The BCA has a report out today on education, which seems to have received blanket coverage in the AFR. I think it’s splendid to have more people throwing ideas into the policy mix, and the report is appropriately cautious/modest about what it’s contributing to the policy mix.
My favourite parts of the report are where they focus on the equity issues – pointing out correctly that if you leave school with low literacy levels, your life chances are pretty grim. Quality schools are one of the best social policies we’ve yet developed. And the BCA is right to suggest that early childhood intervention, and paying talented teachers more to work in disadvantaged areas, are potentially promising idea to experiment with.
The only bits of the report I find frustrating are where the BCA looks at education as an input into the production process. It’s true that their members would currently like to be able to hire more people with VET training. But that doesn’t mean that getting a VET qualification is a good career move. (Indeed, my own work suggests that the per-year economic payoff to TAFE qualifications is considerably lower than the payoff to attending school or university.) The report also cites some rather odd static modelling.
Research by the Centre for the Economics of Education and Training suggests that: in the decade 2006â€“16, the VET sector will be required to supply 2.47 million qualified people; 70 per cent of these will be required at trade and post-trade levels (Certificate III, Diploma, Advanced Diploma); based on current supply, new entrants and skilled migration, there will be a projected shortfall of 240,000 people with VET qualifications; and as a result, one in seven jobs requiring VET qualifications either will be unfilled or filled with an inappropriately skilled person.
This would be an excellent and insightful analysis… if wages were fixed.
OK, I’m quibbling. The report shows that our peak business body is thinking seriously about school productivity (unlike many education reports, there’s more discussion of outputs than inputs), and concerned about targeting resources to education as a means of helping Indigenous and low-income children. That’s definitely something for which they should be commended.