ACE DISCUSSION PAPER QUESTIONNAIRE
Name/s of Respondents: Sue McKay Chairperson on behalf of WAALCExecutive
Title/Name of Organisation (if applicable): Western AustralianAdult Literacy Council Incorporated (WAALC)
Key Question # 1:
Howmight strengthening the vocational orientation of courses offered through ACEaffect its current diversity and responsiveness to community needs?
Astronger emphasis on vocational delivery will affect WA ACE deliverynegatively. It would hijack the efforts of volunteers (board members,organisations and educators) from their core business. Instead of offering learning opportunitiesthat are very different to that offered in the VET sector, ACE organisations would be attempting todevelop the resources to duplicate already available offerings. This would beespecially detrimental in locations where there is inadequate adult educationand training available (rural and regional areas and outlying suburbs). In many of these locations duplicate offeringsresult in the failure of both programs to run due to low numbers.
Key Question # 2:
Shouldthe WA ACE definition be broadened to include accredited course activity? Ifnot, why not?
Itdepends on the purpose: if you want to reflect reality all VET sector deliveryand all university courses offered to people over the age of compulsoryschooling is Adult Community Education. It benefits both “Adults” and the “Community”. ACE also includes all the work done inadult education by all sorts of organisations such as sporting associations, Red Cross, gardening clubs, themedia, employers, and unions. Some of this is accredited; much informal andunaccredited. It also includes allthe informal learning that individuals and groups offer to each other in socialgroupings such as families, neighbourhoods and circles of friends.
InWAALC’s view, the division between ACE and VET is entirely artificial. It seems to be based on a premise thatthe only learning that is useful is that which is directly and explicitly vocational in nature and this learningmust be valued above all else. This goes too far if it aims to co-opt volunteerefforts as well as that of organisations resourced to offer recognizededucation.
Italso suggests the opposite premise that non-vocational learning is of lesservalue in itself to the economy as a whole, and to employers in particular. Thisis patently false: research conducted by employer groups into employabilityskills identify lists of valuable skills that are clearly developed in allsorts of learning environments including the most informal of ACE environments.
Howcan the WA ACE sector most effectively contribute to meeting key national goalsfor education, training and employment, if it continues to offer non-accreditedtraining only?
Alleffective learning contributes to meeting these goals – effectivecollaborative learning helps most as it develops more of the employabilityskills.
Thekey to improving the contribution WA ACE sector is to ensure that more disadvantagedpeople have access to the informal learning offered. At present ACE is mainlyavailable to those who already have most resources.
Anotherway the ACE sector could contribute more to the productivity agenda is byensuring literacy and numeracy development needs are incorporated into theirofferings. This need not be through different programs but through ensuringthat the staff in their programs have access to adequate knowledge aboutliteracy development in adults so they can foster these skills.
KeyQuestion # 3:
Howcan the sector better meet the needs of groups currently under-represented inACE?
Fundingis the major issue when offering educational services to disadvantagedpeople. Many ACE classes areoffered at reduced or low cost but this is still impossible for people who arestruggling to find money for food after the rent is paid.
Publicfunding could be well more widely applied to non-accredited training savingconsiderable costs over offering the same programs as accredited courses. TheFirst Click program is a good example of how this can work. The need for basiccomputer skills was seen as necessary for vocational purposes as well as withinthe community for social and individual purposes. Funds were offered by DET to delivernon-accredited programs in community settings to reach more of the population.This reduced the pressure to offer basic computer training from vocational InformationTechnology and accredited general education courses. The non-accredited First Click training freed up these moreexpensive options to meet the needs of both business and the community forhigher level skills. What is more, for absolute beginners, the informalnon-assessed options funded through First Click were welcomed by students.
Wepropose Initiatives be developed that foster the capacity of all sorts oforganisations to offer both formal and informal learning without co-opting allthese efforts to a narrow vocationally-focused agenda. For example, ACE could make an impacton the need to increase the literacy and numeracy skills profile of Australiansthrough non-accredited family literacy programs, oral history initiatives,groups working on the production of reading materials in first languagesincluding Aboriginal english and study circles focusing on communitypriorities.
Shouldthe prevailing definition of ACE be broadened beyond Adult Community Educationto Adult and Community Education to enable it to be more inclusive in terms ofits ability to reach disadvantaged groups? (disengaged youth, indigenous, thedisabled, mature aged men)
FutureDirections for ACE in WA Page 27
Yes – ACE definitely should be defined as Adult andCommunity Education in WA and we should define much more into the definition ofACE. The current skew towards older females is partly definitional. If youincluded sporting organisations, bush fire brigades, youth centres, indigenous organisationsand workplaces as providers of informal education, ACE would cater for a muchwider range of social groupings. Much more than this actually happens, especiallyin the community at large and all of this learning could be included in ACE atthe stroke of a pen. WAALC wouldsupport a definition of ACE as including all informal non-accredited learningfor adults wherever and whenever it happens.
