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Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training

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22 November, 1979

On 22 March the Prime Minister tabled the Report of the

Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training and indicated

the arrangements that would be followed to co-ordinate the

Government's handling and consideration of the Report. I

now wish to make a statement on the Government's response

to the Report.

The Williams Committee was set up by the Government in

September 1976. The Committee comprised distinguished

representatives of education, employer and trade union

interests. Education and training in Australia has been very

well served by the contribution made by the members of the

Committee. The Government acknowledges its debt to them and

in particular to its Chairman, Professor Bruce Williams.

The work of the Williams Committee has constituted the most

comprehensive examination ever undertaken in Australia into

the provision of education facilities and services for

individual development and into the relationship between the

education system and the labour market. Both of these

particular concerns of the Committee were directed towards

possible developments up to the year 2000. The comprehensive

report of the Committee will be a source of substantial

influence over developments in education and its interaction

with the world of work for the remainder of the 20th Century.

Education Facilities and Services

I turn firstly to education aspects. The Committee's review

of the provision of education facilities and services led

it to the conclusion that the goals which it perceives for

the decades ahead can be achieved-within the existing

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framework of the education system without the need for

substantial change. The Committee did not recommend major

structural change and it advocated development within the

existing sectors of tertiary education, through a process

of evolutionary adjustments. The overall judgement of the

Committee is that the education system is appropriately consti­

tuted to respond to the needs of individuals and the community.

The Government accepts this judgement. It accepts that the

future development of the system should be within the present

sectors. It agrees with the Williams Committee that emphasis

in policy consideration should be placed on the processes of

education rather than its structures. This is linked with the .

Government's concern for the improvement of quality in education

This is no counsel of complacency. The Report recommends

numerous and often wide-ranging reforms which will profoundly

affect the nature and quality of education in the years ahead.

I have no doubt that the Report has found a sympathetic

response from the many people in the community who have

questioned the relevance and quality of education, particularly

with regard to basic skills and preparation for vocations. "

The Williams Committee does not seek to challenge the generalist

stream of education which aims primarily at individual .

development and upon which the secondary school systems in

Australia are essentially based. It does point, however,

to the inadequacies within that concept for a significant

number of students who cannot readily adapt to the concept

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and find themselves at risk because their particular skills

and difficulties are not identified and effectively treated.

In its consideration of the major recommendations of the Committee

and in discussions with State Education Ministers, the

Government has had particular regard to measures for improving

the quality of the education system. The quantity of education

has increased enormously in the post-war years, and particularly

in the past decade. Many people have questioned whether there

has been a parallel and comparable increase in quality.

I shall mention the more significant of these measures

directed at improving the quality of education and return to

more detailed comments later in the statement. We are

co-operating with the States in the development of testing

measures to assist classroom teachers and systems to identify

deficiencies in literacy and numeracy. We will contribute

half of the cost of operating a national TAFE Research and

Development Centre which will be involved in the analysis

of skills required for various occupations and in planning

and development of teaching materials.

We endorse the recommendations of the Williams Committee

directed to institutions, particularly universities and

colleges of advanced education, for improving selection and

induction of students, for academic staff development, for

improvement in qualitative delivery of education, and in

the areas of academic progress, including the reduction of

failure rates. We shall keep the whole tertiary arrangements

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under regular review.

The Williams Committee strategy of evolutionary adjustments

within the present sectors of education provides a flexible

framework for the development of the education and training


The Government accepts, for the most part, the Committee's

judgements on balance between the sectors of tertiary;

education for future development of.the systems. The Committee

in its projections of future growth placed emphasis on the

growth of the technical and further education and advanced

education sectors, while growth in universities would be

stabilised. It has been the Government's policy to give

priority to the development of the TAFE sector, and it

readily endorses the recommendation that this should continue.

The Government accepts the view of the Committee that the

numbers of students in universities be stabilised and that

this should be associated with a greater concentration on

post-graduate work and research. In the case of advanced

education, the Tertiary Education Commission will advise the

Government on the particular fields where future growth, if

any, might occur. Other issues raised by the projections

of the Report will be kept under review by the Government

in the context of the triennial programs of the Tertiary

Education Commission.

