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Tuesday, 11 May 1965


Senator MATTNER (South Australia) . - It is true that in the last 20 years we have had a population explosion in Australia and also a revolution in our thinking, particularly on education. I am not as despondent as was Senator Murphy about what has" happened to Australia in the last 20 years. The picture that he gave to us, particularly coming from a man who has had the opportunity to enjoy a university education, was far too gloomy. Underlying it all was the claim that we had not done enough for education. I suppose that means that the States, which have been primarily responsible for education, have not done a very good job. I was delighted to hear Senator Ormonde take up the cudgels on behalf of the States and point to some of the things that have been done. We often ask in relation to the revolution that is occurring in our thinking: What are the causes of it? What needs to be done about it? It is true to say that the present and the future trends in education are occupying the thoughts of the Australian people. We are thinking of how the young people may be provided with education that is suitable for today and tomorrow.

The Commonwealth Government, alive to this question and anticipating the needs of the future, appointed the Martin Committee almost four years ago to inquire into and to report on education. Two volumes of the report have been presented to Parliament. The Government has set out proposals to meet some of the recommendations made in the report. Stangely enough, the Opposition has seen fit to move a series of amendments to the proposals. Senator Cohen, in moving them, used the word " imprecision ". I think it was used completely out of its context. It is a horrible word in the manner in which it is used. I am staggered to think that a learned man, a Queen's Counsel, could have moved the amendments with the word " imprecision " used in the context in which it is used. I know that honorable senators opposite do not even know what the word means.


Senator O'Byrne - What is the meaning of it?


Senator MATTNER - It is something which the honorable senator has not got. I believe that he can say something with precision.


Senator O'Byrne - The honorable senator himself is imprecise.


Senator MATTNER - I am trying to pay the honorable senator a compliment. There is nothing imprecise about him. I do not think that Senator Cohen attacked the Government, at all on the question of whether or not we should have an extension of education. His attack, to my way of thinking, was based on his opinion and that of the party which he represents, because he moved the amendment on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, that the Commonwealth Government should assume full responsibility in the fields of primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Before we advocate that the Commonwealth Government must assume full responsibility for education, we should consider what the States have done in the educational field. I am not going to traverse the ground. In my opinion, the States have done and are continually doing an excellent job in the educational field. It has been said in this debate that man may be known by his reasoning capacity. It is also true that he must live and he must work in the society of other people. That is one of the fundamentals of life. He must live and he must work in the society of other people. Does this higher education we have heard so much about - tertiary education if you wish - make him a more reasonable or rational person? Does higher education make a person acceptable to the less brilliant of the community? That is one of the important points that we have to consider: Whether these learned men who have had the benefit of a tertiary education are really accepted by the community. When I talk about the community in this context, I mean the hewers of wood, the drawers of water and the producers of goods needed for the benefit of mankind. This hard core of useful citizens is shocked at times at the attitude and behaviour of some of the university students towards the community. Such behaviour to them is irrational and undermines the community's confidence in the value of tertiary education.

Certainly the world order changes. Environment is far different today from what it was 50 years ago. Moral responsibility should still be keystone of the nation. A university training should develop this to a greater extent than it did in the days that are past. I suppose we could look at tertiary education as an investment - a national investment, if you wish - because the money invested in tertiary education by way of providing buildings, professors, staff and so on comes chiefly from the taxpayer and by voluntary gifts. Tertiary education, if we look upon it as an investment, should pay a national dividend. We should be able to sec the dividends in tangible form. They should contribute to national production.

Senator Murphysaid ; and I agree with him ; that tertiary education should develop aesthetic tastes. We know that tertiary education does contribute to increasing the income of the person who is able to have this higher education. However, these materialistic gains - and they are materialistic gains - should not wipe away a genuine appreciation of literature, the arts, and even philosophy. The higher education should produce a more responsible citizen rather than an anti-social person. As one who moves around quietly 1 sometimes regret that we see so much of this anti-social attitude developing not only in our students but also in our university staffs. Here again, we join issues. The ordinary taxpayer who pays heavy taxation has cause to wonder whether the diversion of some of his taxation into university education is justified. He often feels, and rightly so, that many of the demands being made for him to supply more money for this purpose are not appreciated by the recipients. He feels that even some of our learned professors, tutorial staff and students bite the hand that feeds them. Graduates as well as undergraduates should realise that it is not only their own material gains but also the human values involved which are so important to the nation. Their decisions affect the moral and social values and these in turn influence the lives of the ordinary people who actually make it possible for the undergraduates to go to a university.

