Saigon, Dunkirk or the Alamo? – VET in Australia

The next meeting of the 17 Group will take place onWednesday the 1st of October at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St West End. Dr John McCollow will revive the recently overshadowed topic of the Coalition’s unpopular budget by looking at Christopher Pyne’s intentions about the Tafe section of the education system. His topic is:
“Saigon, Dunkirk or the Alamo? – VET in Australia”.

Brief summary:
Recent presentations at the 17 Group have focused on the schooling sector (Pyne’s curriculum review) and the higher education sector (the deregulation of universities). The vocational education and training (VET) sector has always been the most precariously situated and vulnerable of the three sectors; it was the first education sector to feel harsh winds of neo-liberal reform; and it has been by far the hardest hit of the three education sectors by these reforms. Despite this, what has happened and continues to happen in VET receives comparatively little critical attention compared to what is happening in schooling and higher education.

This talk will consider a myriad of developments in the VET sector since the early 1990s, starting with the reforms to VET curriculum, the deprofessionalisation of VET practitioners and their banishment from VET policy forums, the ever-narrowing conception of the nature of VET, the shift to market models of delivery, privatisation of delivery, ongoing reductions in government funding, and the introduction of an “entitlement model” of access to VET.

This overview calls into question the very future of vocational education in Australia. John Buchanan from the University of Sydney has recently argued that the collapse of public VET is inevitable and that the choice is between “Dunkirk” (i.e. a strategic withdrawal and regrouping) or “Saigon” (i.e. a shambolic and humiliating rout). A TAFE colleague suggested that Buchanan should also have included “the Alamo” as a possibility, where we all go down fighting.

Biographical note:
Dr John McCollow is a long-time officer of the Queensland Teachers’ Union. He has also worked as a teacher in secondary and tertiary education, as a curriculum researcher, and as acting federal research officer with the Australian Education Union. He currently works as an industrial services officer with responsibilities for TAFE issues, including research, advocacy and negotiation relating to TAFE industrial conditions and instruments.

Leon is a bit funny about anything relating to poodles, especially metaphorical ones. He says that even “running dogs” overstates their general lack of political attractiveness, while “mincing” could be misunderstood as a transitive rather than intransitive present participle and suggest, wrongly, some sort of butcherly political skill. Nevertheless, despite the current lack of grammatical knowledge among the general public he risks once again putting up his favourite link:
Couldn’t get him to stop laughing long enough to find out if he was coming to the meeting. But you, potential symposiast, try once again to stop laughing long enough yourself to decide to come.

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