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Education system focuses on boffins, not students

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FUNDAMENTAL flaws in the school and university system are failing our children, with one in five unable to get a full-time job when they graduate, a landmark report has found.

In a major report five years in the making, Productivity Commission chairman Peter Harris has recommended an overhaul of the health and education system, to improve our quality of life and save hundreds of millions of dollars.

The report, to be released today, suggests linking university funding with the success of its students after underemployment among graduates more than doubled from 9 per cent in 2009 to 20 per cent last year — meaning one in five qualified young Aussies can’t get a full-time job.

A quarter of the graduates who did find jobs were forced to take work in areas that were not relevant to the degree they had studied.

Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has been handed a damning report into the state of our education system. Picture: AAP

“The Commission pinpoints some fundamental flaws in our education system that are holding us back from realising our future potential, and restraining productivity growth,” Treasurer Scott Morrison said.

“The Commission claims our school results are stagnating. And we have a university system that is more preoccupied with publishing than improving teaching standards.”

Let’s face it: Not everyone should go to uni

In subjects where there are teacher shortages, the Productivity Commission recommends raising salaries to attract high-calibre teachers who are specialists in that area, instead of a situation where teachers are instructing students in areas they have not studied.

The government has already introduced major education reforms, designed by reformer and businessman David Gonski, to try to improve teaching standards.

The report also recommends embracing disruption by creating massive open online courses to lower costs of education and make it ­accessible.

David Gonski helped implement a range of education reforms. Picture: AAP
The Commission is withering about universities, arguing there is insufficient incentive to lift teaching standards and no accountability on how successful students are at getting jobs when they leave university.

Instead, universities are too focused on publishing research because the career prospects of lecturers depend on their publishing resume rather than on their teaching record.

“Thanks to the financial windfall of attracting foreign students, universities can become obsessed with boosting their international rankings that are narrowly based on their research capabilities,” he said.

Students get ready for the HSC earlier this year at the Model Farms High School, Baulkham Hills. Picture: Justin Lloyd.

“The Commission calls it a ‘gladiatorial obsession’ — hire the best researchers, increase your ranking and the cashed-up foreign students will come.”

One in five university students had not completed their degree nine years after they started it, according to 2014 data.

The Commission delved into the new technology development underway today, from 3D printing to gene technologies, robotics, machine learning and social media apps.

“But the Commission also highlights the fact that despite these developments, the gains in productivity from technical change appear to be diminishing,” Mr Morrison said.

Overall the report recommends creating functional cities that do not “choke our economy”, a more proactive education system and an ­integrated healthcare system that is entirely focused on the patient.