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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31760

Mrs HULL (10:53 AM) —I rise this morning in the committee to raise an issue of concern that I have had for some time, that being the emphasis that is being placed on higher education and university education. Continually in the House we hear of HECS places, HECS costs, the issues of universities and the cost of university for students, but rarely do we hear of the issue of the value of TAFE training, technical training, the trades and services area. I have been concerned for some time that we have lost the sensitivity to understand how our children work in schools. In the past many students have gone into their education and in year 10, or even earlier, they have decided they would like to do a trade. However, now it almost seems as though it is a sin to want to do a trade and to go on and to be a builder, a mechanic, a panel-beater, an electrical engineer, an electrical fitter, or an airconditioning fitter, because people feel very strong pressure to go on to a university degree.

It is almost as though now we do not have any respect for people who would like to do a trade. If you looked at how industries and small businesses developed and asked every small business owner that started up perhaps in the last 25 years or earlier, `Did you have a university degree? What level of education did you have?' most of the people who have small businesses and have employed people for a long period of time would say, `No, I did not have a university degree,' and many of them might say, `I had very little education at all.' Small business owners with businesses that have been operational for many years are perhaps not as widely educated as many other people, yet they have provided continuous employment for numerous years to people who may not have had any other option.

We now have a sense that we need to have a degree. If we do not have a degree we are considered lesser than somebody who does have a degree. Most of our schools focus on the academic prowess of their students rather than the assets some students might have of being able to do things brilliantly with their hands. It is time that we as a community and we as leaders in the government and in the House of Representatives should start to understand that students' worth should be valued on things other than how high their academic and UAI scores are.

It seems that schools now, both private and public, are focused clearly on an academic objective rather than on recognising the talents and attributes of each student and the very real progress that some students might be making towards going into a trade and employing people. It is worth while and it is valuable, yet it almost seems to me now that our students, if they are not academically bright and do not have grades in the 90s, are considered less worth while.

It is time the leaders of this nation looked to creating a feeling of equity for all students, all children, across Australia. Students should be able to feel that if they want to have a small business and employ people or to do a trade then they are worth while. They should not be looked down on by anybody and they should not be considered different and given less time in their educational pursuits than those who look to go to university. Seventy per cent of our children do not go to universities, yet all of the teachers' time is spent on the 30 per cent who look toward an academic career. Let us give a go to our students who want to enter trades and services, to start to employing people and to create small businesses. Our trades and services are the backbone of rural and regional Australia.