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Wednesday, 12 April 1972
Page: 1035

Senator DAVIDSON (South Australia) - When the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts was giving consideration to the Commonwealth's role in regard to teacher education and when it was compiling its report which, as honourable senators know, was tabled in the Senate, it prefaced the report by making reference to the role of the Commonwealth in education. At. the beginning of chapter .1 the Committee pointed out that the Commonwealth has statutory responsibility for education in the Territories and that under several sections of the Constitution it can exercise powers and responsibilities in a limited area throughout the Commonwealth. The Bill takes up that theme and reflects the general idea set out in the report and the general idea contained in the constitutional references. Therefore the Bill, which seeks to set up a Commonwealth teaching service, represents something in the nature of a pioneering effort. In common with all pioneering efforts it has elements about it that are bold. On the other hand it has elements about it that mark it as something that seeks to crawl before it can walk. In short, it is moving forward on a perfectly graduated scale, making each move step by step anc at the same time giving itself considerable room in which to move.

I suppose it is fairly obvious, but nevertheless it is very important to say that the presentation of the Bill is an important milestone in the development of the Commonwealth's responsibilities in education. It is important because it provides opportunities, because it seeks to establish a career service, because it is a flexible measure and because, I think, it will become very attractive to members of the teaching profession in future, lt appeals to me mostly because it has ingredients about it that will contribute towards what I will call the stability of the teaching profession and because it places the vocation on a high and useful level. In essential terms it is, as other speakers have said tonight, a Bill that is a mechanism, a Bill that provides for the movement of people, a Bill that provides a flexibility for the whole teaching profession and a Bill that provides a continuity of service. It will work particularly for the schools for which the Commonwealth has a measure of responsibility.

I think it is important to remind the Senate that the Commonwealth is attaching a great deal of importance to the Bill. I would also draw attention to the physical size of the Bill and to the length of the second reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright). We do not always give credit for a Bill which covers many pages, which has many clauses and which sets out a great amount of detail. By the same token we do not always give credit for a speech delivered by a Minister or anybody else if it is a very long speech. Tonight I draw the attention of honourable senators to the detail which was set out by the Minister page after page and line after line, so that the Bill and the Minister's speech are the Bill's best recommendations. This important Bill is something that reflects the Commonwealth's sense of responsibility as it undertakes a widening avenue of service within the discipline of education. As I think honourable senators are aware, the establishment of the Service has become necessary because of the population growth and because of the requirements of people in the Commonwealth's Territories. This has meant that there has been a growth in education needs. Therefore the Commonwealth has responded!, through this Bill, by providing a Commonwealth Teaching Service to meet those needs.

The need for the Commonwealth to take direct, active and positive responsibility for the staffing of its schools has arisen largely from various historical events. As has been recounted already, the South Australian Department of Education has given notice that it will phase out its activities in the Northern Territory by 1976. The New South Wales Department has had conversations about its role in the Australian Capital Territory. I think it is important to mention at this time the previous arrangements have worked very well. As a South Australian, I think I should pay tribute to the State Department which, for a number of years, has serviced the educational needs of the Northern Territory. I think it is appropriate for the Minister, as I think he has done, to place on record his expression of appreciation. The growth of the Territories over which the Commonwealth has control has lead to an intensification of education services and to a realisation by the Commonwealth that it will have to take direct and complete responsibility for the staffing of its schools. It may be of interest to honourable senators to know that the number of full time teachers in the Australian Capital Territory schools now exceeds 1,000, compared with only 700 four years earlier. In the Northern Territory there are now almost twice as many teachers as there were four years ago.

When we think about teachers we are inclined to think in terms of one grade of school, but we will have to expand this thinking because more and more there will be requirements on the Commonwealth to staff all its schools - not only primary and secondary schools but also the pre-schools, which are very important as we discovered during hearings of the Senate Standing Committee. So it follows fairly naturally that the first purpose of the Bill is to provide for the staffing of its schools within the areas administered by the Commonwealth. They include the community schools and the special Aboriginal schools. The Bill also makes provision for involvement in consultation in regard to the Australian Capital Territory. I am more impressed with the flexibility which is a dominant note running clause by clause through the Bill. This flexibility provides for a great variety of circumstances and needs. Indeed, the flexibility of the Bill provides the perfect negation of the amendment which has been put forward by the Australian Labor Party. If honourable senators examine its S paragraphs they will find that every one of them has a complete and full answer within the Bill.

