'Don't let FE become a cash cow for entrepreneurs,' academic warns

29th June 2016 at 18:10
Reimagining Further Education Conference
Australian academic Professor Paul Hager tells the Reimagining Further Education Conference that a competency-based training system could lead to 'low quality' provision

The UK should not make financial gain the main driver of further education and training, a leading Australian academic has warned.

Speaking at the Reimagining Further Education Conference at Birmingham City University today, Professor Paul Hager from the University of Technology in Sydney said that a training system based on demonstrating set competancies could lead to a simplified “tick and flick” style of assessing learning.

“One of the problems of the competency approach is that it breaks it down into a series of discreet skills,” he said. Performance, rather, should rest on learners' ability to “deploy the competencies in effective combinations that meet particular local conditions” – an approach he called “seemless know-how”.

“By encouraging people who want to make a quick fortune to offer [vocational education and training], you are encouraging the worst interpretation of [competence-based training]... VET in Australia has become a cash cow entrepreneurs are using to get rich quick. The idea is to sign people on for courses and do as little teaching as possible.”

Professor Hagen said that in Australia, the privatisation of VET had “amplified the defects of competence-based training”. “These two major policy mechanisms have interacted to ensure widespread low quality VET,” he said, adding that he believed there was a risk of the same happening in the UK. ​

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