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Tuesday, 11 May 1965

Senator BUTTFIELD (South Australia) . - I am pleased to support now the statement of the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research (Senator Gorton) regarding education, and in particular to make reference to this splendid report of the Martin Committee on Tertiary Education. In my opinion, it is one of the most interesting and best compiled reports that I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The enormous strides that have been made in both scope and standards of education in Australia are most heartening. It is particularly heartening now to find that the Commonwealth Government has seen that still more needs to be done and, as it is impossible for the States to spend the amounts that are obviously necessary, the Commonwealth Government has come in in a most generous way to assist in education. I do not think any of us needed to be convinced that more was required in the field of education and I am pleased that education is now moving forward on the wide basis outlined in the Martin report. Education is essential for the individual and for the community. The individual benefits by having his analytical faculties sharpened. Education increases his ability and his application for work and stimulates his energy and initiative. The community benefits from education in four ways, as outlined in the report. First, the work force itself becomes more skilled and efficient at doing a given task. Secondly, existing knowledge may be applied more rapidly in the modernisation of capital equipment and the introduction of new products and new methods of producing old products. Thirdly, new knowledge may be acquired. Fourthly, improved methods of management, whether at the level of decision making or at that of detailed control, may become available.

Obviously, we need these advantages to the individual and to the community. In this age of scientific development and technological skills it is quite unnecessary to go into the details of why education opportunities had to be improved. As many as possible of our people must have every opportunity for education. I think everybody agrees with that sentiment. It is pleasing to note that minds are being applied to this end and that we are creating in this country more and more independent analytical thinkers. I hope to stress this point as I proceed. It is interesting to note how enrolments have increased since 1953. Enrolments at universities increased from 27,700 in 1953 to 69,000 in 1963. It is obvious from the figures that the trend is towards higher education. People are aware that they need additional skills. It is estimated that by 1975 - a very short term - enrolments at universities will number 125,000. Enrolments at technical colleges numbered 34,300 in 1963. It is expected that the number will be 96,000 in 1975. It is expected, too, that by 1975 almost twice as many people will be enrolled at teachers' colleges as were enrolled in 1963. I do not share Senator Ormonde's pessimism about future numbers of teachers. The figures in the Martin report indicate that the numbers enrolling at teachers' colleges are increasing.

I think we all recognise that education opportunities must be increased. If we expect the taxpayer to pay for education it is only right that the National Parliament should accept an added responsibility in this field. But I do not go all the way with Senator Ormonde and other honorable senators opposite in thinking that the Commonwealth Government should be the one to initiate investigations into education at both the primary and secondary levels. I think we should leave this responsibility to the States. There should be a clear line drawn between the responsibilities of the States and those of the Commonwealth. In my view tertiary education is a matter that should be placed in the hands of the Federal Parliament. Some people will say that teacher training falls within the category of tertiary education. I would agree with that view and I hope that in the future the Commonwealth will see its way clear to playing a greater part in teacher training, but I do not think this should be done at present. A great deal is required of the States in the field of teacher training before it may become a national responsibility. At present, standards and requirements differ as between States. These must be clarified and perhaps unified before the Commonwealth can move in this direction. For this reason I think it is reasonable for the Government to say that the States must retain for some time longer the responsibility for teacher training.

I congratulate the Government on tackling what I call a chicken and the egg situation. This year the Commonwealth is providing a most generous grant of £58 million for tertiary education in addition to providing large sums to the States for primary and secondary education. This, I believe, is the right way of dealing with the matter. Of course, we cannot do everything at once. The national coffers cannot provide enough money to do all the things that we would like to see done, but I am grateful for the generous improvement in education finance that has come about since this report was brought down.

Let me elaborate my statement that I hope to see the Commonwealth ultimately play a greater role in teacher training. If the teachers are right, everything else falls into place. That is why I referred to this situation as a chicken and egg situation. Many of the problems that beset students in tertiary colleges and universities may be traced to the shortcomings of teachers in the schools. In saying this I do not entirely blame the teachers. Many factors must be taken into consideration, including the size of classes, the standard of teaching and the experience of teachers. All of those things are related to the shortcomings in the system. Certainly we do not seem to have enough teachers and their qualifications are not always sufficiently high. I was interested in the contents of the Martin report relating to teaching methods, particularly in universities. I think these remarks apply equally to teachers in schools. For this reason I will quote the report. It reads -

In the Australian university of a quarter of a century ago the typical class was small, the academic staff had been built up gradually, the lecturers were teaching familiar courses, and had the time to give careful attention to the work submitted by students. In the intervening years, rising numbers have made teaching more impersonal, and lecture rooms and their equipment have not been adapted to ensure that every student in a class of several hundred can both see and hear the teacher . . . teaching methods have not kept pace with advances in knowledge, and insufficient attention is being given to the possibility of less formal lecturing, more and improved tutorials, and independent study programmes which may include some vacation study.

