Success has many parents…

Last week, I wrote up the 2020 summit idea of providing a HECS discount in exchange for volunteering in a disadvantaged community. In today’s Higher Ed section of the Australian, Andrew Darbyshire claims credit for the notion. I don’t doubt that his idea was original, but I’m not so sure it was the first. The AmeriCorps program (which sounds a lot like the Australian proposals) was created by President Clinton in 1993. Since at least 2002, people have been suggesting that Australia might adopt it.

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2 Responses to Success has many parents…

  1. I personally think that we need to return to “free” higher education – that is, tuition fees paid directly by the government so that graduates have zero debt.

    However, I would have the proviso that a person would still have to pay back this amount if they wished to move overseas. This would help prevent any “brain drain” and any overseas government gaining tax revenue from importing skilled workers that have been trained by a different government.

    Then again, a “White list” of certain countries and even degrees could exist that may allow exceptions to this rule (eg a Doctor moving to Papua New Guinea or a Sociology graduate moving to the US)

  2. I’m not sure that we should describe people who are being paid, albeit at some time in the future, as ‘volunteers’.

    I don’t think Darbyshire was claiming that he was the first to come up with the idea, just that he may have been one prompt for its inclusion in the 2020 statement. This is what his submission said:

    The Smartest Country – Policy Ideas
    Develop a Sense of Community and Offset HECS debt

    Tertiary students (mentors) gain credits against their HECS debt by mentoring and tutoring young students in the primary and secondary education systems.

    Facilitate tertiary students to earn up to say a 20% credit against their HECS debt whilst studying, by spending a number of hours per week, mentoring and tutoring younger disadvantaged students in primary and secondary schools, to help them achieve higher scholastic results. The more hours spent, the higher the value of the credits.

    This would firstly, reduce the HECS debt a student had when graduating, making it easier for them to save for a house deposit. Secondly, it would build a sense of purpose and corporate social responsibility into students lives, that would carry over into their careers, and help promote the Prime Minister’s Workplace Giving program.

    How it would work: • School Principals would be issued with vouchers by the ATO. • Schools list placements on the Australian Government Job Search web site. • Mentors find available mentoring opportunities through the Australian Government Job Search web site. • Principals would interview and engage suitable mentors. • Mentors are issued vouchers by school staff weekly, for hours completed. • Mentors submit vouchers with their tax returns to offset part of their HECS debt.

    Mentoring would be tailored to take advantage of the specific skill set of each student. For example, if a mentor had musical teaching ability, they could be placed into schools with the assistance and guidance of The Song Room. The Song Room is a charity that provides music programs to disadvantaged schools. This year The Song Room will deliver programs to over 40,000 children throughout Australia.

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