The stupid death of Australian TAFE | Macrobusiness

By Leith van Onselen

Re-published with kind permission from Macrobusiness.

The Age has run a disturbing report on the collapse of TAFE enrollments, driven in part by the uncapping of university places and the bubble in dodgy private Vocational Education and Training (VET) providers:

…[Tafe] enrolments [are] down by up to 40 per cent at some providers, two years after [Victorian] Premier Daniel Andrews promised to “rebuild” TAFE…

Some TAFE buildings resemble ghost campuses, rather than thriving centres of learning…

According to the Education Union, 3300 teachers have left the Victorian TAFE system in the past five years.

…annual reports also reveal that in the past year alone, enrolments have plummeted: Sunraysia Institute had a 21 per cent drop, student numbers were down 12 per cent at GOTAFE, and Melbourne Polytechnic experienced a staggering 40 per cent drop in enrolments…

Bruce Mackenzie, who led the state government’s review into the training sector… says private training college scandals have unfairly tarnished TAFE’s reputation, while a decline in apprenticeships and the uncapping of university places has also driven students away.

“The second tier universities take anyone into their course whether they are suitable or not, which rips the heart out of TAFE institutes,” he says…

But that mess, according to the AEU, started when the Brumby government created an open market system in 2008, paving the way for an explosion in private providers and rorting.

“The contestable policy will always undermine the TAFE system,” says Mr Barclay…

The collapse in TAFE numbers is worrying on several levels.

Recent data released by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) revealed that traineeship and apprenticeship commencements have fallen by more than 45% over the past four years:

ScreenHunter_13756 Jun. 29 08.03

Apprenticeship completions have also fallen heavily, down by 24.0% in the 12 months to March 2016.

Meanwhile, the Department of Employment’s most recent skills shortages report showed that “skills shortages”, while low overall, are far more widespread for technicians and tradespeople:

ScreenHunter_14586 Aug. 24 11.19

Because they are experiencing relatively few commencements and completions of apprenticeships:

ScreenHunter_14587 Aug. 24 11.21

By contrast, the economy is awash with university students, with nearly 730,000 enrolled in a bachelor degree:

ScreenHunter_14572 Aug. 23 15.44

Despite graduate employment outcomes falling to “historically low levels”:

ScreenHunter_14575 Aug. 23 16.01

Students numbers studying at private VET colleges also soared, guzzling-up public funds via VET FEE-HELP loans and diverting students away from public TAFEs.

The below graphics, which come from the 2015 VET FEE-HELP Statistical Report, tell the story.

As shown below, nearly three-quarters of VET students were enrolled in private colleges in 2015:

And these private colleges charged an average loan amount well above that of public TAFEs:

They also charged average tuition fees of $18,290 versus $7,642 for public TAFEs, as well as accumulated total VET FEE-HELP loans of $2,400 million in 2015, versus just $402 million for public TAFEs:

However, despite the huge imbalance between student numbers, fees charged, and funding, only 14,400 students managed to complete courses at private colleges in 2014, compared with 18,400 students at TAFE and other public providers.

Clearly, Australia’s higher education system is a complete mess. The implementation of demand-driven training systems across Australia has effectively led to an explosion of students studying at university – creating a glut of bachelor-qualified people – as well as students studying expensive diplomas at dodgy private providers. At the same time, a commensurate shortage in people with trade skills has developed, due in part to the decline in TAFE.

What has been delivered is a wasteful, rorted higher education system that has delivered a huge Budget blow-out, poor educational outcomes, and the wrong skills for the nation.

Our universities aren’t earning the money we give them

From Ross Gittins at The Herald:

In an ideal world we’d be investing more in our universities, but our world is far from ideal. And so are our unis. They’re inefficient bureaucracies, with bloated administrations and over-paid vice chancellors….

It’s true our unis are obsessed by research, but any innovation this leads is almost accidental. The research the unis care about is papers published in prestigious foreign journals, which they see as the path to what they’re really striving for: a higher ranking on the various international league tables of universities….