Although those remarks relate to university teaching methods they apply equally to teaching in the schools, and I repeat, if the teachers are right the rest will fall into place. It is the quality of the teacher that affects the student. The results obtained by the student are directly related to the teaching he has received. Many students are able to cram in order to pass the matriculation standard for entry to a university, but having entered the university they fall by the wayside, possibly because they have not been given sufficient background knowledge to enable them to work on their own.

I believe that in the past too much stress has been placed on the importance of a university education. I know that many people seek tertiary education in order to obtain better jobs, but there is too much snobbery associated with the belief that it is better for a child to attend a university than a technical college. Senator Ormonde laid great stress on this point. I do not agree that technical colleges, whose numbers are to be increased under the Government's auspices, should confer degrees. Why should it be necessary to have a degree? It is the mental training that is important, not the possession of a university degree. This is where the snobbery creeps in. It was rather strange to hear snobbery of this kind from Senator Ormonde. People should have equal status whether they are trained in a university or a technical college. If a man has a degree or a diploma he is qualified to do a certain job. That is the important thing.

Senator HENTY (TASMANIA) - I thought the honorable senator said there was no necessity for them to have a degree.

Senator BUTTFIELD - I said that to have a degree or a diploma is immaterial; it is the training which is all important. That is the point I am trying to make.

Senator Murphy - What about those who fail?

Senator BUTTFIELD - I shall come to the question of failures directly. The training, the extending of one's mind, is vital. It is pure snobbery to think that this sort of mind extension should take place necessarily in a university. There are two separate functions to be performed by these two types of tertiary training institutions. In the colleges the student will be trained in a practical way; and will acquire the techniques and skills which he requires for certain jobs, but at the university he will receive academic training. I stress the difference between practical and academic training, though many academics may not like my doing so.

In a university the student will be introduced to knowledge for knowledge sake, he will be introduced to research, and he will be introduced to the intellectual disciplines which are so valuable. But they are two completely different types of mental training. It is quite easy to understand that the two of them have their place. The technical colleges, the newer institutions, have four distinct values in modern education. To begin with, they will teach the techniques and skills required for modern living. They will cope specifically with the type of opportunity which will be offered to young people. There will be opportunities of a scientific, industrial and teacher training nature. For this reason teacher training eventually might fit into the Commonwealth Government's plan for tertiary education - it is part of the whole.

Secondly, technical colleges offer opportunities to those who are unable to cope with or to satisfy university requirements. Many young people are not able to pass the type of matriculation examination which is required for entrance to a university, but that does not mean that their intelligence is deficient. They may pass a different type of examination which will gain them entrance to a technical college. Thirdly, the existence of technical colleges will help to reduce the size of the classes in universities, and this will have a great impact on the number of failures, which was referred to by Senator Murphy in an interjection. Tha failure rate is partly the result of the undue size of university classes. Fourthly, and I think this is the most important value of technical college training, they give an opportunity to the late developers.

Australian boys and girls grow much taller than young people of most other nations. This, I think, takes a great deal of their energy during the years when, perhaps, they should be preparing themselves for a university entrance examination. Because it takes so much of their energy, their mental development is, for that reason, postponed. It is not easy for young Australian boys and girls who grow so much physically to pass their examinations at the age of 17. They are then still in their physical growing period. Their mental development follows later, ft is unfortunate if, owing to their physical growth and late mental development, they fail to pass entrance examinations to universities and their intellect and intelligence should be lost to the community, and their further intellectual training prevented.

Under the proposed scheme the technical colleges will cope with the late developer. If he enters a technical college and does particularly well in the first or second year, he can still transfer to a university to undertake a type of course for which he is suited and which he is anxious to pursue. Alternatively, he can stay and complete his diploma course in the technical college. There is no bar to his transferring to any other type of tertiary education. I think Senator Ormonde was wrong when he said that degrees should be awarded in the technical colleges. As far as I can see, this would turn the colleges into universities in the end and aggravate our present problems. Further stress would be placed upon the available professorial staff. It would simply mean that more and more staff would be required for more and more universities, instead of having a different type of staff needed in technical training colleges. It would add to the present shortage of university staff.

Before I leave this question of the technical colleges, I want to say that I hope they will be given autonomy. I think it is essential that both universities and technical colleges should have autonomy for the reasons which I shall develop later. I was particularly interested to hear that the Committee had suggested that an autonomous institute of colleges should be set up by each State Government. This is an important point. The Committee indicated its belief in the responsibility of the States to set up these autonomous institutes of colleges. The Minister in his speech referred to the functions of the institute of colleges and the supervision, the expansion and the development of the various colleges to prevent overlapping and to encourage co-operation. Under this supervisory power it is suggested that each college should govern itself. The Commonwealth Government significantly endorses and accepts this suggestion. I hope that the States will see that the colleges, as well as the universities, have autonomy.

