The Contemporary Educational Reformation

December 8th 2014

What is the role of a senior secondary teacher in today’s contemporary era? It is possible to say that it is to educate the next generation about jobs and careers that they don’t yet know about, and to instill in them the knowledge to operate technologies that haven’t yet been invented in a society that remains undetermined. Learning, it is stated, should “prepare students for the world… [E]ducation and training system[s] must teach them about the world as it is now and prepare them for a future that we — today — can only imagine” (Queensland Government 2002, Forward). It should strive for the goal of teaching the “things we must know how to do in order to live” (Peddiwell 1938 p.28). During the late 1990s and early 2000s the Queensland government took this concept and along with the realization that the old systematic development of ‘job for life’ with on-the-job training that delivered a comfortable lifestyle was gone, set out to enact a progressive reform program to “change the parameters governing young adults’ senior secondary l’earning” (Singh & Harreveld, 2014), in a way that better prepared young Queenslanders to be able to better compete in today’s world.

In Queensland, current governmental policies advocate the completion of year 12, followed by a transition toward further education, training and/or paid employment (AYAC, 2012 p.5) and as such focus on “the development of competent students, and future employees rather than on simple knowledge acquisition” (Gulikers et al., 2004 p.67). Young people who disengage from schooling before year 11 are now required to return to study either through the standard school environment or alternatively at a vocational institution. The Queensland government’s Education Training and Reforms for Future policies (ETRF) are about engaging young people in learning (Queensland Government 2002), by creating more innovative, flexible and supportive education and training systems. This essay aims to provide a brief insight to some of the ideas covered within this reform as they relate directly to senior secondary education in Queensland, to consider some of the voluminous statistical material available for determining the effectiveness of the ETRF as well as to provide a personal impact statement concerning the influences such a policy may have on future practice.

While the notions encapsulated within these reforms first emerged through the EQ strategic plan -QSE2010 (Farwell, 2014) – driven by a necessity to decrease growing youth unemployment and the alleviation of an ongoing shortage of skilled workers, alongside an understanding of the limitations and limited options presented to young school leavers, the kernel of the initiative as proposed, stems from two reports commissioned by the Queensland Government during consultation; the Pitman report (2002) – The Senior Certificate: A New Deal, and the Gardner report (2002) – The review of Pathways Articulation. Sixty-six percent of the recommendations made in these papers were supported and either fully implemented or trialed (Queensland Government 2002). The result of these studies served to focus consideration on a number of board areas for attention, including the reshaping of senior phase learning, the provision of increased support to young people, the implementation of increased options and flexibility for young people, and the development of what the Queensland government termed the ‘building of new community partnerships’ as a means to improve pathways for all young people (Queensland Government 2002).

While numerous, the Queensland Government’s senior phase education and training reforms were a small segment of a larger agenda of change, known as the Queensland Government’s Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF), that encompassed all years and levels of education throughout the state (Harreveld & Singh, 2011). The ETRF blankets the area of secondary schooling focusing on early, middle and senior phases of schooling independently (Queensland Government 2002). Encapsulated in the area of the senior phase, there are three initiatives: Learning or Earning, Senior Education Plans, and Multiple Pathways (Queensland Government, 2002). Of these this paper will focus on the policy of Learning or Earning (l’earning). These education and training laws were introduces by the Beattie Government in August of 2003. Tabled under two Bills, the Youth Participation in Education and Training Bill (2003) and the Training Reform Bill (2003), these laws requires young people to be learning or earning until they reach the age of 17 years, while allowing for increased flexibility in achieving qualifications beyond year 10. This policy endeavors to provide seamless transitions between the early and middle phases of learning leading to year 10 completion and the senior phase of learning, culminating with the advocating of increased minimum levels of education and the introduction of new laws – started in 2006. These laws require young people to participate in education and training, and:

  • make it compulsory for young people to stay at school until they finish Year 10, or have turned 16, whichever comes first.
  • further require young people to participate in education or training for a further two years; or
    • until they have gained a Senior Certificate; or
    • until they have gained a Certificate III vocational qualification; or
    • until they have turned 17; or
    • meet the exemption criteria of holding full time employment (Queensland Government 2002 p.11).

Singh & Harreveld (2014) note that the challenge then is to ensure that these ‘new’ national qualifications frameworks validate knowledge and skills learnt through young adults l’earning in a range of environments, through the development of well-designed alternative l’earning services and work-integrated learning.


The Next Step Longitudinal study (Department of Education, Training and Employment, 2012) – Post-ETRF cohort – provided documentation which directly related to the study and work pathways of young people in the two year post-year-twelve period (2011-2012). Conducted between March and May 2012 the statistical evidence represented a total of 10 759 responses corresponding to a response rate of 84.9 per cent. This report related that in the years following Year 12 completion, of this cohort:

  • 8 per cent were studying or in paid employment
  • 3 per cent were undertaking a Bachelor degree or higher program
  • 5 per cent were campus-based VET students
  • 2 per cent were undertaking employment-based training, either as an apprentice (10.4 per cent) or trainee (4.8 per cent)
  • 1 per cent were working full-time and not studying, and a further 12.7 per cent were working part-time and not studying.

g2Graph 1.2 – People aged 25-64 years: Highest non-school qualification

Source: 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 2008   (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008)

The development of such policy it is claimed is “not about forcing reluctant or disruptive students to remain in classrooms or lowering the standards of behavior we expect from young people” but rather it is a means to introduce increased options and alternatives to traditional educational programs such that young people will be “better equipped for further education and the world of work” (Queensland Government 2002).

