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Thursday, 31 August 1972
Page: 652


Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) (Minister for Works) (9.26}-Tonight the Senate is devoting its attention to discussing the report that has been made to it by the Senate Standing Committee on Education,

Science and the Arts, of which Senator Davidson was Chairman, on the subject of teacher training. The mere mention of the world of education gives scope for a great variety of ideas that impel one to spirited praise of the purpose of education. But tonight I feel it is necessary to discipline ourselves and confine our concentration to the specific subject matter of the report. Doing that, I think the outstanding claim that the Committee can make as a result of its report and its labours is that - 1 think for the first time - it has given an Australian unity of purpose in this field of teacher training. Since the members of the Committee come from different sections of party political interest, it is quite inspiring to be reminded from both sides of the chamber that, except on 3 matters in relation to which there was dissent by 2 members of the Committee, there was unanimity of viewpoint on no fewer than 30-odd different propositions in the field of Australian interest in the subject of teacher training.

The Chairman of the Committee has indicated that the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser), whom I represent in this place, wrote to him as recently as 16th August to indicate what consideration had been given to this report and where the consideration of the report stood. In concluding his letter the Minister said:

The comprehensive nature of your Committee's report has already been of very great assistance in the examination of some of the more important issues in the field of teacher education by Commonwealth and State authorities. I would expect your Committee's work to continue to exert an influence on the further development of policies in this field.

Two of the members of the Committee who have spoken already in this debate have acknowledged that when they undertook this task their experience in the Senate was quite short and new. As a comparatively old timer in this place, having been here since December 1949, I wish to say that if there were no other acknowledgment than the paragraph I have read tonight from Mr Malcolm Fraser's letter into the record of the Senate, the Senate Committee could claim significant achievement in impacting the mind of Government and moulding effective policies. The advance that that represents over the recurring disregard and negative refusal of participation of Senate committees in any province of government until about 10 years ago represents to me that persistence will give expression to the unfolding of purposeful work in politics.


Senator Wheeldon - What docs that mean?


Senator WRIGHT - I cannot stop to explain that now. We will have a student discussion later, if the honourable senator wishes. Having said that and having added the fact that the report has claimed attention not only in Australia but overseas--


Senator Willesee - The Minister is the professor.


Senator WRIGHT - I hope that the interjector might be able to contribute to the debate something better than a single interjection. During the debate there has been no contribution from any senator who was not a member of the Committee.


Senator McAuliffe - We gave priority to members.


Senator WRIGHT - Give them priority by all means, but a debate is a debate. If they throw seeds of wisdom to the Senate, let some honourable senators show that the seeds fall on fertile soil.


Senator McAuliffe - We have briefed our representatives.


Senator WRIGHT - When we start to laud ourselves and our efforts we should not omit some of the qualifications. The Minister, in his statement of 17th August, said:

In the realm of teacher education the Government has demonstrated an acceptance of responsibility.

He mentioned certain programmes and said:

Under the latter programmes, a total of $54m is being made available for State teachers colleges over the 6 years to 30th June 1973, and $2.5m has been made available to pre-school teachers colleges.

The schedule attached to the speech shows that appropriations in 1971-72 for teacher training colleges were about Slim and that this year the figure has risen to about $16m. For pre-school teachers colleges the figures last year was $631,000. This year, being a capital vote - construction has taken place already - the figure is about $534,000. In addition, part of the appropriation for universities and part of the appropriation for colleges of advanced education are devoted to the subject of teacher training.

Having said that by way of preface let mc indicate to honourable senators, particularly to members of the Committee, that they should be satisfied that their labours have not been in vain. On 10th March action was taken by the Minister for Education and Science upon a report submitted to the Senate in February. Seeking reactions to the Committee's report the Minister wrote to the following authorities: All Stale Ministers of Education, the Australian Universities Commission, the Australian Commission on Advanced Education, the Australian Advisory Committee on Research and Development in Education, the Australian Commission on Awards in Advanced Education and, in relation to recommendation 21, the Minister for Labour and National Service. Following consideration of the report by the various responsible authorities, the report was discussed at the Australian Education Council meeting in May 1972. So in February a report was tabled, in March a communication was sent to responsible authorities having various interests in the subject matter and in May a collective council of State Ministers met with the Federal Minister. I mention that because I think it is reassuring that a report of a Senate committee, if it has value as this one is acknowledged to have value, attracts its own effective reaction. That gives the answer to those people who say that there is a tendency in departments and governments to ignore impressive reports.

Let me now indicate in the briefest language so that it will be clearly understood the action which has been taken by the Government in response to the report. I wish to put it in lucid terms so that in Hansard it is identifiable by teachers and students who may be interested in reading the report of the debate. I set out the points as follows: Firstly, the Government has offered to support State teachers colleges and pre-school teachers colleges under advanced education arrangements. That relates to recommendations 7 and 14. The existing involvement of voluntary bodies in pre-school teachers colleges will be encouraged, as honourable senators will see from the Minister's recent statement.