I now want to make some reference to the teaching staff in universities. I have referred to the fact that if the technical colleges are to be encouraged to grant degrees, stress will be placed on the university staffs. I want to say why that would be undesirable. In the past we have drawn a lot of our professorial staffs for universities from the United Kingdom. This cannot go on because pressures for increased university opportunities are being exerted there. Teaching staff for universities is required in the United Kingdom. The authorities in the United Kingdom are doing their best to stop what they call the brain drain. On the other hand, we have been losing some of our best brains, if I can use that word, to other countries because of lack of opportunity in Australia. But this problem is now being dealt with and the brain drain from Australia, I think, is consequently being reduced. The salaries of professorial personnel have been made more realistic. They are receiving good incomes. The post graduate training and higher -research opportunities have now been very much improved. The Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the National Health and Medical Research Council are offering further opportunities for technical and research work. It is also interesting to find that in the medical field higher degrees are now available in Australia. The degree of Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Physicians, which is one that many doctors like to get, is now available in Australia. This, I think, is helping to keep our higher trained people in Australia.

Senator Cohen - That is the Royal Australian College of Physicians degree?

Senator BUTTFIELD - Yes. Until recently this degree was not available in Australia. It meant that many of our trained people went overseas to study and, of course, many of them decided to remain there.

It was interesting to note that the Australian Universities Commission had recommended the grant of £5 million for research over five years. Of that amount, £1 million has already been granted for each of three years, and recently the Minister announced that the other £2 million will be made available to a grants committee for specific research projects. This is a tremendous help in the training of people wishing to receive the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. It helps to augment the supply of personnel available to universities and, perhaps, to schools as science teachers. But I hope that the committee, in its allocation of money for higher opportunities for research projects, will concentrate not only on science and mathematics, but also on the humanities. I think we need to go even further than that in relation to research opportunities.

I would like to see the Government making tax concessions available for gifts to research groups. Research is something which we need to encourage. I agree here with Senator Ormonde. I would like to see industry encouraged to make allocations for this purpose. I think private endowment might be made more attractive to industry and to private individuals if the Government could see its way clear to grant tax concessions in respect of money made available for research.

Now I would like to say just a little about students. Many of them, as I said earlier, either cram or pass their matriculation examination, but they are not suitable for university work at that stage. Either they have not learnt to work alone or they are not mature enough or there are other reasons why they are not suitable. I read with great interest the other day of a compulsory English comprehension and expression course set by the Australian National University for approximately 870 university students. The conclusions arrived at after the students had done this examination was that they were not able to express themselves properly on paper; that they could not write a proper letter; that they could not write a precis; and that they could not write a proper report.

Senator Hannaford - A lot of them could not spell.

Senator BUTTFIELD - This is indicative of the fact that somewhere along the line their teaching at school is inadequate. I hope that teachers will take note of that particular result, and give more time to and place greater emphasis on the need for precision and for accurate analysis. In this way, I think, the failure rates would be greatly reduced. It is very alarming to see that the average failure rate at universities in the first year of study is 30 per cent. This figure goes as high as 50 per cent, in some universities. Further than that, only a small percentage of students who enter universities ever complete their courses. This is probably due to large lecture classes. Perhaps there is not sufficient trained staff, or qualifications are not high enough. There are all sorts of reasons for this alarming state of affairs.

But there is one other aspect that I would like to mention. This is what I call the human element. Lecturers in tertiary institutions, not only in universities, are human beings. They form their likes and their dislikes. These may be on a class basis, or on a political basis or it may be through sheer incompatability. But I think it is unfortunate that these lecturers are placed in the position of examining the students whom they teach and of failing or passing them. I think it would be much better if a system could be worked out whereby a visiting lecturer or examiner, whoever it may be, set the papers, corrected them, 'and judged the ability of the students. This human element is one which cannot be eliminated if the person who teaches is the one to say whether or not the student should pass or fail. I think that the university boards should look at the value of outside examiners.

This is only one factor which needs examining by university boards. They should take stock of themselves in a general way. Many years ago, finance for universities came from private sources. At that time, as now, university boards, rightly, were autonomous. I think they should continue to have autonomy. But they did not then have the same degree of public responsibility as they should have now that the trend for finance has changed from the private sector to the public sector of the community.

The report by the Martin Committee states that, in 1947, funds to universities from private sources were £1.2 million whereas from Commonwealth and State sources combined there was less than £1 million forthcoming. In 1952, the trend had begun to change. The Commonwealth was providing £2.9 million while the States were providing £3.3 million and the private sector was contributing £2.2 million. By 1963, this trend had changed considerably. The Commonwealth grant was £24.1 million; the State figure was £20.7 million; and £10 million was received from other sources. Now, in this year, the Commonwealth grant is £58 million and, certainly, the contribution from the private sector of the community is reducing relatively quickly. If this trend continues and if governments are to be expected to allocate more and more from the public purse to universities; university boards have a very grave responsibility to the people. They must have a look at themselves. They must develop this sense of public responsibility and account for their actions to the public.

