QJER logo 2
[ Contents Vol 3, 1987 ] [ QJER Home ]

Education for the year 2000*

Norm Alford
Assistant Director-General (Post School)
Queensland Department of Education
* Paper delivered at a Conference organized by National Council of Women of Queensland, World Education Fellowship of Queensland, Australian Federation of University Women of Queensland, held in April 1987

As I reflected on the topic of changes in Queensland education planning for the year 2000, I was reminded of the words of a perceptive observer of the world scene who has drawn attention to the fact that there are some periods in history fundamentally more eventful than others. In this observer's words, there are times when:

"great economic and social forces flow with a tidal sweep over communities that are only half conscious of what is befalling them. Wise are those who foresee what time is thus bringing and endeavour to shape institutions and mould men's thought and purpose in accordance with the change that is silently surrounding them."
It seems to me that we are in the midst of one of those fundamentally eventful periods in the history of Queensland education. Great social forces are flowing with a tidal sweep around us. We seem to be enveloped by a tide of community agreement that everybody needs some post-compulsory education and training. The day of post-compulsory education for all is with us. As we approach the 21st Century, the major single challenge facing education is to respond appropriately to the challenge of this unmistakeable community consensus.

In a former age, a similar tide of community agreement occurred. During the early 1980's, this resulted in secondary education for all becoming a reality. So the late 1980's and 1990's are likely to see the achievement in this state of post-compulsory education for all as we speedily approach the year 2000.

No doubt you are all aware of the array of papers which forecast futures in education. Many of these papers seem to be fascinated with the year 2000. Certainly there seems considerable agreement that we have entered a significant turning point in history; a time when the rate of change is faster than ever before, and a time when technology is helping to develop a society which is as yet beyond the comprehension of policy makers and analysts.

There is need for reform activity in education no less than in any other aspect of society. Many commonwealth and state reports have recommended large scale reforms to the curriculum, structure and direction of the education system. If successfully implemented, many of these recommendations will set the direction of the education system for the remainder of this century and into the 21st.

Given that we can expect changes in society, technology and general lifestyles, education's output and its very role can also be expected to change. The rate of change is such that many social aspects which exist when children of a certain age enter preschool, will no longer exist when those same young people exit the school system 13 years later. In this context, I believe schools cannot stand as a protected island. What they do must have links with the world of work and/or the world of higher and further education. An issue confronting us then becomes one of how do we arrange what happens in our schools and colleges so that all of these competing demands are met and at the same time nothing is lost in the attainment of basic skills and competencies - in fact, that there are improvements in these to cope with the 21st century needs.

As I previously mentioned it is my view that as we contemplate education for the year 2000, it is essential to focus on unmistakable community press for post year 10 education. Our secondary schools are facing an increasing number of students returning to study after year 10. Already more than half of each year's year 8 cohort are remaining 1n education to undertake at least two years of post-compulsory education and training.

In recent years a quiet revolution has been occurring in our midst and we need to face squarely up to its consequences. Retention of secondary school entrants to year 12 has risen dramatically by 20 percentage points in the past four or five years. This comprises the basic challenge we must busily meet and continue to meet throughout the dawn of the new century.

I put it to you that just as in a former age a tide of community consensus ensured that secondary education for all became a reality, so is such a tide now ensuring that two or more years of post-compulsory education for all also becomes a reality. There is the same air of inevitability as accompanied similar challenges that confronted education in the past.

Since the Education Act of 1875 provided for free, compulsory and secular primary education, the history of education in this State is dotted with a number of milestones such as is at present in the making. These include:

1912 - The school leaving age was raised from 12 to 14.

1952 - New primary syllabuses were introduced and the structure of primary schools underwent change.

The early 1960's - The last state scholarship examination was held; grade 8 was transferred to secondary schools; the Education Act of 1964 raised the school leaving age to 15; an expansion of course offerings occurred at the junior secondary school level.

1970 - The external junior examination was held for the last time for all full-time students and 1972 - the external senior examination was held for the last time for all full-time students.

Retention Rates in Queensland Government Schools to Year 12, 1971-1986

Figure: Retention Rates

The social phenomenon of parents wishing their children to complete twelve years of schooling and a technological society's need for its citizens to have a range of skills which can only be obtained through education and training for such a period seem clear indications that we are moving towards post-compulsory education for all.

Whether legislation will be enacted to raise the school leaving age to 17 or 18 is not the important point. The point is that we are already on the threshold of such an historic educational milestone.

With the increased retention rates to years 11 and 12, our immediate post-compulsory sector is confronted with many challenges - many akin to those previously faced in former ages by primary education, then the junior high school.

Post-compulsory education faces the challenge of meeting the needs of a diverse population, of providing not for a minority but for a majority. It is not enough in Professor Karmel's words, "merely to fill in some years occupying the time of young people when otherwise they would be employed - to treat schools as a parking lot or a maturing vat ..." In Karmel's words again "the objective must be to give all students opportunities to participate as adults in the mainstream of economic and social activity". (Stawell Oration to Medical Society of Victoria - "Education and Training for Work and Living").

What we should be aiming for in the education of students as we approach the year 2000 is success for the great majority of students in twelve years of worthwhile education and training. It is not enough to attempt to do so as a Victorian report points out, within a framework which was not designed for the job.

Already it is very apparent that the increased retention rates in secondary education of recent years have upset the tidy thinking which envisaged the final two secondary years as being essentially for those bound for higher education. The fact that many secondary school students are neither suited to nor have intentions of enrolment in traditional higher education, has been one of the major incentives for schools to develop aiternat1ve programs. The Department of Education in Queensland will continue searching for ways to cope with the implications of dramatic growth in the immediate post-compulsory years. Already it has responded in several ways.

