Professor Stephen Billet, a keynote speaker at July's IALS12, recently published (December 2011) a 'landmark paper' on the future of Australian higher education, including adult and vocational provision. Titled 'Change, work and learning: aligning continuing education and training' the paper also has relevance to the Singaporean Continuing Education and Training (CET) system. Professor Billet, along with the team that produced the paper, asks the question, 'What models and practices of continuing tertiary education and training can best meet workplace demands and sustain Australia workers' ongoing occupational competence and employability across their working lives?' Given that seventy per cent of learners enrolled in courses in Australian CET providers are also in full-time or part-time employment, the team questions current forms of higher education, adult and vocational education provision which historically have been organised around the idea of full-time student attendance. In a system that largely provides for entry-level learners, the team proposes a radical rethink of the dominant institutionally-based model of learning. Instead, it suggests that in addition to the accepted model, CET provision might also include a wholly practice-based, or workplace-centred, learning model, or at least a hybrid that includes elements of both. These forms of learning would, it is argued, provide for more authentic workplace knowledge acquisition and sustainable skills transfer.
The proposed models, if enacted, would force a wide-reaching review of existing Australian CET provision. With its well-established higher education systems that include advanced forms of workplace learning and assessment, credit transfer, recognition of prior learning and recognition of current competency, Australia is well-placed to respond to the Billet team's challenge. Singapore, however, with its more recently established CET sector heavily dominated by institutionally based learning and assessment models, would require a radical rethink of current forms of practice. A change, however, may be warranted as a means to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of adult education provision. Like Australia, the sector consists largely of non-entry level learners located in workplaces. As the Billet team suggests: 'The concern here is to identify how best the tertiary education and training system; that is, vocational education and training (VET), adult and community education (ACE), higher education, learning in the workplace can sustain Australian workers' employability across their longer working lives and maximise their contribution to the settings in which they work, and, collectively, to the nation's productivity.' The questions, then, are: Do the Billet team's models have relevance to Singapore? If so, how may they be applied? And, what changes would need to be made to prepare for implementation?
I have supplied links below to the paper and a recent interview with Professor Billet on the paper's main ideas. Of course, questions could also be asked of Professor Billet at ALS12.
For the Billet et. al paper: http://www.ncver.edu.au/publications/2484.html
For the Billet interview: http://transmoder.com/2012/04/23/continuing-education-models-interview-with-dr-stephen-billett/