SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and Higher Education Relief Package, Schools, Year 12 students
Alan Jones: Well, now, look, the world of education is in a mess. Dan Tehan is the Federal Education Minister. It’s a colossal job, this. Right now, he’s coordinating schools, child care centres, and universities. Mind you, as with the Prime Minister, his own views are then often contradicted by the states. This is a minefield. The Minister’s on the line. Dan, good morning.
Dan Tehan: Morning, Alan. How are you?
Jones: Not too badly, thank you. Look, just on university, shortly. You’re announcing cut price courses, and you’ll cut the fees – they’re only certificate courses, I know – by up to 75 per cent, in a bid to have students enrol immediately. Just, what’s the story on that?
Tehan: So, what we’re hoping is that those people who’ve had their lives turned upside down, they might look to either re-skill or to change direction with their employment, and go into areas which are national priorities, that we know we’ll have shortages in, when we come out of the pandemic. So, it’s teaching, it’s nursing, it’s allied health, it’s agriculture, it’s science, it’s English, it’s maths. And, you can begin in early May by doing a short course in any of these areas, and they’ll be at discount rates. And, we really want to encourage people, if you do want to embark on a new direction with your career – now is a great opportunity to be able to do it.
Jones: And, how do they go about that? I just heard you say that now, so, what do they do? Do they just plough on and go online? Or, is there a number they ring, or?
Tehan: So, what they can do is, they should contact their nearest university, or a university that they think is offering the course that would best suit them. So, our hope is that all universities will take up these courses. We’ll have more information on exactly what courses will be on offer in the coming weeks. So, there’ll be more information on where you can go. We’re going to set up a central line where people will be able to ring in, and find out what courses are available and where they go. And, we’ll be announcing more on that over the coming days.
Jones: Okay. We’ll let people know. You’ll let me know, I know. Look, this stuff with schools. I mean, the Federal Government’s advice, Scott Morrison has always been, schools should still be open. Then, you get contradicted by the states. School holidays are on. Queensland kids are meant to go back next Monday. They’ve been now told they are meant to stay at home. In New South Wales, the week after, the Premier’s asked students to stay at home. Victoria’s closed schools. Who’s running the joint?
Tehan: Well, every state and territory has jurisdiction for schools, so, what we’ve tried to do, as best we can, is get a national approach, and set of national priorities. The one thing that all premiers and territory leaders have agreed to, is that schools should be open for all those children whose parents have to work, and for all those vulnerable children, so that they can safely be looked after in a school environment, while their parents are working or ...
Jones: … But, you can appreciate, Dan, the problem here. With teachers, now, you know, how does a teacher – just a class, might be the history class – how does a teacher teach the kids in the classroom, and teach the kids online, as well? I mean, this is a bit of a nightmare for teachers.
Tehan: Look, so, one of the things, as well, Alan, we’ve also been clear on, is that if the school or the state has moved to online, then what can happen is the student goes to school, and the teacher there teaches online. So, they’re not teaching one different, you know, in the classroom, to one lot of students, and, then, likewise, online for another …
Jones: … So they’re teaching online, in the classroom, and at home?
Tehan: That’s right. They can use the one format. But, we have to remember, for instance, the NT, it’s back to school in the NT. They’re encouraging – well, they’re not encouraging –they’re saying all students have to go to school in the NT. And, it’s parents ...
Jones: … Northern Territory, you mean?
Tehan: Yeah, Northern Territory. So, they’re having all their students attend school in term 2. And, Western Australia will strongly be encouraging their students to go to school, as well. And, it will be up to those parents who wanted to take them, leave them at home.
Jones: Dan, does every school, every family – I’m, this is a silly question, I know – but, have a computer? I mean, what if you’ve got one computer in the house, and three kids?
Tehan: Well, that’s one of the issues, Alan. And, that’s why we’ve been very keen from a federal level to make sure that, where we can, we encourage schools to stay open. So, those students who don’t have that opportunity to be able to use a computer, can go to that school environment where, we know, they’ll be able to get that access to the computer. So, those parents should approach their school, and see whether those students can attend the school to get that computer. We want schools to use some common sense in this area.
Jones: But, see, many parts of Australia have dodgy Internet connection, as well. I mean, even though the kids want, the child might be at home, it’s very difficult if the Internet connection is crook. Who’s marking and monitoring the work, here?
Tehan: Yeah. So, you’re absolutely right, again. And, look, I represent a rural electorate in western Victoria, so, Internet connectivity is one thing we’re continuing to try and improve through the NBN. What will happen, ultimately, is, the teachers, and, when it comes to Year 12s, the curriculum and assessment bodies will take into account if you haven’t got proper connectivity. So, therefore, you’ve been disadvantaged through this move to online learning. And, we’ll be able to adjust, especially for Year 12s, your ATAR ranking, accordingly, if you’ve had five, eight, ten weeks, where you’ve had to use a dodgy Internet connection. It’s one of the reasons why ...
Jones: … That’s what, these Year 12 exams. I mean, how valid are they going to be, where kids haven’t been taught, or, how can they be at their best without being taught for the next six months? You’re going to have to give these students some sort of dispensation, aren’t you?
Tehan: That’s right. Well, we’ll normally do that, if, for instance, if there was a bushfire hit area, or a flood hit area, or, if the student fell ill. We do have ways to be able to adjust, and that’s what we’ll have to do again ...
Jones: … But, how do you do, how do you drama, music, and dancing, and chemistry, and biology, online?
Tehan: Well, it becomes more difficult. But, they are doing it online at the moment. You can manage it. But, it is different to what it is in a classroom. And, one of the things education ministers discussed last week, if we were able to get some students back – you might let Year 12 students who are doing chemistry back to do their practical side of their course, maybe on an afternoon – that might be a way we ease the restrictions back, on allowing attendances back into school. So, we’re looking at all these things, as well …
Jones: … I know. Minefield. Look, I want to talk to you about child care. I’m going to get you back later in the week on the program, because this is a bit of a minefield too, child care. And, perhaps, by that stage, you’ll have a bit more information on these discounted university courses. So, we’ll leave it there for that, for now, Minister, and we’ll talk to you later in the week.
Tehan: Be a pleasure, Alan. Thanks a lot.
Jones: Not at all. That’s Dan Tehan. Now, many of you have written about child care. I’ll get him back, where we’ll have a little bit more time to discuss what all that means. Many of you are saying, as a result of the child care package that the Government’s announced, we’re worse off than we were before. We’re 50 per cent short on revenue. So, I’m taking all those points aboard. We’ll get the Minister back to talk to him later in the week.