  1. considerable expansion in the TAFE area;

  2. implementation of co-operative programs between secondary and TAFE colleges and expansion of secondary programs; and

  3. establishment of the first senior colleges to cater for the needs of a more varied group of students from a wider range of backgrounds within a single institution.


The Queensland Department of Education Technical and Further Education system has become the State's largest and most diverse tertiary education provider over the past decade. The image of TAFE has changed markedly through the initiatives taken under the influence of societal, educational, economic and technological changes and rapid growth that have occurred during this time.

While still conducting courses for apprentices to become tradesmen as prescribed by legislation, TAFE colleges and centres at 42 locations offer relevant programs for their clients from more than 1,000 vocational courses. All courses have been developed in consultation with industries, business and government to meet their needs for trained personnel and the needs of people throughout the State.

The Queensland TAFE system is recognised throughout Australia for its wide-range of pre-employment programs. These are conducted for fulltime students. The demand and enthusiasm for TAFE courses seems almost insatiable. It is reasonable to conclude that continued growth in TAFE provisions will be a feature of education in Queensland as we move towards the year 2000.

TAFE is a vital part of the economic fabric and the social life of Queensland. It is responding to changes in economic and social conditions. In this role, courses have been introduced over the past five years in cad-cam (computer-assisted design and manufacture) applied to such diverse aspects as heavy metal industries and to fashion.

One exciting educational initiative which Queensland is using to extend further its State coverage is the utilisation of the AUSSAT telecommunication system. The Queensland Government has developed, using the AUSSAT satellite, the Queensland Government telecommunications network - Q-Net. It is this communication network extending throughout the State which is allowing a wide range of TAFE courses to be accessed by the remotest communities.

From sixty minutes 'on-air' each week last year, TAFE have increased transmission time to four hours each week this year. Almost 100 hours of programs and telecourses are being beamed throughout the State between February and June.

Use of the Satellite allows students and teachers thousands of kilometres apart to communicate as if they were in ordinary face-to-face lecture rooms. The current popularity of the TAFE satellite program augers well for an expanded service as we move forward to the 21st century.

Given the potential of satellite technology, it may well be that, in the near future, we will see an increasing number of people in all parts of the State, participating in TAFE programs from their homes.


Recent initiatives at the Secondary/TAFE interface have led to developments which provide opportunities for secondary students in years 11 and 12 and sometimes in earlier years, to choose and take accredited TAFE subjects either in a TAFE college or at their high schools.

These arrangements allow secondary students to gain extra knowledge and skills related to the world of work and to improve their understanding of vocational education. In particular, it caters for the needs of those students not destined for entry to academic courses offered by universities and colleges of advanced education.

This development which has bean pioneered by the Queensland Department of Education is being followed in other States. Coupled with these co-operative programs has been a significant increase of the number of applied studies subjects offered by secondary schools. Subjects such as applied communication studies, applied small business stud1as, business education and office practices, introduction to fashion, practical computer methods, machine studies, have enhanced the curriculum offerings for State secondary schools.

The upsurge of these types of programs is continuing and the Department is endeavouring to ensure that resources are sufficient to cope with the high demand. This is not an easy task given the present economic constraints. Last year some 119 State secondary schools and Departments were involved in co-operative programs, together with certain non-State secondary schools, with the 26 colleges of TAFE. Present indications are that the number will grow by nearly 13% this year to 135 State secondary schools and Departments being involved.


The Queensland Minister for Education launched in 1985 an initiative to trial a new type of college for students of years 11 and 12 in upper secondary schooling and those who would normally enrol in TAFE vocational education programs. This new institution, known as a senior college, is a feasible, cost-effective way of providing comprehensive post-school education in population centres of around 15,000 people. The Hervey Bay College in the Wide Bay Region was opened in 1986 and the Alexandra Hills College has taken its first enrolments in 1987.

Senior colleges represent a new development in Queensland education and in Australia. Each offers, on a single campus, full-time and part-time courses which lead to further education at universities, colleges of advanced education and colleges of TAFE, to vocations in industry and commerce, and to the fulfilment of personal interests.

For those who seek recurrent education, the colleges provide relevant services as well as recreational and personal development programs. Programs are provided in a caring environment that encourages responsibility, respect, good citizenship and a kind of discipline that comes from within. The Department of Education is formally evaluating the trials at Hervey Bay and Alexandra Hills.

Early results are very encouraging and I expect that the ethos of these first senior colleges is to become a dominant characteristic of post-compulsory education in Queensland as we move towards the year 2000.


I believe that we have reached a new milestone in the provision of education in Queensland. Certainly changes in technology, combined with economic and social pressures, are altering traditional patterns of learning in the community and providing perhaps the most significant challenge since the establishment of public education a century ago. The press for universal post-compulsory education presents a major challenge in education up to the year 2000 and beyond.

To date, the Queensland Department of Education has responded by initiating considerable expansion in the TAFE sector, developing alternative programs for the immediate post-compulsory years and trialling alternative institutional structures to cater for the diverse needs of students. It is likely that this trend will accelerate as we come to grips with some of the factors setting the parameters for education into the year 2000.

In this regard I believe that:

I trust I have been able to flag an important milestone in education on our way to the year 2000 and look forward to listening to the other contributions on the agenda of education for the year 2000.

Please cite as: Alford, N. (1987). Education for the year 2000. Queensland Researcher, 3(3), 4-13. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr3/alford.html

[ Contents Vol 3, 1987 ] [ QJER Home ]
Created 17 Mar 2008. Last revision: 17 Feb 2013.
URL: http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr3/alford.html