SUBJECTS: Coronavirus and Higher Education Relief Package, Schools, Year 12 students
Alan Jones: Look, Dan Tehan is the Federal Education Minister. He has a massive job on his hands. Coronavirus and child care centres, primary and secondary schooling, universities – a lethal cocktail. Made even more difficult when the states go down their road, independently of the urgings of the Prime Minister – it’s what Peta referred to earlier tonight, it’s a minefield. He joins us, Dan Tehan, from the studio in Canberra. Minister, good evening, and thank you for your time. Can I, just firstly, because, on universities, you are announcing what you’re calling cut-price courses. So, some will have their costs cut by up to 75 per cent, you say, in a bid to have students enrol immediately. So, the cost, as I understand it, of studying some university courses is going to be slashed during the coronavirus pandemic, to encourage, you’ve said, Australians trapped inside to retrain while isolating at home. So, from May, can you confirm a range of courses, including certificates in nursing, teaching, health, IT and science, will be offered online, allowing out of work Australians to qualify, for six months? Now, my concern is this – and I’m sure Peta shares the concern – are we going to compromise the quality of the instruction? And, the value of the certificates?
Dan Tehan: No, we’re not, Alan. We want to make sure that they do have quality and they will lead to the right outcomes which, and the right outcome is employment down the track, as we come out of this pandemic. And, we’ve asked the, the authority that supervises our university system – TEQSA – to look at this, and, all going well, we will have these micro-credentials, or short courses, as part of the Australian Qualifications Framework by the time they roll out in May. That’s what I’ve asked the department and TEQSA to do. And, my hope is, in two to three weeks, these short courses in diplomas or expanding short courses in graduate certificates will be part of the Australian Qualifications framework. So, we will have put reform in place in a short period of time to make sure we are getting the quality that we want as part of these certificates.
Jones: Okay. Well, just before we go to Peta, I mean, you’re talking – can you confirm this for our viewers – you’re talking about 140 higher education providers offering these short courses, and the cost will be discounted by up to 74 per cent? When will the details of all this be known?
Tehan: So, the details are out there now. So, for a list of courses a student will just have to pay $1,250, and then for the other courses it’s $2,500. So, for instance, teaching, nursing, agriculture, counselling, are all $1,250. Your engineering, sciences, are in the $2,500. These courses, the cost to the, to the student, has been slashed by between 50 to 74 per cent, and that’s to encourage people to take these up, to reskill, or look at a whole new occupation, if their life has been turned upside down as a result of the coronavirus.
Peta Credlin: Dan Tehan, I know this is possibly not in your remit, but, is a similar thing being done in relation to some of the paperwork side of the trade? Is there anything being done for anyone in a trade situation that can do work from home, if they’re not able to do work, as they perhaps did, before all this hit?
Tehan: So, my colleague, Michaelia Cash, is also looking to see what we can do in the vocational education space. It’s a little trickier, because, obviously, with those qualifications, there’s a practical element of it, so it becomes a little bit harder. But, yes, we’re looking to see what we can also do in the vocational education space, and, our hope is, we’ll have more to say on that in the coming weeks.
Jones: Dan, can I just say, I mean, I’m listening to all of this – are you telling me that nursing, teaching, you mentioned engineering, science, in six months? Just, this is like, you know, the give-away American universities – so, pay 1,250 bucks and we’ll give you a certificate in nursing, and teaching, and so – what on earth will they learn in six months?
Tehan: Okay, so, Alan, just, just so we’re clear, this doesn’t get you a full nursing degree. But, if you, for instance, you had done general nursing, and then you wanted to specialise in a certain area, then you would be able to do that element of it. Which, would then mean that, paediatrics, for instance, you might want to specialise in that area, so you can do the six-month certificate course, which would improve or reskill you in that area, and you could go on and do that. In teaching, there’s obviously a lot of online teaching going on at the moment. So, one of the things that Swinburne is looking at doing is offering a certificate in online teaching. So, you might have your teaching degree, but you want to now learn, how, what the skills are to teach properly online. So, you can do one of these six-month courses on online teaching. When it comes to agriculture, there might be a part of agriculture where you might want to enhance or improve your skills, so you can do it in that side of it. Health administration is another. If you want to improve your ability to, you know, to lift yourself up the hierarchy in the public health system, you could do a health administration certificate. Would then mean the next time that you apply for a managerial job, you can demonstrate that you’ve, you’ve done this six-month certificate to improve your skills in that area. So, and the other good thing about them, also – I’ll just make this point – they’re also a building block. So, if you do a certificate, a diploma certificate, in six months, if you want to go on and do a full diploma, then you only have to add another six months and you’ve got a full diploma. And, it’s the same with the graduate certificates – they also act as building blocks.
Jones: Now, look, parents – in relation to schools – parents are wondering who’s running the show. Now, Scott Morrison has been quite passionate and compassionate about the fact that schools should still be open. But, then you’ve got situations in Victoria. Well, they’re closing the whole lot. New South Wales, Gladys says, ‘Oh well, you don’t have to go to school.’ And, in Queensland, they’re not going to go to school, full stop. Can you understand the parents running – who’s running – are wondering, who’s running the show?
