Conference called for an overarching framework for the development of the Australian Curriculum that will ensure the place and integrity of all learning areas. Concern was expressed about the lack of federally-allocated resources to fund the teacher PD required to properly implement the national curriculum. The AEU determined to continue to lobby for the disclosure of complete information concerning the income of all schools in the MySchool 3 website. Conference reaffirmed AEU support for the development of professional teaching standards and called on governments to guarantee teaching environments in which quality teaching can take place.
Conference strongly supported the work of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (see www.youmeunity.org.au) and called for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s status and rights as first nations people to be recognised in Australia’s constitution. Reform in Indigenous education must focus on the five key areas of access to education, engagement, funding, workforce, and curriculum and pedagogy. With this in mind, the AEU will begin the Indigenous Education Campaign in 2012 and establish the Australian Indigenous Educators Network (AIEN).
The discussion of professional standards was also taken up in comments made by Pasi Sahlberg and Fred Van Leeuwin, reflecting international perspectives on this issue. Sahlberg’s description of the competition for entry to teacher training courses at Helsinki University was instructive of the high value placed on the teaching profession in Finland: in 2011, only 120 places were offered among 2400 applicants to the teacher training program who were in the top 10% of academic achievers and also underwent interviews to assess suitability for teaching as part of the selection process. Those who missed out on a place in teacher training frequently opted for courses such as law or medicine. Qualification is to Masters level and professional development is an important aspect of teaching for which time and support are provided.
Early Childhood Education A detailed list of recommendations was passed in this area and this list will be disseminated through the sub-branch structure. A key resolution was that the AEU is to lobby governments at all levels to invest substantially in Early Childhood Education, with the initial investment benchmark set at the OECD average of 0.5% of GDP. Currently we are languishing at 0.1% which must rate as an international embarrassment. There was also discussion of the new ratings system and the implications of its implementation for preschool delivery.
TAFE The stories of underfunding, competitive tendering and increased privatisation in the TAFE sector are all too well known by readers of Public Education Voice.
Conference determined to: expose current approaches to TAFE/VET funding and organisation as privatisation; campaign for guaranteed funding for TAFE; expose the activities of dodgy, for-profit, private providers; highlight the crucial role of TAFE teachers within the system, and defend the right of all Australian students to vocational education at well-resourced, high quality public TAFE institutions. Apart from the Decisions which establish the AEU’s work focus for the next year, the social and networking aspects of Conference are notable. The Life Membership Ceremony recognises service to the AEU and education generally, and each eyar the ranks of Life Members are swelled by worthy recipients who have dedicated their lives to public education. This year was notable for the award of Honorary Membership of the AEU which was made to both Lyndsay Connors and Jim McMorrow, who have spent their professional lives as advocates for public education. Federal Conference provides an important opportunity to recognise the work of all in the public education community as well as to mix with colleagues from interstate and abroad, developing better understandings of each others’ circumstances and the ways in which we can work together for public education, whether locally, nationally or globally.
Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU - ACT Branch • PAGE 19