AUSTRALIA’S push to become a smarter country is being stifled through continuing reassessments of funding at state and federal level.
The latest indication of budget bottom lines imposing on the education sector came earlier this week when the federal government decided not to make a general increase in university base funding, even though an independent review it commissioned has recommended a boost.
The decision was justified on the basis of increases across the sector during the past five years. It didn’t stop the round condemnation.
This was how the federal opposition saw the decision: “With education being one of our biggest exports, we cannot allow our product and reputation to suffer while the government keeps chasing after the elusive budget surplus.”
And this from the National Union of Students: “This government’s lack of overall meaningful action on higher education has left universities in a race to the bottom as they struggle to retain courses and staff.”
University of Ballarat vice-chancellor David Battersby, in his role as Regional Universities Network chairman, said: “It is a pity that, given the significant investment of time and effort put into the review, a more comprehensive response wasn’t made.”
It does seem contrary for the government to base its economic development around education yet in the same frame signal a plateau in tertiary investment.
The education revolution, as spruiked by the government, has failed to win the universal support Prime Minister Julia Gillard envisaged as education minister.
The states have also failed to play their part. Last week, The Courier revealed up to 30 fewer TAFE courses would be offered through the University of Ballarat this year due to changes in state funding models.
And teachers and the governments remain at loggerheads over pay.
For a nation that wants to graduate from the Lucky Country to the Smart Country, the ever-changing models of investments in education and the message being sent to students, teachers and parents is that the dollars don’t always match the message.
That’s going to need to change if we truly want to revolutionise our education system and how our nation succeeds in the future.