The unsatisfactory state of our unis is partly the product of our federal politicians’ – Labor and Coalition – decades-long project to quietly and progressively privatise our universities via the backdoor.

Like so much misconceived micro-economic reform, this project hasn’t worked well. Put a decades-long squeeze on unis’ government funding and what happens? The unis intensify their obsess with research status-seeking and do it by exploiting their market power over students – while building ever larger bureaucracies.

There are some excellent teachers in universities, but they’re the exception. The unis pretend to value good teachers – and award tin medals to prove it – but, in truth, there are no promotions for being a good teacher.

Students are seen as a necessary evil, needed because the public thinks teaching their kids is the main reason for continuing to feed academics….

Universities are gaming the system, maximizing fee revenue by focusing on international rankings while lowering entrance requirements for students.

There is too much emphasis on a ‘prestigious’ university education and not enough on its practical application. Many students would benefit more from studying at technical institutes (many now rebranded as technical or polytechnic universities), technical colleges, TAFE or technikons which offer a balance between practical experience and theoretical studies. This includes not only engineering but architecture, nursing, finance, IT, education, and many other disciplines.

Source: Our universities aren’t earning the money we give them

Inoculation theory: Using misinformation to fight misinformation | The Conversation


File 20170512 3682 1g3a9fh
A shot of fake news now and your defenses are raised in the future?
funnyangel/Shutterstock.com.

John Cook, George Mason University

As a psychologist researching misinformation, I focus on reducing its influence. Essentially, my goal is to put myself out of a job. The Conversation

Recent developments indicate that I haven’t been doing a very good job of it. Misinformation, fake news and “alternative facts” are more prominent than ever. The Oxford Dictionary named “post-truth” as the 2016 word of the year. Science and scientific evidence have been under assault.

Fortunately, science does have a means to protect itself, and it comes from a branch of psychological research known as inoculation theory. This borrows from the logic of vaccines: A little bit of something bad helps you resist a full-blown case. In my newly published research, I’ve tried exposing people to a weak form of misinformation in order to inoculate them against the real thing – with promising results.

Two ways misinformation damages

Misinformation is being generated and disseminated at prolific rates. A recent study comparing arguments against climate science versus policy arguments against action on climate found that science denial is on the relative increase. And recent research indicates these types of effort have an impact on people’s perceptions and science literacy.

A recent study led by psychology researcher Sander van der Linden found that misinformation about climate change has a significant impact on public perceptions about climate change.

The misinformation they used in their experiment was the most shared climate article in 2016. It’s a petition, known as the Global Warming Petition Project, featuring 31,000 people with a bachelor of science or higher, who signed a statement saying humans aren’t disrupting climate. This single article lowered readers’ perception of scientific consensus. The extent that people accept there’s a scientific consensus about climate change is what researchers refer to as a “gateway belief,” influencing attitudes about climate change such as support for climate action.

At the same time that van der Linden was conducting his experiment in the U.S., I was on the other side of the planet in Australia conducting my own research into the impact of misinformation. By coincidence, I used the same myth, taking verbatim text from the Global Warming Petition Project. After showing the misinformation, I asked people to estimate the scientific consensus on human-caused global warming, in order to measure any effect.

I found similar results, with misinformation reducing people’s perception of the scientific consensus. Moreover, the misinformation affected some more than others. The more politically conservative a person was, the greater the influence of the misinformation.

Response to misinformation about climate change.
Cook et al. (2017), CC BY-ND

This gels with other research finding that people interpret messages, whether they be information or misinformation, according to their preexisting beliefs. When we see something we like, we’re more likely to think that it’s true and strengthen our beliefs accordingly. Conversely, when we encounter information that conflicts with our beliefs, we’re more likely to discredit the source.

