Urgent voc. ed. & training culture, legislative and policy challenges



Updated version, originally published as Really reforming VET – February 2015

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

For Private individual use. All rights reserved.

Published: www.academia.edu

Whoever opened this market up, needs to take responsibility for this mess.

The truth is these reforms are not in education but in economics.

The greatest frustration for those of us in Voc. Ed/TAFE at the time of privatisation knew this was predictable when privatisation of education was first mooted. Education and learning is not a product. The trainees/learners have direct input to achieve the outcomes – it can’t be purchased. Vocational education and training has been around since the Mechanics Institutes and Technical Schools System – back in the 1800s. Though the name changed, it is the more recent market model and privatisation of the last decades that stopped VET working. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is reported publicly.

How do we reform a vocational education and training system? The evidence, rather than political spin and individual subjective opinion, suggests:

1. Fundamental changes urgently required at multiple levels

There needs to be changes at multiple levels, it is irresponsible to simply shift responsibility resting with RTOs to ASQA and allow RTOs to pretend that there is no major, systemic problem.  Members and beneficiaries of the industry-led “Vocational EDUCATION and Training Industry” system needs to take self responsibility for monitoring too. It is about membership and ownership of the “industry” that they belong to. Anyone can make a complaint to ASQA about a provider’s delivery of training and assessment.  

This page explains the complaints process for non-student complainants.  http://bit.ly/1D3Oq6S

2. Adopt a multi-disciplinary, evidence-based approach

*Dump self-professed, subjective VET experts (especially those with conflicts of interest), and adopt a multi-disciplinary, evidence-based approach. No-one knows everything.

3. Change the policy development context

* The Australian public policy context tends to address social issues through government policies rather than collective action and business involvement. Where social issues are managed by governments, business involvement in community development is allowed in codified form and enforced through mandatory legislated provisions. The wisdom of the community always exceeds the knowledge of the experts.

4. Responsible business community role

* Responsible business behaviour in Australia is primarily seen as a legal obligation in compulsory areas, such as workplace health and safety provisions. This perspective has narrowed Australia’s approach to responsible business practice and appears to have exacerbated a lack of interest in the role of business in community development.

5. Agreed definition of “industry”

* Determine and Apply an agreed System-wide definition/conception of “industry”, however, consider all of the beneficiaries and stakeholders – not just industry.

6. Definition of VET consistent with international view

* Determine and Apply an agreed System-wide definition/conception of “vocational education and training” or rename it altogether.

 7. Better and all encompassing engagement and thinking

* Lift the standard of opinion, comment and debate in the VET System by engaging with all stakeholders and beneficiaries (e.g., trainees, trainers/educationists) – not just “industry”

8. Collaborative – led VET System

* Establish a Collaborative-led VTE System – including ways to determine and predict as best as possible, what employment opportunities exist post training, not just market-determined spin and propaganda.

* With a Chief VTE Educationist (not ombudsman) to start drawing the current factions together.

9. Change the name

* Drop the VET (“animals”, “war veterans”) “brand” – change it to VTE (or something else to avoid misleading and confusing acronyms

10. Drop the privatisation and marketisation model

* Drop the marketing model for education and return to a community service model. A service delivery model relates to the range of services the VTE System might deliver to the community and how things are organised to deliver those services

11. Level playing field funding model

* Take into account the different training and education needs of rural and metropolitan contexts. Increasingly local /regional relationships based on partnership and collaboration are central elements in VET program planning and delivery. Social policy objectives remain important elements in VET provision.

12. Drop the corporatised/industry model of education

* Implement community service management practices. Education and trainees are not commodities or products.

13. Stop funding free enterprise profits with public monies.

* Stop funding free enterprise profits with public monies.

* Determine and adopt funding models that take into account Private and Public RTOs Legislative responsibilities – not one-size-fits-all.

14. Require Private RTOs to be not-for-profit organisations and utilise the existing Laws, Standards, Financial Auditing, etc. that apply to not-for-profit incorporated associations. By Law, any (modest) surplus/profit must be put back into the organisation, not the pockets of Directors.

15. Apply higher governance standards to RTOs so that the commercial interests of owners were separated from educational decisions which were made by an academic board. This governance model already applies to private colleges which offer university-level courses.

