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The Tasmanian Polytechnic: Some thoughts from a research perspective

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3 July 2008

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This paper presents some thoughts on the concept of the Tasmanian Polytechnic, drawing on a range of research mostly undertaken by NCVER. It considers a number of 'goals' that are relevant to judging the success of the endeavour, including Year 12 retention and the completion of Australian Qualifications Framework qualifications, before making a number of observations on relevant issues.

Summary

About the research

The latter years of secondary schooling have received considerable attention from governments in recent years. Questions have been asked on how schools need to change so that all young people are provided with a solid foundation for transition to further study or the labour market. Developments such as VET in Schools and school-based apprenticeships and traineeships have been targeted at those students who may not be headed on an academic pathway.

The most radical innovation in the area has occurred in Tasmania. The structure of Year 11 and 12, and vocational education and training to both young people and adults, have been fundamentally re-engineered into:

  • the Tasmanian Academy, catering for school students on track to university
  • the Tasmanian Polytechnic, focusing on practical learning for Year 11 and Year 12 students and adults
  • Training Tasmania, catering for the training needs of employers.

As part of the implementation of this model, the Tasmanian Department of Education and TAFE Tasmania conducted a two-day conference on the Tasmanian Polytechnic. At this, I presented some thoughts on the concept of the Tasmanian Polytechnic, drawing on a range of research mostly undertaken by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The presentation considers a number of ‘goals’ that are clearly relevant to judging the success of the polytechnic: Year 12 retention (or its equivalent); the completion of Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) qualifications; university entrance; transition to the workforce; and the provision of opportunities for ‘second chancers’. It then makes a number of observations on relevant issues, including that certificate I and II qualifications are considerably less valuable than higher level qualifications, that VET that has been delivered in schools is rather different than that delivered in the VET mainstream, that VET has a large degree of generic education in it, and that apprenticeships and traineeships outside the school setting are very important for young people.

All speakers at the conference were invited to pose three questions for discussion. My three questions are:

  • How do you ensure that ‘people are challenged to do their best’?
  • How do you ensure that the polytechnic offers an alternative that does not cut off pathways?
  • How do you integrate ‘school VET’ with ‘industry VET’?

Regardless of these, however, the real measure of the polytechnic model’s success will be the extent to which it equips Tasmanians with skills they need for a modern economy. And while generalisations are always dangerous, the possession of at least a certificate III or a diploma is a good benchmark to aspire to.


Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER

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