The focus on Australia’s dependence on international students has continued over the past month, with disturbing news that over 60 percent of the current cohort are now unemployed and going hungry due to lack of government support.
“A nationwide survey of temporary visa holders has revealed the devastating impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on those who moved to Australia to work and study – with many becoming homeless and forced to skip meals.”
This precedes the news that hundreds of new international students are to be allowed into Australia from September through a national pilot program being conducted first in South Australia. While students and universities will be responsible for travel and quarantine costs, let’s hope that the federal government is taking the time to consider the welfare of those students already here in Australia and taking steps to better care for future students.
In a recent survey conducted with current students trapped here on temporary visas with no access to work or support other than food banks and charity organisations, most international students here would advise others not to come to Australia after their experience with Australia’s coronavirus response. Sobering reading.
Meanwhile, the Morrison Government has taken action to “protect students and taxpayers from the accumulation of large HELP debts that do not provide benefits to the student and are unlikely to be repaid” with the introduction of the Job-ready Graduates legislation based on completion rates of students in their first year of study. The minister’s media release is here.
Commentator Andrew Norton (amongst others) is not convinced the government is taking the right approach but agrees that ‘disengaged and failing students are an issue worth policy attention’.
He argues that there are more things that could be done to ensure disengaged and failing students secure better help to succeed. You might like to read more from the ‘Dropping Out’ report Andrew co-authored on behalf of the Grattan Institute:
Andrew also points out that 2021 will be a competitive year for university applicants, with demand far outstripping supply and universities facing “a recession-induced spike in demand.”
And ASQA has released its Regulatory Strategy 2020-2022 outlining its regulatory priorities for the next two years, developed in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressures the pandemic has placed on the VET sector, including the financial impact on providers.
“Australian and state and territory governments are currently working with the VET sector to finalise a VET Reform Roadmap designed to drive improvement in the quality of VET. Over the coming months and years, there will be a range of changes for both ASQA and the sector more broadly, in line with the government’s commitment to strengthening the VET sector.
Focus areas for 2020-22 will include the vital areas of online learning in the VET sector and VET in schools.
I would just like to leave you with a final thought from progressive philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as in the midst of the government’s current view of instrumentalist education I think we should all remember as educators that:
“We are born weak, we need strength;
helpless, we need aid;
foolish, we need reason.
All that we lack at birth,
all that we need when we come to man’s estate,
is the gift of education.”