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Background information on the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training

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The report was commissioned by the Government in September 1976. It was presented on 28 February 1979 and tabled in the Parliament on 22 March 1979. The Committee of Inquiry was chaired by Professor Bruce Williams, Vice-Chancellor

of the U niversity of Sydney, and other members were:

Mr M.H. Bone, a former Director-General of the Department of Further Education in South Australia;

Mr C.O. Dolan, the National Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, Senior Vice-President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a member of the Tertiary Education Commission and a member of the National Training Council;

Dr A.M. Fraser, the Director of the Queensland Institute of Technology, a member of the Advanced Education Council of the Tertiary Education Commission and a member of the Queensland Board of Advanced Education;

Miss Pauline Griffin, an Australian Conciniliation and Arbitration Commissioner, and a member of the Council of the Australian National University;

Miss E.M. Guthrie, a Regional Director of Education in the N e w South Wales Department of Education;

Mr J.A.L. Hooke, C.B.E., Chairman of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Ltd;

Sir Peter Lloyd, formerly chairman of Cadbury Fry Pascall Australia Ltd, and a member of the Council of the University of Tasmania;

D r W.D. Neal, chairman of the Western Australian Post-secondary Education Commission;

Mr D.R. Zeidler, C.B.E., Chairman and Managing Director of ICI Australia Ltd. -

The task of the Committee was to review the provision of educational facilities and services and the relationship between the educational system and the labour market. The analysis of the report is more fully developed on the

former aspect than the latter.

The P rime M in ister tabled the three volumes of the Williams Committee report, Education, Training and E m p l o y m e n t , in Parliament on 22 March 1979. The report made the following major recommendations.

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The report does not propose radical changes and envisages development of the education system within the present institutional framework. The general view of the report is that more can be gained from a period of quiet reform than from sweeping structural changes. Much of the report

is concerned with matters affecting the content and processes of education rather than its structures, and it has a considerable interest in quality issues.

The emphasis is therefore on adapting the education system to a period of consolidation rather than growth and the report makes proposals that could contribute to greater efficiency and effectiveness in the use of resources.

Some of the main themes in the report are:

. Rationalisation and coordination. The problems of the next twenty years are seen as being those of rationalisation and coordination rather than growth. The report proposes that the coordination of the university sector continue to be predominantly a

Commonwealth responsibility, but that the coordination of the advanced education sector should be mainly at the State level. The report identifies the need to make provision in NSW and Queensland for administrative coordination of middle level activities in colleges of advanced education and TAPE. The only proposal

for possible amalgamations involves this possibility being discussed in the case of Murdoch University.

The report recommends full restoration of triennial funding for universities and colleges of advanced education but does not propose the re-introduction of shared funding.

Framework of development. The report presents a framework for development of the post-secondary education system. One aspect is balance between the sectors and the report recommends that growth in the number of university students should be substanially less

than the growth of the other sectors. It is envisaged that there will be growth in both the advanced education and TAPE sectors. There is also some concern with sharpened differentiation between the sectors, with the role of universities involving greater concentration of honours and post-graduate work. One development favoured by the report is the use of contracting ■ between the sectors to improve the accessibility of the various forms of post-secondary education outside the capital cities.

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Role of schools. In addition to the recommendations directed at improving standards in the basic skills, in particular literacy and numeracy, the other main thrust of the report in commenting on the role of

schools is concerned with improving the transition from school to work. The report advocates that all students in normal schooling should achieve basic levels of competence in literacy and numeracy and recommends that the Australian Education Council should develop a comprehensive program of action.

Strengthening of TAFE sector. There are various proposals to strengthen the TAFE sector, one example being a proposal to establish a National Centre for

Research and Development in Technical and Further Education. The report considers changes in trade training that are likely to happen over the next 20 years and envisages a progressive shift in the balance of trade training

from industry to the TAFE sector with the role of full-time pre-employment courses in TAFE colleges becoming more important. It recommends a progressive movement towards a substantial component of pre-employment education and training in TAFE colleges in particular circumstances (changes in the structure of industry, technological change, reduction of intake of apprentices).

Education and unemployment. The report takes the position that there is not a single problem of youth unemployment and there is not a single solution. There is a need for a range of schemes to reduce

the relative incidence of youth unemployment. These include a need for special programs in secondary schools including work experience programs, EPUY-type

programs, pre-employment courses in TAFE and training within industry. The Committee recommends that SYETP be considered as part of a range of education and training programs and that the National Training

Council and TAFE Council jointly appraise the balance and range of programs. Reference is also made to the special needs of particular groups including migrants, females, the handicapped and aboriginals.

A Research Centre for Youth Studies should be established.

Research. The Committee supports proposals from the Universities Council for special research grants to be made to build up specialist post-graduate research centres at universities, as well as increased funds

for ARGC and NH&MRC as proposed by ASTEC.

Student support. Effective financial support to students is seen as a very important factor in widening access. Present arrangements should be reviewed, with particular emphasis on support for students in

expanded pre-employment courses in T A F E . The number of post-graduate awards should be increased.

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Education and manpower requirements. The report concludes that Australia has not over-invested in education; that educational provision in secondary Schools should not be primarily determined by manpower considerations; that provision in the tertiary system

should n o t , except in highly specialised or expensive areas, be determined primarily by manpower considerations.

The Tertiary Education Commission should publish rolling forecasts of prospective demands and supplies in specialist fields; the Australian Education Council should do this for teachers, and the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs for tradesmen.

Increasing efficiency in resource u s e . A closely related theme is increasing efficiency in resource use through such means as reducing attrition rates in universities and colleges. Various proposals

are directed at this objective.

Accountability. This theme emerges in particular in the report's treatment of schools where there are recommendations directed at improving standards in basic skills particularly through teacher education, and enhancing the accountability of schools through a process involving the setting of specific objectives by individual schools.

Continuing analysis and review. The report has few simple answers to the major problems it addresses. Rather, the emphasis is on an evolutionary approach based on continuing review and analysis of the issues. There is, therefore, a good deal of emphasis on research

and evaluation in the report. The Committee offers check lists against which governments, coordinating authorities and institutions can evaluate their own performance.