The flexibility to which I have referred takes on an attractive character early in the Bill. If 1 recall correctly, early in the Minister's speech he referred, amongst other things, to the provision of highly qualified teachers within the Papua New Guinea area. If honourable senators refer to that speech they will see that he said thai in order to assist Papua New Guinea the Service will include a complement of teachers who will be made available on secondment to the Papua New Guinea teaching service. The Minister pointed out that this arrangement will allow their career status in the Commonwealth Teaching Service to be preserved while they are in Papua New Guinea. Therefore, this Service will operate as a base to which the teachers can return for a period or from which they may move for service elsewhere. 1 draw attention to the fact that this is the complete answer to one of he paragraphs within the Australian Labor Party's amendment.

Another degree of flexibility provided by this Bill and which has a measure of appeal to me is the opportunity which such a Service will eventually give for far wider professional involvement for members of the teaching profession, lt also will provide an opportunity for teachers to respond to such overseas assignments as may become available within developing countries. In these and other situations a teacher may be seconded to the Commonwealth for a specific project and can return later to the State service. In the case of an overseas assignment, the teacher can have the advantage of joining the Commonwealth Teaching Service for the duration of his tour of duty. The idea behind this measure differs from other teaching services in Australia because as a teaching service it will extend over more than one system or education authority. The good feature about it, of course, is that it will enable the movement of teachers between one school system and another, lt will provide for a greater involvement of teachers in a variety of systems. It will provide for a greater interdependence and a greater communication between teaching systems and teachers.

It goes without saying that this fosters fresh educational thinking. It fosters and stimulates new ideas and above all it emphasises a development in the processes of the art of teaching and of communication. Even so, if the replacement of ali the State school teachers in both the Commonwealth Territories with Commonwealth teachers were contemplated - I understand that it is not contemplated at present - it would still mean that the Commonwealth Teaching Service would be for quite a period a small service. It would be small, especially in comparison with its State counterparts - too small in my view to envisage separate teaching services for each of the Commonwealth Territories. So the Service will never be a large one by Australian standards. While it is in its early stages of development I think it is desirable that its growth be not rigorously and completely defined. I have referred earlier in my remarks tonight to the freedom of movement which the Service has in its implementation stages. The Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Works who represents the Minister for Education and Science in this place both pointed this out in the speeches when they introduced the Bill.

There appear to me to be 3 or 4 general principles on which this teaching service will be based. I would like to spend a little time dealing with these principles. The interesting factor is that the Commonwealth Teaching Service is outside Public Service Board control while the staffing of schools is to be administered by a different authority that is charged with the day to day administration. The staff of the authority should not train the teachers. During the hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which dealt with the Commonwealth's role in teacher education we were confronted on almost every day that we operated with a situation of recognising that many long standing assumptions regarding education were being seriously challenged. We endeavoured to meet that challenge. I invite the attention of honourable senators to our report and the recommendations contained therein. I think it will bc seen that the Senate Committee has responded to the fact that many of the long standing assumptions regarding education are being seriously challenged. I feel that it is very desirable that any initiative and any new thought in the field of education should be adopted and should include the best that can be gleaned from Australian educational experience.

As I have made some reference to the report on the Commonwealth's role in teacher education, I make further reference to the Bill by saying that this proposed Commonwealth Teaching Service is based on a recognition that it is extremely necessary to take advantage of the new thought and new ideas that are being introduced not only in the sphere of education generally but more particularly in the sphere of teacher education. The Bill and the speeches that have been made indicate that the Service will have only a small beginning. I imagine that the immediate task will be that of staffing the Northern Territory schools. I am pleased to note also, for instance, that the Bill makes allowances for differing needs and requirements of schools in (he Northern Territory and schools in the Australian Capital Territory. This means that while the Service will be a small operation for the moment provision is made for only one Commissioner. This brings me to observe a paragraph in the Opposition's amendment where it seeks the provision of a Commission composed of 3 members. I come back to the point that 1 made at the beginning of my speech. It is that the Service is an employing, an enabling and an administering authority. By its very nature it needs to be flexible. It needs to be in a position where it can make a decision and where it can meet a particular need. At this point in the life of the Commonwealth Teaching Service it occurs to me that if there were a multiple authority in which occasion was taken to provide for representation of a number of authorities - one does not dispute the fact that they all have a considerable and sincere interest in the Ser vice - it is my view that this would greatly slow down the work of the Service and at the same time complicate it unnecessarily. I have read through the Bill again and I am impressed by the fact that there are a wide range of opportunities in which the Commissioner may, through one form or another, provide himself with auxiliary advice through groups of people or through committees or commissions to which he can turn to assist him in the performance of his functions under the Act. 1 take the liberty of drawing attention to the last clause, No. 53 in which there is provision for the appointment of committees to advise the Commissioner in connection with the performance of his functions under the Act. So 1 see no need at this stage for specific representation of particular interests in the administration of the Service. 1 think that one Commissioner will be able to carry out the duties very adequately, will be able to interpret the Bill and will provide a worthwhile teaching service for the Commonwealth Territories. One of the features not to be overlooked is that the teachers will have their own service separate from the administration of the Public Service Board. I understand that this is something which most teachers working in State education systems consider highly desirable.