In analyzing the statistical data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, while it becomes immediately obvious that there has been a significant increase in the net education level of people ages 25 to 64 years, and some small gain has occurred in the retention rate of students in years 10 to 12, it is difficult to comment definitively if this is a direct result of the introduction of this policy, or as a result of broader perceptions of the increasing relevance and importance of education in later life. Graph 1.1 clearly shows that during the programs trial stage and in the period immediately following its full implementation the retention rates of students in Queensland declined significantly, and while post 2008 shows purposeful increases in retention this similarly corresponds to the Australian average retention of students over a similar time period.

At present, none of the subjects offered here as Authority registered subjects involve any form of VET application toward the course work (ACARA, 2012). As a result of this, or perhaps because of this, the “earn or learn” context provides an interesting dichotomy to work with such that it enables a framework that, for some, exhibits learning and betterment while for others equally an atmosphere of wasteful emancipation and oppression. Research suggests that the majority of young school aged Australians disengage as a direct result of school practices such as, uninspiring pedagogy and teaching, unfair treatment and disrespect from teachers, and inconsistent discipline (Smyth, et al., 2000) and / or as a result of the economic and academic vulnerability resulting from actual or perceived low socio-economic status (Finn & Rock, 1997). As a teacher then, it is important to meet the first requirement of getting the students in the door and providing them with opportunities for engagement.

In order to provide the best possible environment for creating advantage, it would appear obvious that the two types of students, based on their distinct needs, require streaming into separate classes. Teachers need to expand student literacy and numeracy horizons to encompass far more than the traditionally available workbooks, and to more greatly rely upon concepts and strategies. One possibility for this process is through focusing on the underlying concepts and principles of interest in relation to the vocation they wish to pursue, as well as fundamental skills development in areas such as data determination, and numeracy that focus on relevant social situations (e.g., money, employment, and police) (Gulikers et al. 2004). ”They need to understand that the principles of science, math, history, and art are the same ones that we find in a pool hall, in our fears, and in the deep wellsprings of courage that make us taller than our nightmares” (Bauer- Tomlison personal communication, 1997 cited Tomlison, 1999 p.39; Similarly paralleled in Pediwell 1939 p.43).

Acknowledging that the interest of the student may not be grounded in the academic, by incorporating the Learning Style Inventory developed by Jeffery Barsch (1980) during an early class, it becomes possible for teachers at all levels to develop a better understanding of the modes of instruction most suitable to actively engage these learners. In doing this I must  remain constantly aware that for an increasing percentage of these students, the interests of the students is located within street life and vocational improvement enabling greater opportunities in the work arena, and make adjustments to my delivery methods such that they remain suitable to provide the optimal learning experience. Tomlison (1999) notes the importance of this in relating that, diversified learning strategies coupled with increased variability in teaching activities increases student engagement and success, as a result of empowering students to take ownership and control over their learning.

In addition to gaining this important understanding of the views motivations and roles of students as they intersect with the wider community, it is also important to become highly knowledgeable on up-to-date career options related to their overarching field of study, and how the humanities are situated within this. Knowledge that not only applies to those who have decided on formal education avenues but also those interested in pursuing any options available for year 12 leavers. By doing this a teacher is able to provide their students with the means to understand the practical application of the subject to the larger real world.

In the modern classroom it has become a vital importance for teachers to gain the ability to deliver flexible, authentic, and engaging learning experiences that motivate students to learn, develop and potentially excel. They need to develop the ability to view all students not as a class but as a collection of independent learners, with individual needs and requirements and to create lessons that deviate from the more traditional format  into a more student centered roll that provides students some options on the timing and content that is delivered. By doing this students will achieve a greater sense of ownership over the class and lead to a greater individual role in learning.



Act No. 62 of 2003. Training Reform Act 2003 (Qld) (Austl). [online] accessed 25 November 2014 from

Act No.63 of 2003. Youth Participation in Education and Training Act 2003 (Qld) (Austl). [online] accessed 25 November 2014 from

Australasian Curriculum, Assessment and Certification Authorities (ACARA). (2012). VET in Senior Secondary Certificates of Education: ACARA VET Report. [online] accessed 23 November 2014, from

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 2008. [online] accessed 23 November 2014 from

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2013). 4221.0 – Schools, Australia, 2012. [online] accessed 23 November 2014, from

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC). (2012). Beyond Learn or Earn. [online] accessed 21 November 2014, from

Barsch, J. (1980). Barsch Learning Style Inventory. Academic Therapy Publications. California:Novato. [online] accessed 30 November 2014 from

Department of Education, Training and employment. (2012). Next Step Longitudinal Study Pre-ETRF cohort – A report on the post-school transitions of Queensland’s Year 12 completers from 2010. [online] accessed 23 November 2014, from

Farwell, V. (2014). EDS3450 Senior Phase Curriculum and Pedagogy. Course notes. Toowoomba: University of Southern Queensland.