Read Write Now for example is missing from the discussion paper as an ACEprovider but is the main way that non-accredited literacy education happens forWA adults. This may have been an oversight but provides an example of how verylarge providers of informal learning can be invisible (Read Right Now has about1000 tutors working at any time in almost every locality in the state so isquite large).
Howcould the collection of data about providers and learners in the ACE sector beimproved?
Data collection costs. You can collect data about what you payfor. When you rely on volunteerefforts for a widely varying service the little financial support that isavailable will have other priorities than achieving high levels of nationallyconsistent data collection. Everyone collects some data but the cost raises significantly the moredifferent details you want and the more you need it to be equivalent acrossvery different activities. Datacollection principles can also restrict what can be offered (see our responseto question 10a about how data requirements such as enrolment works in TAFE toreduce flexibility.)
Data for this type of activity is better collected through ABSwhole of population surveys and the occasional research project. Our aim should be that 100% of thepopulation have access to informal learning opportunities routinely as a partof their life and formal learning when this is required. Even formal learningcan be hard to count, but counting informal learning every time it happenssimply requires very narrow definitions of what is included.
Key Question # 4:
Isthere scope for re-thinking DET’s involvement in the ACE sector in terms of howit provides direction and support for the ACE sector?
DET could offer grants for community capacity building (egimprovement of facilities). Helpin areas such as insurance will continue to be important. Most of all DET canrecognize the efforts of learners and those who collaborate with them in theseefforts. Ideas such as learning communities life long learning and families as the first learning sitecould all usefully be applied to encourage us all to see adult learning as acore inseparable part of life that we can leverage to make our communities moreresilient in the face of change.
Key Question # 5:
Isthere a capacity for greater cross-departmental collaboration in providinglinkages with ACE pathways, and what benefits could result?
We could officially recognize that every Department has aneducation role. DET could foster and recognize good practice in communityeducation provided by Government departments as part of their remit; in areasas diverse as finances , health, the environment.
Consideringthe involvement of other government agencies in ACE programs, should the focusof DET in ACE be more closely defined as providing opportunities for furthergeneral education that build learning and employability skills?
No.Further narrowing DET’s role in ACE is counter-productive to achieving national productivity goals. DET’s role could be defined as ensuringthe informal learning reaches as many in the population as formal learningdoes.
KeyQuestion # 6:
To what extentdid the 2004-08 strategy meet its goals as set out above?
Notsure. The DET section responsibleran some great conferences and funded some good programs for disadvantagedWestern Australians.
In what waysdid your organisation attempt to meet these goals?
WAALCmembers have presented at national adult learning conferences. Perhaps WAALC asa professional body that provides learning opportunities for teachers on alargely informal non-accredited basis should be defined a part of ACE?
Which of thesegoals remain relevant in 2009-2013?
Allof them especially last two. Amend fourth one to include all adult learningoptions as ACE.
Are there anynew goals or directions that should be considered for inclusion in the newstrategy?
Promoteand celebrate lifelong learning as an important goal for society, families andindividuals. Link to health wealthand happiness.
Developa “Life! Be In It!” style campaignwhich incites all adults to increase their learning activities – Learnmore, and learn more often. Therecould be a benefit in working with the government to use this same campaign toencourage exercise as well as learning as part of a way to foster theappreciation that everyone needs access to activities that develop their mentaland physical fitness.
Promotethe mental health and social benefits of learning to counter-balance theperception that productivity is only about participation in formal paidwork. Strong healthy individuals,families and communities also contribute to our overall productivity and wellbeingas a nation.
KeyQuestion # 7:
Is the WA ACEAdvisory Committee the most appropriate instrument for governance of thesector?
Noidea. Whatever body has governance of the sector should be broadly based andnot simply representing a few organisations involved in some particular typesof learning.
Could the WAACE Advisory Committee adopt a more active role in shaping the ACE sector inWA, as a co-ordinator, advisory or actual policy-making body?
Itdoesn’t seem likely.
KeyQuestion # 8:
Should thepriorities of the State Training Profile influence ACE provision?
No. The State Training Profile is thefunding mechanism for accredited VET provision including that of accreditedgeneral education and access programs that have mixed outcomes (employment,individual and societal objectives). Current WA ACE providers do not have thecapacity to offer much of this provision and there seems little benefit toanyone in the major investment that would be required to change this situation.
Does itstrengthen the need for ACE to incorporate accredited, industry-focusedcourses?
Noexcept by means of changing the definition to include services that alreadycater to the needs of industry as part of the whole picture of ACE provision.Pushing organisations such as Learning Centre Link, Telecentres and
theUniversity of the Third Age to comply with all of the onerous and expensiverequirements of accredited delivery will reduce a much valued and important setof provision of informal and non-accredited learning.
KeyQuestion # 9:
To what extentdoes the new ministerial declaration imply change for the WA ACE sector interms of increasing its vocational focus, shifting its conceptual definitionand strengthening data collection systems?