16. Review and implement VET-Fee Help to protect learners/trainees from public debt not agreed to.

17. Reduce the number of Private RTOs

Reduce the number of Private RTOs – Allow each provider to develop its own qualifications and require them to be accredited by a qualifications authority. This is the model used in higher education to accredit qualifications offered by non-self accrediting higher education institutions. This will quickly reduce the number of VET providers by a couple of thousand. Only providers that are serious and have the necessary resources and capacity would develop their own qualifications. It would create a system in qualifications, rather than a market for the price charged for qualifications, which only drives down fees and quality.

18. Utilise and adapt existing structures for provision of VET

* Consider using existing Statewide and Nationwide community assets and organisations, such as Neighbourhood Houses (not-for-profit organisations), as accredited and funded as RTOs as “the norm” for delivering a range of locally relevant (not just market-led) VET courses – e.g., Aged Care in Upper Yarra Valley with e-learning innovation.

* Transition and recurrent funding to ensure Neighbourhood Houses can easily meet ASQA Standards

* Develop shared roles, such as Compliance Managers, for groups of Neighbourhood Houses to reduce duplication of costs and ensure consistency

*Actively fund collaborative ventures between Neighbourhood Houses and Institutes of TAFE

19. Drop Training Packages (including Train the Trainer)

* The significance of both behavioural psychology and systems theory
for the development of Competency Based Training is explicitly acknowledged by McDonald (1974: 17), – behavioural education concepts and systems theory both take a one-size-fits all view. That makes CBT dubious especially when restricted to specific work tasks. It is a self perpetuating problem because VET Trainers are trained (train the trainer) using CBT too.

* Replace Training Packages with Capabilities Frameworks (or something else that reduces the bureaucratic and administrative load so documentation can be kept up to date) to achieve broader transferable outcomes for trainers/learners/trainers.

* Documenting and understanding capabilities may inform the development of units of competency but the two are not interchangeable. The relationship between competency and capability can be observed in a competency model adapted from the work of Trichet and  Leclere as shown in Diagram 1.

  1. [The model focuses] on how to represent competency as a rich data structure. The heart of this model is to treat knowledge, not as possession, but as a contextualised multidimensional space of capability either actual or potential. The …model…involves three important elements: an orientation towards and focus upon activity-based teaching and learning
  2. the identification and integration of appropriate subject matter content within a broader teaching and learning context represented by a hierarchy of competencies
  3. the straightforward identification of the assessment that would demonstrate successful teaching and learning

Competency Competence describes what individuals know or are able to do in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes at a particular point in time
Source In this context, a person who provides “the competency”, for instance a healthcare worker.
Proficiency level Degree of mastery of a skill or area of knowledge
Capability The sum of expertise and capacity. Describes the extent to which an individual can apply, adapt and synthesise new knowledge from experience and continue to improve his or her performance
Subject matter content Knowledge, skills, attitudes, attributes
Taxonomy In this competency model taxonomy is a classification hierarchy of capabilities; a framework for correlating educational attainment with evidence of qualities that relate to abilities relevant to the performance of work roles.
Evidence In this context, evidence may be thought of as successful teaching and learning outcomes including summative assessment.
Tool In this context, it may be thought of as formative assessment and teaching methodologies
Situation Context

20. Do not implement contestable models maintenance

* Do not tender for development of “Competencies/Capabilities” development and maintenance – involve highly skilled people, including educationists, broad networks of VET System stakeholders/beneficiaries and direct consultation, not just invitations to comment or complete a survey.

21. Reduce the number of VET qualifications

* Reduce the number of qualifications. There are too many, too specialised (narrow) courses with low enrolments.

22. Drop “under-pinning” knowledge, deliberately include “knowledge”.

* accept and implement a balance of theory and experience – ‘real’ knowledge not “under-pinning knowledge” (interpreted as not directly to be taught).

* Get over the “Theory” versus “Experience” argument. Both are needed.


23. Recognise that Education and VET are expertise in their own right

* Get over the “Academic” versus “Practitioner” argument. Both are needed.

* Recognition by all that “education” is an expertise in itself.

