TAFE NEW SOUTH WALES
Dr JOHN KAYE
[5.33 p.m.]: TAFE New South Wales is under attack. This is by no means news. There has been a decade of hostility from the Howard Government. At best, there has been benign neglect from the New South Wales Government; at other times there has been an outbreak of downright hostility. TAFE New South Wales has suffered funding cuts; so-called choice funding of private providers; fee increases of 9 per cent; and now the TAFE proposal in the twenty-first century, which is a dangerous proposal, shifting the focus away from education and students to the needs of employers. But now there is a real assault coming from the Minister for Education and Training. The proposal is to downgrade the minimum teacher qualification requirements for full-time TAFE teachers from a university degree to a certificate IV.
This is a major change in the amount of pedagogical expertise this State will demand of its professional teachers. It will undermine the professionalism of full-time TAFE teachers. Certificate IV is an excellent qualification for workplace training and assessment, for which it was designed but it is not an educational qualification. Holders of that qualification are unable to develop teaching materials, lead a classroom or focus on the educational needs of a diverse range of students. In recognition of the demands on the skill sets of TAFE teachers, for the past 30 years full-time TAFE teachers have been required to hold university education qualifications.
Those who enter without such qualifications are granted release time in their early years of service. Most of them obtain a two-year Bachelor of Adult Education or a graduate diploma and become experts in the educational process. The Minister's proposal means that the training of tradespeople will not include these skills. This will have dire consequences for the future of New South Wales, not only in terms of the skills crisis but also in terms of educational outcomes. The State faces difficult times ahead, where we need not only well-trained tradespeople but tradespeople who are educated and able to adopt new technologies and to innovate.
The Government argues that part-time casual teachers have operated with a certificate IV and there have never been objections. That is a fallacy. Part-time casual teachers were never intended as educational leaders or as a low-cost alternative to permanent teachers. The Government can only argue this way because it is exploiting part-time casual teachers and employing them where it should be employing full-time permanent teachers. On behalf of the Greens I place on record that part-time casual teachers do an excellent job, but they are no replacement for full-time teachers. We support the ability of part-time casual teachers to transfer to permanent appointment, and with the release time and funding to ensure that they receive the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications.
The Government also argues that other States do not require qualifications other than a certificate IV. This is not completely accurate. While many States accept certificate IV as an entry level qualification for TAFE teaching, they insist on professional teacher qualifications as the teachers progress through their career. For example, Western Australia now requires a masters degree for the highest level of promotion in the TAFE teaching profession. This State sensibly requires schoolteachers to hold professional university qualifications in education. Under the Minister's proposal, students in TAFE doing the Higher School Certificate and School Certificate equivalents will no longer have the right to be taught by teachers with appropriate educational qualifications.
It seems that the Iemma Government has two classes of students: those at school and those at TAFE for whom it is okay to be afforded a lower standard of teaching. TAFE teaching is no less demanding than school classroom teaching, particularly given the diversity of students and their range of engagement and interests. Many TAFE students have limited basic education and many of them are part-time students. TAFE teaching combines a range of complex educational challenges. Why is this happening? The Government is attempting to cut costs of the release time and backfilling for TAFE teachers upgrading their qualifications. It is looking for a cheaper way to fill the looming TAFE teacher shortage, and it is trying to solve the skills crisis on the cheap.
Now that the Federal election is over it is no more Mr Nice Guy from the Minister, and the real man comes out. Like the attempt to destroy the school staffing system, this is an attack on the values of public education and must be resisted by all who care about creating a cohesive, successful and inclusive future for New South Wales. The Greens congratulate the Teachers Federation and the TAFE Teachers Association on their campaign to protect public education from attack by the Iemma Government.