Gulikers, J. T. M., Bastiaens, T. J., & Kirschner, P. A. (2004).  A five-dimensional framework for authentic assessment. Educational Technology Research and Development, 52, 67-86.

Finn, J., & D. Rock. (1997). Academic Success among Students at risk for School Failure. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(2), 221-34. [online] accessed 23 November 2014 from

Gardner, M. (2002). The Review of Pathways Articulation through the post compulsory years of school to further education, training and labour market participation. Queensland Government. [online] accessed 19 November 2014 from

Harreveld B. & Singh M. (2011). Leaders Closing the Gap in Youth Attainment and Transitions: The journey so far in senior secondary schooling, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, QLD. [online] accessed 25 November 2014, from

Peddiwell, J. A. (1939). The saber-tooth curriculum. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Pitman, J., Herschell, P., Allen, R., Veerman, M., Gray, K., Harris, K., Bell, E., Kelly, D., Brennan, P. & Delley, D. (2002). The Senior Certificate: A new deal. Queensland Department of Education (EQ). [online] accessed 19 November 2014, from

Queensland Government: White Paper. (2002). Education and Training Reforms for the Future. [online] accessed 19 November 2014, from

Singh M. & Harreveld, B. (2014). Deschooling L’earning: Young Adults and the New Spirit of Capitalism. Palgrave Macmillan

Smyth, J., Hattam, R., Edwards, J., Cannon, J., Wilson, N., & Wurst, S. (2000). Listen to me I’m leaving: Early school leaving in South Australian secondary schools. Adelaide: Flinders Institute for the study of teaching.

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of all Learners. Vaginia, USA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Appendix 1

                                  Barsch Learning Style Inventory


Place a check on the appropriate line after each statement.

1.  Can remember more about a subject through listening than reading. ________ ________ ________
2.  Follow written directions better than oral directions. ________ ________ ________
3.  Like to write things down or take notes for visual review. ________ ________ ________
4.  Bear down extremely hard with pen or pencil when writing. ________ ________ ________
5.  Require explanations of diagrams, graphs, or visual directions. ________ ________ ________
6.  Enjoy working with tools. ________ ________ ________
7.  Are skillful and enjoy developing and making graphs and charts. ________ ________ ________
8.  Can tell if sounds match when presented with pairs of sounds. ________ ________ ________
9.  Remember best by writing things down several times. ________ ________ ________
10.  Can understand and follow directions of maps. ________ ________ ________
11.  Do better at academic subjects by listening to lectures and tapes. ________ ________ ________
12.  Play with coins or keys in pockets. ________ ________ ________
13.  Learn to spell better by repeating the letters out loud than by writing the word on paper. ________ ________ ________
14.  Can better understand a news article by reading about it in the paper than by listening to the radio. ________ ________ ________
15.  Chew gum or snack during studies. ________ ________ ________
16.  Feel the best way to remember is to picture it in your head. ________ ________ ________
17.  Learn spelling by “finger spelling” the words. ________ ________ ________
18.  Would rather listen to a good lecture or speech than read about the same material in a textbook. ________ ________ ________
19.  Are good at working and solving jigsaw puzzles and mazes. ________ ________ ________
20.  Grip objects in your hands during learning period. ________ ________ ________

21.  Prefer listening to the news on the radio rather than reading about it in a newspaper.

________ ________ ________
22.  Obtain information on an interesting subject by reading relevant materials. ________ ________ ________
23.  Feel very comfortable touching others, hugging, handshaking, etc. ________ ________ ________
24.  Follow oral directions better than written ones. ________ ________ ________


Scoring Procedures






Place the point value on the line next to its corresponding item number.  Next, sum the values to obtain your preference scores under each heading.

No.                      Pts. No.                      Pts. No.                      Pts.
2                          ________ 1                          ­­­­­­­­________ 4                          ________
3                          ________ 5                          ________ 6                          ________
7                          ________ 8                          ________ 9                          ________
10                        ________ 11                        ________ 12                        ________
14                        ________ 13                        ________ 15                        ________
16                        ________ 18                        ________ 17                        ________
20                        ________ 21                        ________ 19                        ________
22                        ________ 24                        ________ 23                        ________


TOTALS:           VPS=                 ______         APS=              ______            TPS=                 ______


VPS = Visual Preference Score

APS = Auditory Preference Score

TPS = Tactual Preference Score


Your highest preference score indicates the method under which your best learning takes place.  If there is a tie, you simply learn best in more than one environment.

VPS     – means you learn best visually.  Seeing a picture or words on an overhead or white board; seeing a film or video; textbook illustrations; reading.

APS     – means you learn best by listening.  You probably do well in a lecture environment; you can follow oral directions; listening to audio tapes.

TPS     – means you learn best by doing.  Hands-on types of activities where you are producing; on-the-job learning; using equipment.