While the Williams Committee was mainly concerned with

tertiary education, its proposals relating to schools include

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a number of matters to which the Government attaches

considerable importance. These include improving the teaching

of basic skills in schools, facilitating the transition from

school to work (particularly for girls), improving teaching

methods, improving school and community relations and

strengthening vocational education. The Government welcomes

the proposals of the Committee relating to these matters.

Some aspects of them will be considered further by the

National Inquiry into Teacher Education which will report

by the middle of 1980.

The Government also attaches considerable importance to

increasing access to education, in particular for those groups

under-represented in tertiary education. The Government

reaffirms its commitment to widening access to education

for such groups and welcomes the particular consideration

given to this issue by the Williams Committee. I mention

in particular in this context Aboriginals, migrants, the

handicapped and those living in isolated country areas.

There are also proposals in the Report relating to the

situation of girls and women both in securing access to all

sectors and fields of education, and in access to employment

opportunities. The Government attaches considerable importance

to these recommendations and will consider carefully ways

in which the Commonwealth can contribute to their implementation.

In addition to the issues identified by the Williams Committee,

there are other issues relating to access to education by

special groups that the Government will continue to address.

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Education and the Labour Market

The Williams Report highlights the complexity of the relation­

ship between the education system and the labour market. The

role of education is to meet both individual and community

needs and the appropriate balance of these perspectives is

a matter that requires continuing review. The Williams Report

did not recommend substantial changes in the relationship

between educational services and labour markets. The

Government takes the view that there are some issues in this

area that require early action by the Government on a more

comprehensive basis than has been suggested by the Williams

Committee. These relate, in particular, to the problem of

youth unemployment and the general question of the transition

of young people from school to work..

The question.of the transition of young people from school to

work has been under consideration by the Commonwealth and the

States for some time. The problem is not unique to Australia.

It has been recognised in most OECD countries and programs

are being developed to facilitate transition. OECD conducted

a review of Australian education in 1976 that focussed on

this subject. Following the OECD review, the Australian

Education Council established several working parties that

have examined and made recommendations about aspects of this

problem. Action has been taken on a range of measures within

the education systems. However, more concerted and systematic

action is necessary by both the Commonwealth and the States.

The Government has consulted the States on this question and

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intends to take immediate steps to move towards the

implementation of a comprehensive policy for transition from

school to work. Later in this statement I will provide

information on action that the Government will take.

I turn now to the role of manpower considerations in

educational planning. The Government's policy is that in

determining the level and pattern of tertiary education the

objective should be to allocate available resources so as

to meet as much of the demand for places as possible, in

ways consistent with what is known of the present and future

structure of society and the workforce.

In this difficult task of reconciling individual aspirations

for education with community needs, the Government will

continue to be guided by the advice of the Tertiary Education

Commission. The Commission will ask advice from the Department

of Employment and Youth Affairs on manpower matters. The

Government1s approach to determining the pattern of tertiary

education will continue to be that in expensive and highly

specialised fields of study, decisions on the number of places

to be made available will be influenced primarily by manpower

considerations. In other fields the Government will, as now,

have prime regard to the demand for places from those qualified

and wishing to enter particular courses. The Government recognises

that education serves a plurality of purposes, including its

important role in promoting human fulfilment.

The role of manpower considerations in educational planning

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depends fundamentally on improved assessments of the labour

market. The Government is in agreement with the view of the

Williams Committee that improvement in the quality and

comprehensiveness of labour market information is a pre­

requisite for any significant advance in the use of manpower

considerations in educational planning.

Framework of Response

I have drawn attention to the fact that the Williams Report

was required to provide a perspective on educational

planning up to the year 2000. A number of its proposals

involve adjustments over a period of some considerable

time. The proposed changes in skills training illustrate this

point. Given this time-scale, implementation of the recommend­

ations of the Williams Report is a matter of evolving priorities

within a flexible long-range framework.

A number of the recommendations in the Williams Report are ·

matters for the States and individual institutions to consider.

The Government has considered in the light of these considerations,

the the more general ones I have previously mentioned, which

particular policies can best provide stimulus to the directions

advocated by the Williams Committee.

