to which it is relevant in a particular context. Students thus have access to knowledge in its particularised form, but are not provided with the means to relate it to its general and principled structure and system of meaning.”

Hence, the Australian VET System moved from a desired vocationalism to controlled vocationalism – despite the rhetoric of empowerment of trainees and trainers. For example, in their high level review of training packages, Schofield and McDonald (2004b: 27) found that there was an “unacceptably high level of confusion amongst educators in particular about the relationship between Training Packages and teaching, learning and assessment.”

“The policy discourse of competence borrowed concepts and language from theories that were originally developed within academic disciplines, and then reassembled within the framework of “an approach appropriate to the particular objectives of the agency assembling it” ” (Jones and Moore 1995: 83). The introduction of CBT in England (and in Australia) incorporated “ ‘the world of work’ according to its own particular principles and rules ….The ‘solution’ to every perceived deficiency was to add required and optional components to the [definition and] model and tight specifications for their inclusion.” (Jones and Moore 1995: 84, in Wheelahan).

As Wheelahan says, “The result is policy that uses as its justification and source of legitimation a pastiche of theories and approaches that draw from sometimes opposing theoretical premises, then blended through processes of re-contextualisation so that constructivist theories of learning are mobilised to support human capital objectives, even though human capital theory is based on the self-maximising rational economic individual.

Individualistic theories of learning styles (that ascribe learning styles as relatively fixed attributes of individuals) are unproblematically blended with theories that emphasise learning as a participative process (in which the construction of meaning is a shared process). This process of selection, augmentation, blending and incorporation is achieved through the principles derived from the broader human capital policy context.”

Let us not forget the Conflict of Interest that exists for For-profit VET System business owners, promoters, advisers, providers, etc. They are in a position where anything or anyone who might cause their business profit making to be reduced will be met with derision and spin-doctoring justification, despite the hijacking of educational theories to suit their own business related purposes, despite rhetoric in marketing and promotions that include greater good community and individual purposes.

Private for-profit RTOs don’t start up not to make a profit (from public funds/our taxes).

Reference: Wheelahan-


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