The Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA) says that the Australian Government’s Job-ready Graduates Package must be further amended if this year’s school leavers are to have the best possible opportunity to maximise their future education and training outcomes.
AHISA’s CEO, Ms Beth Blackwood, says adjustments agreed with David Gee, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education, and included in the Bill introduced to the House of Representatives this morning, do not address the inequity for students intending to enrol in subjects in Law, Accounting, Administration, Economics, Commerce, Communications and Society and Culture.
‘The proposed changes to the mix of Commonwealth/student contributions are highly disruptive for those students who are being asked to bear higher costs but whose subject choices in Year 12 are difficult or impossible to change,’ said Ms Blackwood. ‘The Government has shifted the goal posts and created winners and losers at a time when it should be seeking ways to smooth transitions to further education and training for the class of 2020.’
Ms Blackwood said recent research, which focused specifically on the impact of recession on school leavers in 28 developed countries, found that economic downturns can positively affect the outcomes of school leavers who undertake tertiary study, with greater gains for those students who in better economic conditions would be unlikely to pursue a tertiary education.
‘There is a critical rider to this finding,’ says Ms Blackwood. ‘The research found that these positive outcomes are achievable only within the context of the economic conditions prevailing at high-school graduation, and not by those during earlier or later years. This means it is vital that the class of 2020 gets equitable access to education and training opportunities in 2021. Not in 2022 or 2023, but next year. That is not what the Government’s Job-ready Graduates Package is offering.’
Ms Blackwood said student demand to enter courses in 2021 was very high.
‘The Government could meet that demand by bringing forward to 2021 its proposed increase in the number of Commonwealth Supported Places,’ said Ms Blackwood. ‘That would give the maximum number of Year 12s aspiring to a university education the best chance to achieve the positive outcomes which the research suggests could be theirs. It is the very least the class of 2020 deserves.’
Ms Blackwood said AHISA also recommends delaying the introduction of changes to the mix of Commonwealth/student contributions to courses in Law, Accounting, Administration, Economics, Commerce, Communications and Society and Culture.
‘There are around 770,000 young Australians currently enrolled in Years 10, 11 and 12,’ said Ms Blackwood. ‘If they are not to be disadvantaged by their current subject choices then the proposed changes to the mix of Commonwealth/student contributions should be delayed until 2023.’
Ms Blackwood said a delay would also allow time to gather evidence on whether the Government’s proposals would achieve the intended outcomes.
‘The Government has allowed very little time for consultation over its intended reforms,’ said Ms Blackwood. ‘Before creating more challenges and barriers for our Year 12s, the Government needs to take time to consider how it might help address the challenges they already face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meeting the increased demand for education and training in 2021 would be a welcome first step, supporting students and helping to create the educated workforce Australia will need in the future.’