The Government has decided that the following policy

objectives will guide its responses to the Williams Report:

. qualitative improvement of the TAPE sector: ·

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. strengthening the teaching of basic skills

in schools;

. facilitating the transition of young people from

school to work including the development of a

comprehensive policy for youth in transition;

. improving the quality and availability of

labour market information;

. improving skills training arrangements;

. strengthening and concentrating research

in universities; .

. continuing monitoring and adjustments of

the education system.

Particular initiatives will be brought forward in the Budget

context in pursuance of these policies and the Government will

announce its decisions on these initiatives when these are taken.

Some of the initiatives recommended by the Williams Committee

will be considered in the context of the triennial programs of

the Tertiary Education Commission.

I turn now to indicate some of the matters that are being

considered in connection with these policies.

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Qualitative Improvement of the TAFE Sector

The Government has indicated to the States that it is prepared

to contribute to the establishment of the National Research

and Development Centre in TAFE proposed by the Williams

Committee. This proposal was discussed by the Australian

Education Council at its June and October meetings and has

the support of the Council. Detailed plans for the Centre

are at present being drawn up.

I am confident that a National Research and Development

Centre in TAFE will make a valuable contribution in enhancing

the capacity of the TAFE sector to undertake the important

role in tertiary education that the Williams Committee

envisaged for it. The Government takes the view that the

expansion of TAFE in response to community and industry needs

and the qualitative improvement of the TAFE sector must be

essential elements in any strategy for the development of

the tertiary education and training system. Special groups

such as Aboriginals, migrants, and the handicapped will

receive particular help from flexible bridging and transition

arrangements in the TAFE area. There is scope for a determined

effort to widen the opportunities for skilled training for

girls. .

Other ways in which quality in the TAFE sector can be improved

are currently under consideration by the TAFE Council. These

will be brought forward by the Tertiary Education Commission

in due course. The Government is prepared to consider in

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the context of the 1980 guidelines for TAPE programs in 1981

proposals from the Tertiary Education Commission for support

of quality improvement in TAPE additional to those at present

being supported by the Commonwealth.

The Teaching of Basic Skills in Schools

The Williams Committee took the view that proficiency in

the basic skills was a factor in the employability of young

people. While there is no evidence that standards in the

basic skills in schools have fallen, there is research

evidence that a proportion of school students are not reaching

acceptable standards in the basic skills of literacy and

numeracy. '

A national survey undertaken by the Australian Council for

Educational Research in 1975 found that approximately 25

per cent of 14 year olds in the sample required some

instruction in reading, without which they would be unlikely

to undertake independent learning or to read for recreation

or to obtain information. This survey also found that

approximately 20 per cent of 10 year olds and 15 per cent

of 14 year olds needed remedial instruction in number work.

Only 50 per cent of 14 year olds could write a satisfactory

letter of application for employment in terms of four .

basic criteria. This is a matter of substantial public,

concern, and action to improve standards in the basic skills

will have wide support.

The Australian Education Council has recognised the need for


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a comprehensive program of action directed at the improvement

of the teaching of basic skills in schools. The Council at

its recent October meeting decided to act on the Williams

Report proposal and to commission the Australian Council

for Educational Research to develop a series of diagnostic

and survey tests to enable progress by students in the

basic skills to be assessed. This program will include

the development of progress and review tests for use by

schools. In addition, there will be a national monitoring

of literacy and numeracy skills on a light sampling basis.

The Government welcomes this decision of the Council and

will meet half the annual cost of the national monitoring.

Transition from School to Work

The Government will broaden opportunities for young people

in making the transition from school to work by supporting

the extension and diversification of education, training,

and work-related activities. The Government has consulted

the States on ways in which this should be done. At its

October meeting the Australian Education Council endorsed

the need for a comprehensive policy on transition from school

to work. The Government expects that the action that it will

be taking will have the full support and co-operation of

the States.

The aim of the Government's policy will be to ultimately

provide all young people in the 15-19 age group with options


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in education, training, and employment or any combination

of these whether full-time or part-time, so that unemployment

becomes the least acceptable alternative. Such a program

will be adapted to the diverse range of needs of young

people during these transition years. It will have particular

regard to the needs of young people who are identified as

being at risk in making the transition from school to working

life. Adequate guidance and community services must be

provided for such students. The Government's policy will

foster the development of a range of alternative programs

both in sfchools and in TAFE colleges, and in manpower

training, that are specially adapted to the needs of

particular groups of young people. It will have regard

to the significant observation of the Williams Committee

that school retention rates in Australia are considerably

lower than in other OECD countries such as the United States

and Japan.

