South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham has been appointed the Minister for Education in Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s brand new ministry.
The appointment of the progressive Liberal, who replaced Christopher Pyne, will see the boost of Australia’s vocational education and training (VET) sector and will also see him take control of the government’s $4.4 billion childcare reforms as they move out of social services and back into the education portfolio.
Birmingham told Sky News’ Laura Jayes that the new ministry under Turnbull is focussed on creating an optimistic vision and future for Australia.
“…in the education and training space that [vision and future] is about making sure that our schools, our early learning, our universities and vocational training are all focussed very much on delivering people the types of skills that are required to deal with the economic and industrial adjustment we’re facing in a world where global dislocation of jobs because of technological change and so on is coming at us at rapid pace,” he said.
“Really focussing in on how we ensure training and education is relevant for the jobs, not just of today, but of the future is a critical aspiration of mine and it’s something that I’ll be looking at all of our reforms through that sort of prism.”
Birmingham, who himself was educated at government schools, is also expected to shine the spotlight on teacher standards and lifting the quality of teacher training, but has ruled out delivering the final two years of Gonski funding.
“We will, in 2017, have to negotiate new arrangements with the States and Territories in terms of the forward funding profile for schools and that is something that I’ll sit down and do and look at how we can build on the needs-based approach that already applies,” Birmingham told Sky News’ Graham Richardson.
“It is important for people to understand out there that money isn’t just determined on the basis of giving it to the States and that’s the end of it,” he continued. “We do actually have many needs-based criteria in the existing funding formula and, of course, looking at any ways we can improve that in to the future is something that I will do, but there is not a bottomless bucket of money there and there is particularly not going to be a bottomless bucket of money if we’re spending it and yet not seeing improvements in student outcomes so, that’s what we’ve got to be having a look at, what is working and how do we invest more in the things that are working to make them pay off in the future.”
Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Dr David Zyngier, has called upon the new Education Minister to dump Christopher Pyne’s proposed Higher Education reforms, replace religious chaplains in schools with well-trained and professional welfare officers, and to end the ‘culture war’ over the National Curriculum by replacing education policy adviser Dr Kevin Donnelly.
“As has already been floated by the new minister and his Prime Minister, the deregulation of universities is probably off the table for now,” Dr Zyngier said. “Minister Birmingham’s commitment to VET is admirable and the sector would like to see a similar HECS or fee-HELP system in place for what has become a very expensive option for young people.
“The culture wars over control of and focus for the National Curriculum may also be left to experts in education given the much more progressive views of the new Prime Minister and the Minister of Education. We can only hope that will be the case and that evidence-based research, not ideological belief, will guide our education policies for the next few years.”
Dr Zyngier also praised the government’s move of childcare reforms out of social services and back into the education portfolio as a very good move for education policy.