That relates to recommendation 15. Secondly, support is for teachers colleges being developed as self-governing institutions under the supervision of appropriate co-ordinating bodies in the States. I think Senator Carrick made reference to principles which invoke that proposition as a means of inducing teachers to esteem their profession not an the basis of any inferiority but on the basis of, as Senator Carrick can justly claim objectively for the teachers' profession, a purpose of high consideration.

Thirdly, the Government prefers provision of teacher education in multi-purpose institutions wherever possible. I refer those remarks to recommendations 28 and 29. But the Government recognises that for some time colleges will remain single purpose colleges because of their location or some other factor making multi-purpose development inappropriate. That refers to recommendation 30. Fourthly, as stated in the Minister's speech of 17th August, the Australian Commission on Advanced Education will look into particular areas such as the training of teachers of the handicapped and special remedial teachers. The Australian Universities Commission will also encourage courses in special education. These matters are referred to in paragraphs 18, 19 and 20 of the Committee's report. I wish now to quote from the May report of the Australian Universities Commission. lt is a voluminous document and k may be helpful if this extract is taken into the record in this context. In paragraph 49, chapter 8, at page 100 the report states:

Several universities have made proposals relating to the training of teachers for the physically, and menially handicapped. The Commission believes that this is an important branch of teacher education. It has noted the recommendation of the Senate Committee . . . that there should be at least one university department of special education in each State. The Commission is sympathetic to the Committee's intention, although it would not necessarily agree that there should be separate departments of special education. Because this is a field which has not yet developed very far in Australian universities, the Commission believes that universities should avoid duplication and that the commitment of not more than one university in each major city to this field would be desirable.

That passage indicates that the Universities Commission recognised that the Senate Committee's suggestion for teachers for the handicapped and specialist fields is somewhat novel. It has given to it the consideration that the passage I have quoted indicates. I think I am right in saying that the Universities Commission has no authority in this field to institute departments or even courses in universities. It is simply a co-ordinating authority between universities and acts in that capacity to make recommendations for revenue from the Government, lt is left to the universities' self governing authorities to decided that matter themselves.

Fifthly, the Department of Education and Science is continuing consultation with Treasury and banking officials on the efficacy of student loans. That relates to recommendation 5. This topic interests me from a personal point of view. As a country student 50 years ago I sought a loan from the registrar of a university. I sought a very modest amount in days when one would walk 2 miles to save a twopenny tram fare. Loans were not available. For my part, T find great interest in the fact that there is sufficient faith in the general student youth to support the idea that a person who has acquired what is perhaps the most special asset that an affluent society can confer - that is education in one of the various fields of learning - is probably the best security possible for the expenditure of public money. 1 am not attempting to define the Minister's viewpoint, much less thai of the Government. I believe that such a student provides a real security in a scheme which may be preferable to irresponsible and irrecoverable scholarships.

Sixthly, the Minister said on 17th August in his statement to the Parliament:

Investigations into student loans which my Department has already made will continue in consultation with Treasury, and banking officials. I see loans as a useful means of supplementing assistance provided by way of scholarships. In particular, such an approach may provide valuable support for the student who fails to win a scholarship.

I think I may interpret that passage as an indication of the Minister's leaning towards favourable consideration of that recommendation. Seventhly, the Partridge Committee is examining the possibility of research into screening applicants for teacher training courses. That relates to recommendation 3 which was referred to by Senator Carrick and Senator Davidson and was also referred to the other night. 1 will content myself with saying that the recommendation is that after students are accepted, because of the influence of allowances and other things to guide them through an educational course, some research into aptitudes and motivation should be considered. The Partridge Committee has already commissioned some related work. It is also examining the possibility of research into pre-school education. I might pause to say at this stage that I sat back in my seat to hear the dynamic challenge that Senator Carrick issued in this field when he said that he would implement advanced ideas on education more in the junior areas than in the secondary education area as is now done.

The Partridge Committee is also to examine recommendations 25 and 26 on educational research. Funds available to the Committee have been increased in this year's appropriation by no less than 21 per cent to $300,000. A constraining factor pointed out by the Committee is the availability of competent research workers, a matter to which attention is drawn by the Senate Committee in recommendation 24. Of course, it will be acknowledged that the Senate Committee would not expect all recommendations to be automatically accepted at once, or all recommendations necessarily in due course to be accepted. But I have said sufficient to show that the Universities Commission - a very exalted body in the educational levels of Australia - the Department of Education and Science and the State Ministers of Education have all indicated their appreciation of the practical validity of the recommendations of the Senate Committee. Having regard to the acceptance of so many recommendations in a fluid field of education where the Committee has concentrated on the particular field of teacher training and having regard also to educational authorities' acceptance of these recommendations as practicable and valuable, this Committee of the Senate can accept for its members great credit for its notable achievement in this field of education. I believe that the Senate is greatly indebted to them for their efforts. The degree to which the Minister has given attention to the recommendations and the degree to which he has accepted them already show in practical terms - he has also expressed his gratitude by letter - the Government's appreciation of the Committee's contribution to this inspiring field.







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