The Government will be taking immediate steps to implement

this comprehensive policy in co-operation with the States.

In a separate statement I will announce in more detail the

action the Government will be taking.' This would involve

the provision of Commonwealth funds over five years for

a special transition program to which the States and the

Northern Territory will be invited to make matching

contributions. The Commonwealth 1s contribution will total


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$25 million in 1980 rising to $40 million in 1984 with

adjustments for inflation. These funds will provide for

the development of programs, in both government and

non-government schools and in TAFE colleges, directed at the

objectives I have mentioned. ' ' \

Labour Market Information and Research

Both the Crawford and Williams Reports pointed to deficiencies

in labour market information that need to be remedied. The

Government is examining ways in which this should be done.

More needs to be known about the labour market experience

of young people and the Office of Youth Affairs will intensify

its role in stimulating and co-ordinating research into

those issues.

Skills Training Arrangements

The Government is committed to improving skills training

arrangements both within andkoutside of apprenticeship. The

Government accepts in principle the Williams Report proposal

for a greater emphasis on pre-employment education and

training. . 1

The Government recognises that the implementation of this

policy requires extensive consultation and that change in

this direction could only take place over a period of some

time. As a first step the Government has reviewed the

role of pre-apprenticeship and pre-vocational training


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and accepts the need to expand such training.

The Government will make funds available in 1980 for an

immediate expansion of pre-apprenticeship and pre-vocational

training as an aspect of its comprehensive policy to facilitate

transition from school to work. Details of this expansion

will be worked out in consultation with the States in the

context of the funds allocated for the new transition


University Research

A series of reports in recent years have argued that university

research should be more contentrated in effort. Both the

Australian Science and Technology Council and the Williams

Committee have supported the proposal to build up post-graduate

research centres in universities as a means of securing a

more concentrated research effort in universities.

The Government recognises the force of this argument and

has asked the Tertiary Education Commission to examine this

proposal and report to the Government during 1980 on measures

for possible implementation during the 1982-84 triennium.

The Government also acknowledges the importance of post-graduate

awards in maintaining the strength of university research.

The Department of Education and the Tertiary Education

Commission will review the number and value of post-graduate

awards for consideration in the 1980-81 Budget.


Monitoring and Adjustment of the Education System

There are a number of proposals in the Williams Report for

monitoring of particular developments in the education system

that the Committee regarded as important for the development

of both State and national policies. The Government accepts

the importance of the education system being kept under

continuing review so that the flexibility and responsiveness

of the system may be monitored and adjustments may be made in

response to social and economic changes.

To this end the Government has intensified the evaluation of

its own programs. Priority in evaluation studies is currently

being given to student assistance, including the Tertiary

Education Assistance Scheme, and migrant education programs,

and the Tertiary Education Commission and the Education Research

and Development Committee are supporting other evaluation

studies. The Government will look to continuing monitoring

and review in the process of reaching future decisions on the

programs of the relevant departments and other agencies.

Matters Referred for Further Consideration

A number of the proposals in the Williams Report require

further examination by various Commonwealth agencies in the

light of the development of the programs of these bodies

and other considerations. In some cases further consultation

with State authorities and individual institutions will be

necessary. In line with this approach, a number of proposals

has been referred to the Tertiary Education Commission. Some

of these proposals will be considered by the Commission in the

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context of its development of proposals for the 1982-84

triennium. Tliese include the recommendations for the funding

of non-award courses in universities and colleges of advanced

education and the establishment of a national network of study

centres. The Tertiary Education Commission will also investigate

the implications of an extension of the concept of contracting

in consultation with State authorities and. will advise the

Government on this matter. A number of matters concerning

skills training have been referred to the National Training

Council for consideration, Relevant recommendations will be

taken up by the National Inquiry into Teacher Education, the

National Training Council, the Committee of Inquiry into

Technological Change in Australia and by various Commonwealth

agencies in the course of their work.