The last point that I wish to make concerns a reference that I made earlier in relation to the Bill itself. That is the separation of the staffing authority from the teacher training authority. Amongst other things, this separation flows from the Commonwealth's involvement in the field of teacher training. As every honourable senator knows, the expansion of universities, for example, has meant that a greater number of teachers is being trained. To this we must add the teacher training programmes in many colleges of advanced education as well as the development of teaches training institutions under the States Grams Acts. In the course of its hearing on the Commonwealth's role in teacher education, the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts became aware of the widespread opinion that confirms the statement I have just made, namely, that where possible there should be a separation of the appointing authority from the training authority. The Karmel Committee in South Australia makes a similar reference in its report. In one of the reports of my own Committee attention is drawn to the same idea.

The operations of the Commonwealth Teaching Service are not rigidly defined. This leads me to take up a point which also is included in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts. This deals with the registration of teachers. We members of that Commitee became aware that there was not an adequate system whereby there was a registration of teachers throughout Australia. Teachers qualifications, we found, are not uniformly recognised throughout Australia. We think that the present proposal could represent a very good opportunity for some preliminary work to be done on this matter. While there is no adequate listing of teachers and their qualifications for the whole of Australia, the Commonwealth Teaching Service will need to have some mechanics which will provide it with the opportunity to know, to identify and to recognise not only teachers and the backgrounds from which they come but also their various qualifications and accomplishments. The Senate Standing Committee took the opportunity to point this fact out and to state that the recognition of teaching qualifications, including overseas qualifications, could be effected if there was an adequate registration programme of all teachers throughout Australia. The recognition of overseas qualifications is of particular importance and, indeed, a committee working within the Department of Immigration is looking at that matter. If we could have such registration and if it could be promoted, extended and acted upon, it would contribute to what I referred to earlier as an encouragement of stimulating fresh educational thinking and the promotion of new ideas and creative communication.

I refer also to the opportunity that the new Teaching Service will have in the sphere of research. Provision is made for assistance for the Commissioner from the investigation into practices in school and staff organisations in Australia and certain overseas countries which are the subject of a study being undertaken by Dr Radford and Professor Neal. I am sure that this study will be of the greatest assistance. I note this fact with some particular interest because in the report of the Senate Standing Committee heavy emphasis was laid on the urgent need for research. The Commissioner not only will have flexibility but also will be, as 1 said at the beginning of my remarks, a pioneer in every sense of the word. Therefore, it is essential that he be provided and undergirded with machinery which will enable research to be undertaken into education to meet the needs of the communities which the Commonwealth Teaching Service will serve.

So, I give my support to the measure which is before the Senate tonight. I draw attention to the complete inadequacy of the amendment which has been moved. I draw attention to the fact that the complete answers to paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) are contained within the Bill itself. I have already dealt with 3 of those paragraphs. The fourth paragraph of the amendment relates to advisory councils. In a number of instances in the Bill provision is made for the Commissioner to have councils, committees and groups of people to advise him. I have referred to educational research. 1 repeat that in the debate in another place the Minister for Education and Science said that the provisions regarding applications for leave conform with the conventions of the International Labour Organisation.

I conclude by referring again to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts. By way of preface to our report on the Commonwealth's role in teacher training, we ran an extract from an article by Arnold Toynbee entitled 'Surviving the future'. He states:

We cannot, of course, have a completely different system of education for each individual; yet, as far as possible, the individual's very subtly distinctive personality should be taken into account in giving him his education. 1 realise that this is difficult. Education has to be standardised to some extent, but it should be as flexible as possible.

While the provisions of this Bill centre on teachers and not students as such, the Bill is designed to be as flexible as possible and to take into account the varying and subtly distinctive needs, which must be met, of the people who live in the Commonwealth Territories. To that end, 1 not only congratulate the Minister but also support the Bill, reject the amendment and wish the Commissioner well.

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