WAACE provision is radically different to the situation in other states. If ACEproviders in WA do not attract disadvantaged groups particularly well the goal thatthe COAG productivity agenda is seeking to achieve through increased use of ACEfor vocational training will not be achieved here. A greater focus on VET provision may access a few more olderwomen but many of these are already well qualified and fully engaged inemployment activities. Changesthat might allow WA to achieve Goal 2 and 3 might be:
Š improving the way organisations that deliver language andliteracy services integrate workplace and vocational objectives into theirprograms (these services are not defined as ACE in WA currently and areentirely delivered as accredited training)
Š supporting Indigenous training organisations to offer a rangeof accredited and non accredited programs (like Karrayili Adult EducationCentre in Karrayili). A model thatallows well funded non accredited training would be necessary.
Goal4 should not be simply seen as data collection – evidence of benefit isdifficult to demonstrate simply by enrolment data but can be assessed thoughother types of research.
KeyQuestion # 10:
How can TAFEbest contribute to the growth and increasing the vocational orientation of theACE sector?
TAFEis a key part of the ACE sector in WA. If some funding was available for non-accrediteddelivery to disadvantaged groups or for priority skills areas TAFE couldcontribute better. For example,TAFE in the Central West has serviced a remote indigenous com unity for manyyears. A WAALC member reports:
“TAFEvocational courses often fail to meet the needs of disadvantaged groups becausethey require set numbers of students, they require the same students to turn up(for at least most of the session times) and there is a student paymentrequirement.
Thisis the case at Mungullah Community, where Central West is struggling to findits place. I found, that when I delivered courses there a couple of years ago,there was community interest in the course. However, this was dashed if the lecturer had to requestinterested community members to organise their enrolment before participation;we were not able to cater for occasional and sporadic interest and work withthis in a supportive and 'culturally appropriate' way.
Itwould be great if ACE could overcome these barriers and develop courses whichwould support 'ad-hoc' community participation, without the current quite rigidattendance requirements. (WAALC Member, Carnavon)
Theseproblems would be remedied by allowing some funding for non-accredited informallearning programs to whichever organisations are best placed to offer theservice: in the case of many remote locations there is only one option, usuallyin WA, a TAFE College. Theseshould be directly targeted to increasing the participation of the mostdisadvantaged people in learning of any type but also provide for theirachievement of accredited vocational qualifications once learning needs havebeen established and relationships built.
How can TAFE bettermanage the articulation of pathways between vocational and non-vocationalcourses?
TAFEcan work with small community organisations wanting to be involved in formaltraining partnering with them to offer training.
KeyQuestion # 11:
What is thevalue to the sector of having a central organisation with a leadership role andability to facilitate partnerships and auspicing arrangements with RegisteredTraining Organisations? Is such a role best placed within government or in thecommunity?
Notneeded. The money would be betterspent allowing for more informal non accredited training to allow for morepathways.
KeyQuestion # 12:
What can theformalised ACE sector learn from grassroots, community-based organisations suchas the Men’s Sheds?
Men’sShed is ACE, and any definition that tries to divide this initiative from theACE sector is just unnecessarily restrictive. What all formaleducation (including that labeled ACE) can learn from the success ofinitiatives like this is that if you want to reach a wider range of people youhave to provide a wider range of locations, allow for some options where peoplecan learn from people who use language in a familiar way and who share commonlife experiences, culture, values etc). Barriers for learning are reduced by reducing the social distancebetween educator and educated and in an adult context you often don’t need tomake a distinction between who is the educator - that role can move around agroup depending on the skill needed at a particular point in time.
Do theyprovide a model of access that might improve the participation of variousunder-represented groups including disengaged youth, people with disability orIndigenous Australians?
Men’sSheds are simply one of the many possible learning sites that should be includedin any definition of ACE. Allowfor some funding to support such initiatives without insisting they mustdeliver accredited training because most of them will shrivel and die once theyare pushed into the accredited vocational framework.
KeyQuestion # 13:
How couldfunding and evaluation systems be improved to ensure greater accountability andbetter targeting of public funds?
Setdata collection up front for grants. Do not require as much data collection for non-accreditedinformal leaning as for formal accredited learning as the more data you collectthe less the programs are flexible to cater for the needs of highlydisadvantaged people (or anyone else for that matter).
How would theredefinition of ACE (proposed at questions 2, 3, 8 and 9) impact upon thedistribution of funds?
Inthe WA context we would need to continue to identify particular areas whereprograms similar to the First Click initiative could have a benefit that isbroadly relevant to both workplaces and other objectives. ICT will have a continued need for sometime to come, financial education might also be useful. Some non-accredited literacy andlanguage programs that focus on issues important to communities such as familyliteracy or capturing oral histories could also be valuable.
Whichindustries/business types might have a vested interest in the communitycapacity building activities of the ACE sector? Is there a possibility forforming funding partnerships with such organisations?
Banksand those industries wanting to employ more Indigenous workers.
Pleasereturn your completed questionnaire by:
Mail:Miles Morgan Australia, 388 Rokeby Road, Subiaco WA 6008.