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Wednesday, 31 March 1965

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - For the information of honorable senators I present the following papers -

Report of the Third Commonwealth Education Conference 1964. Report of the Australian Delegation to the Conference. and I ask for leave to make a statement relating thereto.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator GORTON - The two reports I am tabling emanate from the Third Commonwealth Education Conference, held in Ottawa from 21st August to 4th September, 1964. The first is the official report of the Conference proceedings, as approved by the delegates of member nations represented. The second is the report of the Australian delegation which was led by Sir Allen Brown, Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

Honorable Senators may recall that the first Commonwealth Education Conference, the foundational one, was held at Oxford in 1959 and the second at New Delhi in 1962. The fourth conference will be held in Nigeria late in 1967 or early in 1968. We have hopes that the fifth conference will be held in Australia. The conferences are, of course, not just isolated meetings, they are the periodic points of review of the Commonwealth co-operation in education scheme. Essentially the principle behind the scheme is the sharing of educational facilities among Commonwealth countries for the purpose of strengthening Commonwealth ties and improving educational standards. One aspect of it. the Commonwealth scholarship and fellowship plan, provides opportunities for good students to study in an interesting variety of Commonwealth countries, as it has attracted not only the older members, but also many of the newer ones in Asia, Africa and the West Indies to offer awards. The number of scholarships available amounts to over 1,000 altogether. The greater part of the scheme, however, concerns help from the older countries to the new to promote the development of education. As Australian assistance of this kind is available to Commonwealth countries in Asia under the broader provisions of the Colombo Plan, this scheme, as far as Australia is concerned, is directed towards non-Asian, principally African, members.

Australian assistance under this scheme is of three main types. First, provision is made for the supply of a small number of Australian educationists to fill key posts in the education systems of developing countries. There are 15 of these serving overseas at present in positions involving teacher training, inspection and supervision, the establishment of new technical courses, the introduction of correspondence courses and the like. Second, arrangements are made for educationists holding positions of responsibility in developing countries to visit Australia for a few months to study Australian educational institutions and practices in fields related to their own responsibilities. Thirteen such people are at present visiting Australia. Third, awards are provided to enable teachers and other educationists from developing countries to undertake short courses, mainly a year in length, which will equip them to specialise in a particular field of education or increase their competence in a field in which they have already specialised to some extent. In the past few weeks 60 teachers have arrived in Australia to commence courses of the kind and a further 15 are expected in May.

The training needs of these teachers are often very different from those of the normal Australian teacher trainee, because of differences in their background of experience and previous training. Frequently special programmes have to be designed for them, either individually or in groups. One such programme is the course for the Certifi cate in Education for Overseas Teachers which commenced last year at the University of Queensland and provided concentrated training for people who are or will be teachers' college staff in developing Commonwealth countries. Another, which has been designed by the Western Australian Education Department and begins in May, will give training in the principles and techniques of school inspection. In addition, a special course mainly in infant teaching method is at present being conducted in Sydney at the request of the Uganda Government for 30 primary teachers. The expenses of this course are being met jointly by the Uganda Government and the Australian Government. Honorable senators will realise that such activities cannot be carried out without the co-operation of the State Departments of Education and the universities and I am happy to say that their sunport has at all times been most generously given.

I might now say a few words about the main points of interest for Australia at the Ottawa Conference. Australia promised a 50 per cent, increase in its activities under the scheme, principally, as I have explained, on teacher training activities. It was thus gratifying that the Conference found teacher training to be an area in which the greatest need lay. While for a time many of the teachers needed by developing countries will have to be recruited from overseas, the Conference emphasised that every country should aim to reach the point as soon as possible where it could recruit and train enough teachers for its entire teaching force from among its own people.

Other matters regarded by the Conference as of major importance were co-operative action aimed at reducing illiteracy among adults and the development of technical education, especially the training of technicians. No expansion in the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan was recommended but it was agreed that the Plan was working well and had achieved a high prestige. Some thought was given however, to ways in which the plan might be used to stimulate university growth amongst the less developed countries.

In conclusion, I would point out that Commonwealth co-operation in education is not the only education aid Australia gives to developing countries. Besides the Colombo Plan there is also the scheme known as the Special Commonwealth African Assistance Plan; and the system of Australian International Awards provides scholarships to countries not covered by other schemes.

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