I think it is generally agreed that higher education should be available to all. There is perhaps one reservation that might be made and it is this: Is the student of an eduational standard suitable for enrolment as an undergraduate or, if you wish, for enrolment into a technical school or technical college? Two things will determine whether or not a student graduates - that is inclination to study and capacity to study. The cost of attaining this objective - that is to graduate - will be great both to the student and to the taxpayer. This is a paradox as it appears to the ordinary taxpayer. He must provide most of the money although he is unable personally to partake of the advantages provided. Youth which contributes only in mind and body demands more and still more sacrifices by the taxpayer to provide what it claims is its right. So, there is at least a conflict between the students' demands and the public's ability to pay. Actually, the fees that the student pays are only a very small proportion of the amount of income that a university receives. Again, I agree with Senator Murphy and other speakers when they say that if the public is expected to pay for higher education, then, rightly, the public must be allowed some voice in the manner of how its money is expended - not only how its money is expended, but also the dividend it receives from its investment.

Whilst it is true - I think even the Opposition agrees with this - that some of the demands for higher education have been met by the Commonwealth Government, the demand for more and greater expenditure has been continuously maintained. Public interest has been aroused to such an extent that people rightly expect to get value for their taxes devoted to tertiary education. Looking at tertiary education, we find that the whole picture of the sources of supply of undergraduates has changed in the last 30 years. It is completely different. Many students are working under great financial pressure to complete their courses successfully. Therefore, a university must provide to the undergraduates effective teaching and guidance in research. The loss of a year through failure, perhaps, in one subject, and a boy or a girl has to do the whole year's course again. This is a tragedy and creates great hardships not only to the student but also to the university because it clutters up the vacancies which may be available.

Traditional methods must give way to the advances made in technology and communications. Universities should get down to the realities and to the value of teaching. To the layman, it seems a national waste of effort when we consider that only about 50 per cent, of students who start a degree course complete it. Before entering university students must matriculate. The matriculation examinations are set by universities and passing the examination should show that a student has the ability to succeed in further study at the university. I admit that the standard of matriculation is a difficult standard to decide, but it seems to the layman that there should be greater liaison between the secondary schools and the universities. I think such liaison is lacking. I do not know very much about education, though I have paid for a lot of it. However, I think that greater liaison must eventually exist between the secondary schools and the universities. The university people must leave their ivory towers for a while and come down and mingle with the crowd. When a student passes at matriculation standard, that should fit him for the courses he proposed to take at university.

Much has been made of the question of teacher training. Teacher training at university level is one of the musts, and it will have to come. Much is done at the primary and secondary levels to train people how to teach, how to pass on the knowledge they have gained. While it is true that many of our brilliant scholars may make excellent teachers, it is also true that the average scholar may be better able to impart his knowledge than is the more brilliant student, because he understands and realises the hurdles which have to be taken by the student, whereas the more brilliant people do not experience, and therefore do not appreciate the difficulties. If either at the university or at secondary school a boy can go to his master and say, " Sir, I do not understand. Would you explain? ", we will be getting somewhere. In my day if one wanted to go to a professor and say, " Sir, I do not understand," a peasant could pass through the door for that purpose.

I was delighted to hear Senator Cohen and other speakers mention English. I believe that every student and undergraduate should have a good knowledge of English. This applies particularly in secondary schools. First year English at university would be most useful to a student taking any course. In the case of my own children, I insisted that they do first year English in whatever course they took at university. I believe that the study of English is sadly neglected in both our secondary schools and universities. Students are not taught to express themselves and to get the joy it is possible to get from reading - the joy of a few leisure moments. Life, in spite of iti hustle and bustle, surely has time for leisure, and the aim of tertiary education is to equip one to enjoy leisure and to give people a little leisure. 1 think higher education is designed to provide more leisure for tha masses. Reading is a great asset in develop* ing social responsibility. Although I do not remember the quotation very well I think Bacon said " Reading maketh a full man . . and writing an exact man ". There are other such quotations, but I have never liked Bacon for breakfast. Perhaps tha Minister can tell us about them. To repeat: " Reading maketh a full man . . and writing an exact man ". It is true that the various faculties attract their own graduates and in some courses, such as agricultural science and veterinary science, there may be a tendency to advocate a dispersion into the country, or the splitting of these faculties from their mother universities. 1 believe this tendency is wrong at present.

I listened with a great deal of interest to what Senator Buttfield said this afternoon, particularly with regard to her two boys, both of whom had marvellous scholastic records at the University o£ Adelaide - something of which anyone can be justly proud.


Senator Buttfield - I did not say that.


