Retention is the key that will unlock the door to improve Tasmania’s education performance.
Tasmanian economist Saul Eslake has described the state government’s policy to extend all Tasmania high schools to grade 11 and 12 as “the most important” policy decision they have made since coming into office.
Mr Eslake was speaking ahead of an education forum in Launceston on August 20.
The forum is being hosted by the National Tertiary Education Union ahead of a national event next month.
It will feature three panellists: education entrepreneur Adam Mostogl, University of Tasmania Provost Jane Long and NTEU national president Jeannie Rea and will focus on how innovation in the tertiary space can lead to changes in other parts of the sector.
Mr Eslake said Tasmania should look at how its education sector differed from the mainland.
“If we are doing something different that other states aren’t doing, then we need to look at whether what we are doing is actually wrong,” he said.
“If we had the best education outcomes and were different, then we could defend it, but we don’t.”
Tasmania has the lowest retention rates and has the worst education report card other than the Northern Territory, which Mr Eslake said could be related back to the high proportion of Indigenous people living there, and the historically poor outcomes associated with Indigenous participation.
“If you take them out, Tasmania has the worst education outcomes in the country,” he said.
Ahead of the March election, the state government announced it would extend all high schools to grade 12.
It first began the changes to extend regional high schools in its first term of government in 2014.
Mr Eslake said extending high schools to grade 12 in rural areas had already had positive impacts.
“There is evidence to suggest that retention rates have improved slightly, as those students who weren’t able to go to year 12 without moving out of home or commuting can now stay in school,” he said.
The only possible drawback to the policy, Mr Eslake said, was the future role colleges would play.
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff has maintained colleges and extension high schools can coexist in the new landscape and that he would not be changing the functions of colleges.
“They can continue in their current form, but it will cost Tasmania a lot of money,” Mr Eslake said.
Mr Eslake said the best case scenario would be to turn Tasmania’s eight colleges into high schools or vocational education centres for excellence.
- The Future of the Sector education forum will be held on August 20 at the University of Tasmania Newnham campus from 5-7pm. The forum will be held in the computing room on campus (NH. V137) with drinks and nibbles from 5pm. The cost is free.