Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 24 August 1972
Page: 455

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - As has been stated already this evening, the Bill is a machinery one which, in the words of the second reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), provides for an extension of the prescribed period to enable the programme which the Government has set in motion to achieve its full purpose. The Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on 24th May and it came on for debate in August. It is really an extension of a Bill that was introduced some time ago. As all honourable senators know, the substance of the Bill has been overtaken by later events. As has been stated already this evening, it deals with pre-school teachers colleges and it provides funds for the establishment and assistance of pre-school teachers colleges. An amendment has been moved inviting the Senate to express an opinion that an Australian pre-school commission should be established. This suggestion is in line with other suggestions that have been made about the establishment of an Australian schools commission.

I hope that the Senate will not be of the opinion that an Australian pre-school commission should be established. An expression of opinion along those lines does not take into account the federal system. The amendment ignores completely the process of education administration which is well known to be very much the sphere of the States. It highlights the com.plexitiy of Australian Labor Party policy of centralising the whole processes of education, in particular the whole processes of pre-school education, at a central or distant spot, with one standard across Australia, with one criterion, one standardisation and one requirement. It makes no provision for flexibility to meet the needs of various communities in a country as vast as Australia is. I hope that the Senate will not entertain the expression of such an opinion.

The Government's record thus far in this field indicates that the support which it gives to the States and to the organisations involved in pre-school teacher education is far and away the best one and one which is achieving the greatest degree of success. I remind the Senate of the speech made by the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in which he referred to a meeting of the Australian Education Council in May of this year when State Ministers for Education requested Commonwealth assistance for State teachers colleges, particularly to bring pre-school teachers colleges within the advanced education arrangements. As a result of this request the Government has responded and has taken a number of principal decisions. Included in those decisions is the decision by the Commonwealth offering to share with the States from July next year the capital and recurring costs of pre-school teachers colleges under the advanced education arrangements. At the same time the Minister has stressed that existing bodies should continue to play an important role in the pre-school teacher training area. But the Senate has more than just a passing interest in measures of this kind. The subject has been raised a couple of times this week.

The Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts has investigated the Commonwealth role in teacher education. It presented a report to the Senate earlier this year. Senator Wright when speaking, I think on Tuesday of this week, drew attention to the fact that the Government has responded to a great many of the recommendations that have been presented by this Committee. I wish to refer very briefly to some of its findings in the area of the training and education of teachers for kindergartens and what we call the pre-school area'. The Committee received a good deal of evidence concerning the value to the community of pre-school education. It was generally accepted by the people who submitted evidence to the Committee in relation to this area of teacher education that the most receptive learning period in a child's life is between the ages of 3 and 8 years. Evidence showed that the major limiting factor in the provision of pre-school education is an adequate supply of fully qualified preschool teachers.

In Australia, the training of pre-school teachers ls carried out in colleges which, as I have said earlier, are run by the voluntary kindergarten unions and organisations all of which are associated and affiliated with the Australian Pre-school Association. The members of the Committee were particularly impressed with the quality of teacher education and the sense of dedication which these organisations have. We considered that pre-school education was one of the most vital and yet also one of the neglected areas of education in Australia today. It was pointed out by Professor W. D. Borrie - and the Committee included this reference in the report - that:

By the late sixties the children of the post-war baby boom who have been causing the educational crisis to date, will be the young parents of the next generation, and even if their patterns of fertility remain about the present low level - and assuming they marry in the same high proportions that have recently prevailed - the number of births will rise sharply from about 1972.

This means that there will be an increasing demand. To cope with the projected surge of pre-school age children in 1974-75, as predicted by Professor Borrie, an even greater number of teachers should now be entering courses of training. The Government's attention to pre-school teacher education is a matter of vital importance. The Committee recommended that the Commonwealth provide capital and recurrent funds for the establishment and mainte nance of pre-school teacher training facilities as part of colleges of advanced education. It further recommended:

That the interest and expertise of the community through the voluntary organisations be maintained if pre-school teachers colleges become part of colleges of advanced education or if financial responsibility is taken for their building and maintenance by the Commonwealth.

As the Minister has said this is only a machinery measure, but even as we consider it we schould not overlook the achievements of the measure before the Senate and the fact that certain events have overtaken the Bill which is before the Senate tonight. I am unable to understand bow the Senate can be expected, in the light of the Government's announcements on education and its announcement on pre-school education in regard to teachers colleges, to turn back and express the view that we should have a centralised, inflexible unrelated pre-school commission. I hope that , the Senate will give this amendment the attention it deserves and dismiss it.

Suggest corrections