In the past, university boards have been a political embarrassment because they have refused to take public opinion into account. I repeat that I do not want to suggest that, by saying that they should account for themselves, university boards should in any way lose their autonomy. I find it particularly important that they should not. When I was addressing the Senate recently Senator Wright by interjection asked me for further details of education as seen by the Communist Party. I said then that the Communists look for the educated man. This is the person whom they seek to influence and to whom they can look to pass on Communist ideals to others. I would like to illustrate what I meant and why I think it is so important for universities themselves to control their own affairs rather than to have government control.

In Communist countries, education is used as a Party instrument. It is used to train minds for Party political purposes. In China, Party cadres sit in on all faculty or professorial consultations. They it is who direct what shall be done. This seems quite ridiculous. These Party cadres are the ones who explain what they want done for the purposes of the Party. Doctors and engineers are told by laymen what methods they should use. Always it is the Party which is of prime importance. The human being is of very little importance. Policies of the Party are very often dictated by shortages. To illustrate this point, I mention that herbs are used in China rather than antibiotics because antibiotics are scarce and expensive. Therefore, doctors are told that they must use herbs and that they must study herbal methods of treatment. The doctors are made to study and use the acupuncture rather than the more modern and more expensive techniques. In some cases doctors must use willow instead of bone in grafting because this eliminates the need for bone banks for this type of medical work. Always it is the Party which dictates to the intelligent man because he is a potential danger in his contacts with the public if he is allowed to think and act for himself. He can be influential and therefore must understand and disseminate Party methods and Party dogma. This is very clearly illustrated in the Russian type of education.

In Russia, the best brains are sent to the University of Moscow where all the students are studying pure science. I think there are between 20,000 and 25,000 students at that university, all of whom are studying in one faculty - science. They are sent to this university because they are the best brains available and have to be able to help in the propaganda and prestige race that the Russians are trying to win - the space race. But while these students are studying pure science, they must also study three political subjects, all of which they must pass before receiving their degree. This indicates that the students must be well indoctrinated in Communist Party principles before they may move into the community to do their more specialised type of work. This is something which I hope we will never impose on the young people of our community. We want them to learn to think for themselves, not necessarily to think politically and just be political puppets in their work. It is undesirable to have studies controlled, because control certainly does stultify thought and tends to turn people into puppets.

There is one other aspect on which I would like to touch. When we say that we need to provide opportunities for all types of people I would like to include in that opportunities for women. It is rather sad to know that only about 24 per cent, of those who enrol in our universities today are women and that many of the women who enrol are deprived of opportunity - even when they have completed their university courses - to continue in their work. This applies particularly in the Public Service, where women are forced to retire on marriage. This matter was touched on in the Martin report and I want particularly to refer to it because it is a matter in which I have always been particularly interested while I have been a member of this Parliament. At page 60 of its report the Committee says -

The proportion of married women with university training who are employed part time or full time in professional fields in Australia is less than in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and in a number of European countries. The Australian community is sustaining serious loss through the wastage of the talents of able women, particularly in government service. The legal and social barriers which require women to resign on marriage or to lose fringe benefits may not be in the best interests of the nation. It is probable that the abolition of discrimination in employment would encourage more women to complete degree studies and induce married women whose families are no longer dependent on them to resume the practice of their profession.

I hope that if it is the last thing that I achieve in this Parliament I can persuade the Government to take notice of this recommendation of the Martin Committee. This recommendation has been made not only in this report but has also been made elsewhere as the result of Public Service investigations. All sorts of other fair minded people have also said that this provision is an outdated and outrageous discrimination against women and that they should be given the opportunity to choose for themselves what they should do. I hope the Government will take notice of the recommendation and will not continue to deprive the nation of the services of able women by forcing them out of employment after they have completed their training.

To sum up what I have said: I believe we need to provide the widest opportunities for everyone - men and women, young and old - in all States of the Commonwealth on an equal basis. I believe that there should be in our Federal system a clear line of demarcation of responsibility as between State and Commonwealth. Responsibility should not be concentrated - in this case the responsibility for education - in the one central Parliament. I believe there is a necessity for more and more Government aid for education, but this does not mean that we should deprive the tertiary educational bodies of their right to autonomy. I believe the universities should take a more responsible attitude and should account for their actions to the public. We must see to it that Government control does not take over in education and thus give us the sort of educated product which thrives in Communist countries and under Communist party control, because this would deprive us of our famous resourcefulness, independence and initiative, the very things we want and desire now and in the future.

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