Thursday, 18 June 2020
Matters of Public Importance
Like many in this chamber and most of those sitting here at the moment, I am passionate about education. Like the member for Lalor, I spent more than two decades in education before coming into this place. I am passionate about it. I recognise the passion on the opposite side. I recognise the passion on this side. I have found it dispiriting over the last 12 months that we get fixated on skirmishes over small issues. I want us to actually go back to the basics. We all believe that education is important. We all believe that education serves both an individual and a national purpose. Individually, it gives us an opportunity—an opportunity to learn, to get wisdom, to get skills, to develop expertise. That is good for us as individuals because it builds our own sense of self-worth. It also gives us opportunity to participate in the community in the paid workforce or in the unpaid workforce, whatever we might want to do. Education is powerful. Those on the other side express this regularly, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. Education is powerful for the individual.
Education is also extremely important for our country. We need a knowledgeable country. We need people in our country who have skills, who have knowledge, who are innovative, who can develop things, who can build things and who can sell our ideas to the outside world. Our country needs education, and we as individuals need education, yet all too often in this place, where the majority of us are very highly educated, we forget that point. We argue at the margins and we dispute things. We focus on issues that don't really matter. We should be coming together—yes, call me Pollyanna if you like—and going back to those basic principles, saying, 'What do we agree on?' We want education that is accessible for people. I think we all agree with that. We want education and training opportunities in this country which are excellent. I think we can all agree with that. We want education and training that actually benefit the individual and benefit the nation. Again, I think we can all agree on that. We will disagree, undoubtedly, on how to achieve those goals. That is where we must argue, but let's always start back at that point, where we actually have a shared understanding, a shared hope and a shared expectation about what education should be doing. All too often in this place we resort to suggesting that the other side doesn't want that. I don't think that takes the argument anywhere; I think it takes us backwards.
What is this government delivering to education for students? In the last two decades I have been focused on education for students—with students at the heart of that. It's not just about the money that you put into education or training; we want to make sure that the money is properly spent, both for the individual students and for the country. The Gillard government introduced 'demand driven' and also mechanisms for judging student experience. Our government has increased those mechanisms: the quality indicators for learning and teaching, for example. This is publicly accessible data so that students can see how other students have fared as a result of their education. We are also introducing—and it's not something that the universities necessarily want but it is something that is in the best interests of students—performance-based funding, which will be measured on graduate outcomes and on graduate satisfaction. These are actually important, and help to drive behaviour.
As I said, our combined passion for education is about individuals. We need to come together to look at ways to achieve that, and to make sure that our young people and our not-so-young people have access to an excellent education. Performance-based funding and a number of other initiatives which are being announced go towards that. Let's work together.