However, there is more to this story. Beyond misinforming people, misinformation has a more insidious and dangerous influence. In the van der Linden study, when people were presented with both the facts and misinformation about climate change, there was no net change in belief. The two conflicting pieces of information canceled each other out.

Fact and “alternative fact” are like matter and antimatter. When they collide, there’s a burst of heat followed by nothing. This reveals the subtle way that misinformation does damage. It doesn’t just misinform. It stops people believing in facts. Or as Garry Kasporov eloquently puts it, misinformation “annihilates truth.”

Science’s answer to science denial

The assault on science is formidable and, as this research indicates, can be all too effective. Fittingly, science holds the answer to science denial.

Inoculation theory takes the concept of vaccination, where we are exposed to a weak form of a virus in order to build immunity to the real virus, and applies it to knowledge. Half a century of research has found that when we are exposed to a “weak form of misinformation,” this helps us build resistance so that we are not influenced by actual misinformation.

Inoculating text requires two elements. First, it includes an explicit warning about the danger of being misled by misinformation. Second, you need to provide counterarguments explaining the flaws in that misinformation.

In van der Linden’s inoculation, he pointed out that many of the signatories were fake (for instance, a Spice Girl was falsely listed as a signatory), that 31,000 represents a tiny fraction (less than 0.3 percent) of all U.S. science graduates since 1970 and that less than 1 percent of the signatories had expertise in climate science.

In my recently published research, I also tested inoculation but with a different approach. While I inoculated participants against the Petition Project, I didn’t mention it at all. Instead, I talked about the misinformation technique of using “fake experts” – people who convey the impression of expertise to the general public but having no actual relevant expertise.

I found that explaining the misinformation technique completely neutralized the misinformation’s influence, without even mentioning the misinformation specifically. For instance, after I explained how fake experts have been utilized in past misinformation campaigns, participants weren’t swayed when confronted by the fake experts of the Petition Project. Moreover, the misinformation was neutralized across the political spectrum. Whether you’re conservative or liberal, no one wants to be deceived by misleading techniques.

Putting inoculation into practice

Inoculation is a powerful and versatile form of science communication that can be used in a number of ways. My approach has been to mesh together the findings of inoculation with the cognitive psychology of debunking, developing the Fact-Myth-Fallacy framework.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfq0Xrgsn_4?wmode=transparent&start=0&w=440&h=260]
Denial101x lecture on debunking myths.

This strategy involves explaining the facts, followed by introducing a myth related to those facts. At this point, people are presented with two conflicting pieces of information. You reconcile the conflict by explaining the technique that the myth uses to distort the fact.

We used this approach on a large scale in a free online course about climate misinformation, Making Sense of Climate Science Denial. Each lecture adopted the Fact-Myth-Fallacy structure. We started by explaining a single climate fact, then introduced a related myth, followed by an explanation of the fallacy employed by the myth. This way, while explaining the key facts of climate change, we also inoculated students against 50 of the most common climate myths.

Denial101x lectures adhering to Fact-Myth-Fallacy structure.
Denial101x, CC BY-ND

For example, we know we are causing global warming because we observe many patterns in climate change unique to greenhouse warming. In other words, human fingerprints are observed all over our climate. However, one myth argues that climate has changed naturally in the past before humans; therefore, what’s happening now must be natural also. This myth commits the fallacy of jumping to conclusions (or non sequitur), where the premise does not lead to the conclusion. It’s like finding a dead body with a knife poking out of its back and arguing that people have died of natural causes in the past, so this death must have been of natural causes also.

Science has, in a moment of frankness, informed us that throwing more science at people isn’t the full answer to science denial. Misinformation is a reality that we can’t afford to ignore – we can’t be in denial about science denial. Rather, we should see it as an educational opportunity. Addressing misconceptions in the classroom is one of the most powerful ways to teach science.

It turns out the key to stopping science denial is to expose people to just a little bit of science denial.

John Cook, Research Assistant Professor, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What makes a good life?

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

[ted id=2399]

Hat tip to Barry Ritholz