In coming decades, Australia’s continued prosperity will increasingly depend on the relevance of workers’ education and skills, ensuring that no one is left behind.
Calls for change in Australia’s post-compulsory education system are getting louder, and a consensus is forming around what needs to be done.
The traditional linear pathways to vocational education and training (VET) and higher education no longer apply, as Australia’s cultural and economic transformation is increasingly framed around globalisation, perpetual learning and innovation.
Major and rapid increases in human knowledge and skills are needed to meet these technological, economic, environmental and cultural transformations taking shape, and Australia must position itself to respond and thrive to these challenges by becoming a more intellectually, technically and culturally sophisticated society.
To do this, greater awareness of the need for renewal and engagement among policymakers in state and federal governments, from industry, from providers of post-compulsory education and from the broader community is needed.
“The Commission’s vision for the post-compulsory education system in Australia is one that provides adaptable, capable global citizens who are both job-ready and resilient in dealing with change.”
The Monash Commission was established in 2018 to help rethink the effectiveness of post-compulsory education and training in Australia within this context, and to fuel broader national discussion and policy debate.
In conducting its first inquiry, the Monash Commission canvassed research from scholars, conducted interviews with a wide range of industry representatives, students and leaders of educational institutions.
It has now released its vision for post-compulsory education with three transformative recommendations.
The Chair of the Monash Commission, Elizabeth Proust AO, said it had started a community-wide conversation about the importance of lifetime learning, and the recognition that graduation is no longer the sole target or final outcome of a student’s education journey.
“The Commission’s vision for the post-compulsory education system in Australia is one that provides adaptable, capable global citizens who are both job-ready and resilient in dealing with change,” she said.
The report stated: “Universal entitlement to post-compulsory education and training, and the introduction of a Lifetime Learning Account to track, credit and verify learning, will enable all Australians to learn, train and re-skill as their needs and circumstances change.”
The report cited estimates that more than 1.4 million people would enrol in some form of publicly funded, accredited VET or higher education course next year, and that many of those people “will still be actively engaged members of society, working and making invaluable contributions to their communities in 2070”.
But it also sounded a warning that despite the importance of increasing education and skills within the workforce to counter demographic changes, participation levels in post-compulsory education were at risk of declining over the next decade.
The inquiry found that while 56 per cent of Australians 15 years and older hold some sort of post-school qualification, 90 per cent of new jobs created by 2023 are expected to require a Certificate II or higher, which will leave many working Australians with poor employment prospects.
To effectively address these concerns, the Commission advocates major funding reform in the sector, including separate funding pools for research and education, and calls for education and all research to be fully funded by the state and federal governments.
The Commission also recommends the establishment of a “single independent statutory agency to provide strategic advice to federal and state governments and industry on the structure and function of post-compulsory education and training”.
Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO said the Commission’s findings highlight that in the coming decades Australia’s prosperity will increasingly depend on the relevance of workers’ education skills, and that no one should be left behind.
“Access at any time in one’s career to relevant and high-quality education is critical to Australia’s future,” she said. “Education inspires citizens to build the future they want, and respond to the continually evolving set of skills needed to maintain a healthy and prosperous society.”