Senator MATTNER - I know you did not, but I am saying it. They were extraordinarily successful. We know that a great deal has to be done for university students. I am not saying that the conditions under which they work are by any means ideal. I will deal with the matter of overcrowding later. There is in our universities a lack which makes things difficult for students of agricultural science and veterinary science. I am not in favour of splitting these faculties away from the mother universities. Students of these subjects can do their field work as they are now doing, but it is the mingling of the members of the various faculties, not only in scholastic work but also in sport and social activities, which makes university studies worthwile. After all, learning to live with your neighbour is an aim of education, and the mingling of the members of the various faculties is good.

The news that technical education is to receive much needed assistance was very welcome to me. I know that what I said in regard to secondary and technical education took a line that is not approved by very many people. We are calling up our young men for military service. I would like to see a broad education system introduced for our Service trainees, and I believe this will be possible as the years go by.

While speaking about technical education I would like to mention that in South Australia the School of Mines, or Institute of Technology, was established in 1899. There has been a long and happy association between Adelaide University and the School of Mines. Their buildings are close to one another and the staffs and students have shared facilities. The happy and successful working together of the two bodies has given wonderful service to the students and to the State of South Australia itself.

From the Martin report we find that in 1962 there were 57,030 students doing technical courses. Technical institutes provide vocational training and many of them have diploma courses in certain subjects. The Government accepts the Martin Committee's central argument that tertiary education outside universities must be strengthened. If this is done two issues arise. The first is that of providing the necessary staff, buildings and equipment. In my earlier remarks I spoke of the teaching ability of university staffs. As the taxpayer has to provide the money for these extensions in education he asks several questions. He asks whether the staff is proficient. Of the 1420 personnel who may be required, apart from replacements, we ask: Are they proficient? We also ask: Who supervises the running of the universities and other tertiary educational institutions? How is the staff used? What hours do they work and, particularly in universities, how many lectures are given each term and at what hours of the day or night are they given? And can the student fit his studies in with the lecture times? What use is made of lecturers, as distinct from professors? The lecturers are a very important class of people in universities. It is common knowledge that some students attend not only the lectures by professors but also, wherever possible, those given by lecturers, because the lecturers are more down to earth.

In many cases they have the ability to create an interest between the lecturer and the student whereas the professor stands on his rostrum, delivers his lecture and the student can take it or leave it. In these large classes, overcrowded in many cases - 'this is unfortunate but unavoidable - the students have the greatest difficulty in noting the professor's lecture because they cannot hear him very well. I repeat that many students complete the various courses because they have access to a lecturer who is humane and able to assist them.

Very little has been said about the cost of the scholarships which the Commonwealth Government awards to students to enable them to attend the university. The cost is ever increasing. The 2,500 scholarships which are provided mean that at least 12,500 students are being educated over a period of a few years. I base that statement on the fact that an average course, including medicine which is six years at least, takes five years to complete. Assuming that there will not be a failure in any year, on my conservative estimate that a course takes five years to complete, the 2.500 Commonwealth scholarships awarded every year mean that 12,500 students a year are being educated.

It has been said that income by way of university fees is £5.1 million. Of that amount £1-8 million is contributed by the Commonwealth Government. The State Governments also assist the universities to a great degree so that does not leave very much for the private undergraduate, if I may call him that, to contribute by way of fees. The suggestion has been advanced that we wipe off the difference between £5.1 million and £1.8 million, which is £3.3 million, and make university education available to everyone. But that is not the only cost. The cost of buildings, equipment and staff also must be taken into consideration. The recipients of Commonwealth scholarships are indeed fortunate. They have talent and I hope that they apply themselves with all diligence as they have done in the past, as many are doing now, and as many will do in the future. I hope that the investment we are making in them will be repaid in the form of a substantial national dividend - more responsible citizens and people who are not anti-social.

I agree that the facilities which have been provided for part time tuition at the universities are a very valuable adjunct. I, for one, would not like to see them eliminated. Young people who have the courage, ability and willingness to work during the day and then to invest their brainpower and time in a part time university education Will do well. I have personal knowledge of many part time students who are a credit, not only to themselves, but also to the university.

I have spoken for far too long, so in conclusion let me say that the report tells us what the public is expected to do. It tells us what we are expected to do. It also tells the universities what they should do. The report is very personal in that it frankly tells the people who control and manage our universities that they must face up to their problems in a new manner. In a very distinct way it tells the university people: " Look to yourselves. Do not be so concernedwith costs. Concern yourselves with the value of our recommendations for the community and the university."

This is an excellent report and, I think, the first step in a. great forward march in the field of tertiary education in Australia I believe that the Government will give in the future, as it has inthe past, great consideration to the needs and requirements of education in Australia. I do not want to see it assume full responsibility for education, but a government which is prepared to appoint a committee - in this case the Martin Committee - and to implement at least some of the recommendations made by the Committee, shows that it is not unwilling to aid further progress and fame in the field of tertiary education. I support the proposal for the adoption of the report.







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