* Recognition by all that “vocational education and training” is an expertise in itself.

* Dump the TAE Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training – Educate and Train VTE Trainers beyond the current minimum compliance level – they must be educationists with knowledge and expertise in education, training and assessment concepts and practice.

24. Make vocational education andragogy/heutagogy part of the VET                                 System

andragogy: the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education.

heutagogy:  it is the learner who should be at the centre of their own learning, and hence that ‘learning’ should not be seen as teacher-centric or curriculum-centric, but learner-centric. (1) Since the theory was first launched in 2000 it has become accepted as a practical proposition with its approach being particularly suitable in e-learning environments. Recent (post-2010) research into brain plasticity indicates that the approach can be useful in increasing learning capability.

25. Make VET System deliberately multicultural friendly

Multicultural education is not a discrete learning area, or simply the provision of Languages and English as an Additional Language (EAL).

Multicultural education makes sure that all students have access to inclusive teaching and learning experiences. These experiences will allow students to successfully take part in a rapidly changing world where cross-cultural understanding and intercultural communication skills are essential.

26. Make whole VET System (public and private RTOs) deliberately                                   Learners with disability friendly

Learners with disability should learn in inclusive environments to get the skills they need to successfully participate in the workforce and the wider community through a range of programs.

27. Professional Development and Professional Learning by                                                Trainers/Educationists

PD strategies are needed to assist with the processes of energising teaching and training approaches applied in the VET sector.

Without continual enlightenment of educators’ skills and knowledge in both the technical competency of their chosen discipline and in their teaching competencies, educators will become stagnant and fall behind in their professional practice.

These concerns need to be taken into consideration when developing future PD strategies at a local and national level.

28. Make  increasing learning capability an overall part of the VET                                     System

Teaching approaches that aim to develop pupils’ learning capabilities and show evidence of improved learning of trainees.

There is a tension between approaches to learning skills which emphasise content – in terms of mastery of specific skills – and process – in terms of locating skills within an overall understanding of learning approaches. So that, in the short term the most effective means to improve performance where the assessment focuses on content knowledge is likely to be direct instruction. In the longer term, or where assessment focuses on conceptual understanding, metacognitive or strategic approaches are likely to be more effective.

Effective approaches are those which explicitly develop awareness of learning strategies and techniques, particularly when these are targeted at the meta-cognitive level. The characteristics of these approaches identified by the review include:

Structured tasks which focus on specific and explicit strategies in the subject context;

Capacity in lessons for more effective exchanges between the learner and the teacher concerning the purpose of the activity;

Small group interactions promoting articulation about the use of learning strategies;

Mechanisms built into learning tasks to promote checking for mutual understanding of learning goals by peers and with the teacher;

Enhanced opportunities for the learner to receive diagnostic feedback linked directly to the content of the task.
We can also identify some necessary conditions for these approaches to be successful:

The teacher needs to have good understanding of the subject, of different approaches to learning and be sensitive to the demands of different types of learners;

Teachers should have a repertoire of practical tools and strategies to guide the learner and enhance opportunities for feedback about learning;

Both teachers and learners should have an orientation towards learning characterised by a willingness to engage in dialogue and negotiation regarding the intent and purpose of a particular teaching and learning activity;

The focus of learning should be on how to succeed through effort rather than ability and through the selection of appropriate strategies by the learner. (Reference on request).

29. Quality in VET System

Only when there is some consistency, and some agreement about conceptions of quality in VET, can we expect quality assurance mechanisms to be truly effective. The most obvious response is that they are intended to improve quality, where quality first needs to be defined. But often quality systems are developed for purposes of accountability, to recognise which institutions or programs are strong or weak, and then to reward the strong or punish the weak perhaps through reduced or cancelled funding.

Measures designed for accountability may not be appropriate for improvement, since they may not be detailed enough, or timely enough, or encouraging enough to lead to improvement. In quality systems driven by accountability, or in systems with punitive cultures surrounding them (as in the U.K. and the U.S.), institutions and instructors may spend more time ―gaming‖ the system than they do on improvement.

30. Review Vocational Education and Training Legislation and                                            Standards in line with above

Making Laws – http://bit.ly/1bfKcDk


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