Commonwealth and State Roles

The Williams Committee recommended some changes in Commonwealth

and State roles and relationships in the planning and

administration of tertiary education. These related, in

particular, to the planning and administration of advanced

education and involved a proposal for further devolution of

responsibility to State authorities subject to certain


These proposals have been discussed with the States through

the Australian Education Council and agreement has been

reached with them on procedures to be followed which will

ensure adequate consultation with the States. Consultations

will be convened by the Chairman of the Tertiary Education

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Commission and held at least twice a year. Revised arrangements

involving close co-operation with the States in the preparation

of triennial plans by the Tertiary Education Commission have

also been agreed. The Australian Education Council has agreed

that the modified arrangements should be reviewed in 1981 after

the completion of the planning cycle for the 1982-84 triennium.

Until this review has been completed, the Government will not

be undertaking a review of the structure of the Tertiary

Education Commission. Improved consultation arrangements between

the Schools Commission and the State schools systems have also

been agreed with the States.

Review of Follow-up Action

The Williams Report covers a broad spectrum of education and

training issues, many of which are matters for bodies other

than the Commonwealth and its agencies. In some cases these

are matters for consideration by State Government authorities

and in other cases for individual institutions. The impact

of the Williams Report on Australian education will depend on

the co-operation and goodwill of many parties. It is important

that Governments give a lead.

I have been greatly encouraged by the positive response that

governments, government agencies, individual institutions,

industry, and community groups across Australia have given to

the Report. Not everyone agrees with all of its philosophy

and proposals, and I would not expect this, but the Report has

provided an opportunity for a national stocktaking of directions

for the development of Australian tertiary education.

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Some of the most significant proposals in the Report are for

individual institutions to address. These relate to such

matters as the selection of students, teaching, examining,

failure and attrition, the awarding of credit for studies

undertaken in other institutions. In the long-run, the impact

of the Williams Report will depend as much on action taken by

institutions, and individual educators, in re-examining their

practices in these matters as on any action taken by government.

The Government, through the Tertiary Education Commission,

will keep in close touch with these developments.

The Government will maintain a continuing review of developments

arising out of the Williams Report. The Minister for Employment

and Youth Affairs and I will report annually to the Government

on developments for the next three years. The Government in

turn will report to the Parliament on progress in implementation.

The Tertiary Education Commission will have a key role to play

in this process of monitoring, and I expect that the Commission's

Report in 1981 for the 1982-84 triennium will provide a further

opportunity for the Government to develop major thrusts of

the Williams Report.

The Williams Report has provided a variety of insights into

the challenges that face tertiary education and training in

Australia. It has focussed our attention on critical issues.

It is evident that there is a great need for active co-operation

between all those involved in education and training in

responding to the challenges the Report has documented. In

particular, the Commonwealth will work closely with State

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Governments and it recognises that State education authorities

have a particular responsibility in many of the matters raised

by the Williams Committee. -

In the future, I am confident it will be judged that the

Williams Report represents a major endeavour in the move towards

a more comprehensive view of the role of tertiary education

and training in Australian society. The "learning society"

may still lie in the future, but some of its prerequisites

are clearer as a result of the work of the Williams Committee.

For its part, the Government will continue to address questions

of quality in education and training. The Government has

recently tabled the report of the National Training Council's

Training Study Mission which examined a number of issues

relevant to training in industry, and it is currently considering

this report. Next year the Government expects to have the

reports of the National Inquiry into Teacher Education and the

Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia.

These reports, following after the Williams and Crawford Reports,

will provide a further delineation of the changing conditions

to which Australian education must respond. Taken collectively

these four inquiries constitute the.most searching probe into

education and training in Australia's history. They will

significantly influence the quality of education in the future.

The Williams Report has provided the opportunity and occasion

for a national stocktaking of directions and practices in

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Australian tertiary education and training. Its purpose has

been well served by that result alone. The Report and its

follow up also constitute a crystallisation of ideas and

action already being developed in various parts of Australia.

There is now a need to build on this basis. I am confident

that all those involved in the great enterprise of education

and training in Australia will take up the challenges of the

Williams Report in a forward looking and constructive way.