Thursday, December 09, 2010

Education round-up

With all the rain, I wondered what was happening to dam levels in NSW. Most of the dams are now full, a very different position from a few years ago. Crop losses from drought have been replaced by crop losses from rain. Food prices will rise as consequence.

In the meantime, the locust plague continues in south-eastern Australia. Such is life.

It is a little while since I did an update on education issues.

In the Australian, Justine Ferrari reports that a meeting of State and Commonwealth education ministers has endorsed the content of the first stage of the national curriculum English, maths, science and historyfor years K to 10. However, education ministers also agreed that :

further "refining and adjusting" of the curriculum would continue next year after NSW and Western Australia argued it was not yet ready to be implemented.

The problems that NSW has had with elements of the curriculum were widely reported, those of WA less so. The minsters' decision therefore represents a compromise.

The launch of the reworked My School website was postponed at the last minute after accounting firm Deloitte found problems with the accuracy of financial data. A new launch date has yet to be set.

The decline in international student numbers continues.

New international student commencements dropped 9.5 per cent, or more than 32,000 students, as at the end of October. Total enrolments in Australia were down 1.4 per cent at 599,795 students. The English language college sector, which feeds both higher education and VET, remains the worst hit with enrolments down 18 per cent and commencements down 22.3 per cent.

In a related story, Bernard Lane reports that In 2009-10, onshore grants of higher education visas rose by 16.6 per cent in stark contrast to a 24.8 per cent decline in offshore grants.

Onshore grants are made to students already studying here to, for example, undertake a new course. This appears to be cushioning the sharp decline in offshore applications.

Watching all this is like watching a slow flood. The sun is shining, but you know that the water is coming. Universities continue to complain about aspects of the visa changes that turned off the tap.

Initially, many in the university sector thought that the universities would be able ride it out, with the worst pain falling on the vocational sector. I doubted that at the time. Now cut backs have begun in the university sector. I don't think anybody really knows just how bad the final results will be as the pipeline empties.

The casualisation of the university workforce continues. Now we can put a number on it.

In the economy as a whole, the proportion of "permanent" workers has dropped below 50 per cent, something that I have been writing on because it has profound behavioural effects. It explains, for example, while retail sales are not growing. Casual workers spend differently because of uncertainty.

The casual proportion is higher in universities. At 67,000, casual academics account for 60 per cent of the total. They have become the cannon fodder of the university system.

I want to finish this brief round-up with a heartfelt plug for The Australian.

Every Wednesday, the paper has a higher education section. I don't know when this began. I first started reading it in 1982. Other papers have copied it, but The Australian remains the leader because of the depth and continuity of its reporting.

The key articles remain on-line and freely available. You will find them here. If you just browse this on a fairly regular basis, you will get a good feel for what is happening, one that extends to the education sector in general. 


In a comment Julie, a new visitor, asked about the sources for some of my material. I gave links for the immediate stories, but not links for past posts. I haven't attempted a full list across my blogs, just a pot pouri in date order.

I was going to break it up be subject, but a lot of posts cross. It is a long list, and I am still missing some that I will add later. However, it does give a feel.

A little later.

There is too much here to be really useful to Julie, and I still have training plus some other posts to add. I will complete as a separate post later. Still, it probably gives a taste.

Its quite interesting looking back.


Julie said...

I would like to read some sort of linking of these facts, Jim.

What is your assessment of the reasons for the changes in the student visa system?

Is the decline in the ESL market a consequence of the tightening of the visas available, or to the financial practices of the providers?

Is the 'casualisation' of the tertiary workforce a consequence of the influx of female academics directly as a result of the higher educational achievements of females coming out of the secondary system? Is there a relationship here between casualisation and the fact that some universities are lauded as 'female' friendly?

Interesting reading here. I shall fossick here more.

Although, I must tell you that I am not a fan of The Australian, but read it to provide balance with my other daily reads - SMH, ABC and Business Spectator.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Julie

I will add a postscript at the end of the post giving links to pasr posts.

The changes to the student visa system were intended to stop rorting. The way that it was done was clumsy.

The decline in the ESL market has a bit of both. However, the decline appears to be hitting high end as well as low.

On feminisation, I think the move to casual work is gender neutral. It's a structural change. However, to the degree that other factors - higher female numbers, fewer permanent jobs for women - come into play, then you will see more women in the stats. I haven't seen gender specific stats.

Do keep reading!