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Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Page: 4877


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (09:50): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, I present the report entitled Unique individuals, broad skills: inquiry into school to work transition, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr LAMING: by leave—Few things attract the attention of Australia, its workers and the economy in general as does our preparation of the next generation of this great nation to lead our way as a growing economy, preserving a uniquely high standard of living, and ensuring that that's achieved through education. Plenty of lip service is given to the importance of education, but direct comparisons with other countries are notoriously difficult. We can only really notice what stands out, unique within Australia's system—and that is a high-quality, well-funded education system, from zero all the way through to lifetime education—and then do our best in those important transitions from zero to five into formal primary schooling, from primary to high, from high to tertiary and vocational, and obviously then into a working career, where Australians will continually return to the education system to update their skills in an increasingly mobile and fast-changing future.

To do that, we've, in our committee, taken a real focus on the areas that we can improve, in an education system that, at school level, is well known for having a high number of formal contact hours, relatively high per-student levels of funding, relatively similar vocational and tertiary wage outcomes for the two major sectors compared to OECD comparators, but a fairly flat teaching promotional structure where, in Australia, the average teacher arrives at their highest salary increment after just nine years in the job, and that is less than half of the OECD average. It sets us a real challenge to find areas where we can improve both the quality of education and, more importantly, the outcomes.

What this committee found is that we still, predominantly, focus on inputs to the system. There is a great reluctance to report on outcomes because we're not confident that they fully measure what education seeks to achieve. What we've found in this committee is that we need to start that process with the evidence that we have. If there is a need to improve those metrics then let the reporting of current data be the driving force for even better metrics. But to have no reporting of metrics leaves us very much in the dark.

An important step in the direction of the reporting, obviously, is NAPLAN. Speaker, you'll be familiar with ATAR, with Queensland becoming the last state to switch to ATAR in 2019. This gives us a unique opportunity, as we've mentioned in recommendation 10, to start to measure gain through the education system while that's possible, and it's predominantly in the core skills. Over time, as we noted in the report, there'll be increased emphasis on identifying soft-skill progression and the ability to measure that in our students—identifying how important that is, going into the next century. We also made important recommendations, 17 and 18, towards better career advice. It concerns me greatly that the exit polls from various educational institutions vary not by the students that are within them but by the preferences of the institutions very much driving whether someone takes a vocational or a tertiary path. Often we can't find any other explanation for why students are being funnelled in particular directions. We certainly repeat many previous reports that we need to raise the status of vocational education and training, mindful that there have been significant university reforms around funding that have led to inequities and a risk that students are drawn towards the preferential funding arrangements we see in tertiary education.

Last, but not least, in addition to better initial teacher education, recommendation 7 talks about the working conditions of teachers—something that I've been obviously vocal about, unrelated as to my role as chair. We really do find that there are very good grounds for better support for teachers in their work by decluttering their careers, by allowing promotional structures and more opportunities for research—something we do see in the health sector but not necessarily in teaching—and by taking on these lignified historic structures that teachers often work within that may be impeding their ability to engage in high levels of research and more detailed levels of formative assessment of their students. We were encouraged that, at around the same time we were reporting, Gonski 2 reflected many of these recommendations as well.

I recommend the report to every person who is passionate about education. I thank the deputy chair and the entire committee for their enormous support in preparing this document. I'm delighted that there was almost universal agreement within the committee on the content of this report. I thank the secretariat as well.