Tehan: Well, look, it, this is the federation at work, and the Prime Minister, through the National Cabinet, is trying to get a very consistent approach when it comes to schools. And, the Chief Medical Panel that – those experts from the Commonwealth and all the states and territories – have said it’s safe for schools to be open. So, we’re trying to get some national principles in place that will govern this. The Northern Territory, when they go back next week, they want their children at school, and you’ll have to give an excuse as to why you’ll keep your child at home. Western Australia is looking at a mixture of both. But, the Commonwealth’s position, all along, has been, we want the schools open and, at a minimum, we want to make sure that those parents who are working, or those vulnerable children, can attend school and get that, the safety of the classroom for their learning. And, that’s something that we …
Jones: … Dan, just before, just before, just before we go to Peta. I mean, this was about learning from home. I mean, I just, how? I mean, what about a family who’s got four kids? And, you need a computer? Does the family have to have four computers? How do they home school if they’ve got one computer and four kids?
Tehan: Well, Alan, you’re absolutely right, and, that’s why, we think, that schools should be open. So, in an instance like that, the family can approach the school and say, ‘Look, we haven’t got the capability to be able to educate our kids online at home, so, therefore, we’d like to be able to use the resources at school.’ And, it’s going to be those children from disadvantaged families, those from rural and regional areas, where they mightn’t have that Internet connectivity, that are going to suffer the most. And, that’s why, I think, it’s incredibly important that we keep the pressure on to keep our schools open, and have as many children who need to be attending those schools, because …
Jones: … Yeah, but Daniel Andrews and Annastacia Palaszczuk are saying, ‘When the term starts, you won’t be going to school.’ Now, how the hell are kids going to be educated in that kind of environment?
Tehan: Well, it’ll be very difficult. And, that’s why we keep pushing to say, for parents who have to work, for those vulnerable children, the schools should be open, and the children should be able to attend. And, you know, the Prime Minister has been very firm on that, and we want to get some national principles agreed across all states and territories so that we do have a consistent approach when it comes to – especially as the case you’re making – for those who really, for where they’re low socioeconomic, where they’re vulnerable children, that they have those opportunities that they can get in the classroom.
Credlin: Yeah. I don’t think it’s, I just don’t think it’s low socioeconomic, Dan. My sister’s in your electorate. She – her and her husband – have got a thousand head dairy farm. She’s got two little kids and she’s trying to work from home. They haven’t got great broadband out there in the country. And, yes, they’ve got computers and devices, but she’s supposedly working for a bank working from home, he’s running a dairy, they’ve got two little ones who are in primary school. We’re asking a lot of parents to do that for one term already, and now in Victoria, another term. I think this is pretty tough. We’ve got a lot of parents working from home, and they’re supposed to run their households and educate their kids. And, I might add, not any of them, that I’m speaking to, are getting big rebates on their school fees, either – the schools are still charging the parents the fees.
Jones: Yep, correct.
Tehan: No, well, you’re right. You’re right, Peta. And, that’s why we’ve made it very clear, for those parents who both have to work, they should be able to have their children attend school. And, as the medical experts have said, it’s safe for schools to be open, and it’s for exactly that reason. Where both parents need to work – whether they’re working on a dairy farm or in a bank – they need to be able to do their work. They’re both vital industries. We need the banks to be getting loans to a wide variety of businesses so that they can get themselves through the pandemic. We need the milk to make sure that all the cheese or the yoghurt – all the wonderful things that the southwest Victoria produces when it comes to the dairy industry – we need those on our kitchen table during the pandemic. So, they are both working, so they should be able to have their children at school …
Jones: … I know, but, Dan. Dan, I don’t want to be repetitive here, but Peta’s made a very, very valid point. The reality is, no matter how much you say the ideal world exists, basically, in Victoria, the kids have been told not to go to school. In Queensland, the kids have been told not to go to school. And, even Gladys Berejiklian is saying in New South Wales, you don’t have to go to school. Now, there are a whole heap of parents out there saying we don’t have broadband or, at least, the Internet reception’s crook. We don’t have computers. We’re going to have a whole generation of kids – because of the ideological disposition of certain premiers in opposition to the Prime Minister, giving instructions in their state, which run counter to what the Prime Minister is recommending – and these kids finish up being uneducated.
Tehan: Well, Alan, we live in a federation, and states and territories, ultimately, have jurisdictional responsibility when it comes to schools. But, we are working within the National Cabinet and within Education Council when, where all state and territory education ministers meet with the Commonwealth, to get an agreed set of principles which, hopefully, will govern this. And, over time, what we want to see is the schools reopening for more and more students. And, we’ve had some of these discussions last week. For instance, wouldn’t it be great for Year 12s – especially those who have a practical element for what they’re doing – if we could get more of those students back to school, even if it was only one or two days a week, to start doing the practical side of their Year 12 subjects. And, then you look at those doing vocational education, and we want to get them back, as well. So, as you’ve seen from the Prime Minister, he’s very, very determined on this, and we’ll continue to work with the states and territories so we do get the right outcomes for our students.
Jones: Okay, Dan. We’ve run out of time, but I just – you made that very interesting point at the end – the practical side. I mean, how do these kids do dance and music and science, biology and all that stuff, from home? I’m damned if I know. And, Peta, I think your concerns are very, very legitimate. Look, we’ve got to go to a break. Peta and I’ll be back after the break. Dan, thank you for your time tonight. Dan Tehan, the Federal Education Minister.