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A University of Melbourne expert has called for a greater investment in developing the psychological wealth of young people.

An 87-year-old former teacher from Woomelang in the Mallee will graduate from the University of Melbourne on Saturday (13 August) - 68 years after completing her education course.

Professors Stephen Dinham and John Hattie of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE) have been awarded 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Teachers in the VET system need better acknowledgment and validation in recognition of the vital role they play in the complex world of vocational and technical education, according to a leading education expert.

Associate Professor Leesa Wheelahan, from the LH Martin Institute for Leadership in Higher Education at the University of Melbourne said VET teachers worked in a wider variety of workplaces, and with a more diverse range of students than school teachers or university academics.

“VET teachers work in schools, private training organizations, prisons, community centres, and online and just about everywhere else,” she said.

“Their students include the long-term unemployed, early school-leavers, those with low level language literacy and numeracy skills, refugees, prisoners, and also apprentices, young people who need a qualification to get started, adults who want to retrain, and highly skilled people who need to update skills.  Sometimes many of these people are in the one classroom.”

Associate Professor Wheelahan said despite the skill and complexity of their role in the education sector, there were no awards for VET teachers, and the training required by someone working in the sector was at a low level certificate IV standard.

“All countries are trying to increase their skills and the percentage of the population with post-school qualifications.  Australia is no exception.  Countries have to do this to remain internationally competitive but also to support social inclusion,” she said.

“Our VET sector has to grow quite a lot over the next 20 years and include more people in education and increase the number and level of qualifications that are gained each year.  Australia can’t do this without VET teachers.”

A report by the LH Martin Institute authored by Associate Professor Wheelahan was presented to AVETRA (the Australian Vocational Education and Training Research Association) this week.

Recommendations include:
•    Higher level teaching qualifications for VET teachers
•    Supporting the recruitment of industry exerts by allowing them to gain appropriate qualifications once they commence a VET teaching position (ie, industry experts could not be expected to already have teaching qualifications before they commence teaching)
•    A professional representative body for VET teachers
•    VET teaching awards to recognise excellence in the profession

With the Gonski review of school funding due by the end of this year, the release of school funding data on My School 2.0 has accelerated the already lively debate.
 
Professor Jack Keating from the Melbourne Graduate School of Education said the debate so far has focussed on comparing funding levels between Australia’s three school systems, which is illegitimate because they are so different. He advocates a funding model based on student need.

The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has committed $825K to research into vocational pathways and the connection between education and work.

The VET teaching profession needs to be transformed to accommodate growing student numbers and diversity, according to a new report by the LH Martin Institute.

The Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector needs strategies for managing the looming leadership succession crisis, according to a new report

The Australian academic profession is headed for crisis due to a lack of academic staff, unless major change takes place.

A new program in rural areas is helping at risk teenagers fight depression.

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