Student response to the release of the Shared Vision, Equal Pathways Report

Our 2024 Executive Committee Co-chair Billy (he/him), shares his thoughts on the 'Shared Vision, Equal Pathways' Report.

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In 2023, VicSRC made a submission and spoke at a hearing for the Inquiry into the Perceptions and Status of Vocational Education (VET) in Australia. Our submission specifically spoke about VET Delivered to Secondary Students (VDSS) and included five key focus areas around the available information and perceptions of VET. VicSRC's submission identified the need for more accessible and transparent information about VET delivered in schools as a critical component in tackling the stigma still associated pursuing those pathways. 

In February, Parliamentary Committee Chair Ms Lisa Chester released the report Shared Vision, Equal Pathways. “The quality of VET delivered in secondary schools is also variable across Australia, and is undermined by lack of qualified educators, inadequate school funding, and a lack of meaningful engagement between schools, VET providers, and employers,” Ms Chester states. 

The report suggests 34 recommendations about what the Committee learned from stakeholders across the VET sector with a number of these focused on VDSS and careers education in schools. We as the VicSRC Student Executive Advisory Committee believe there are three recommendations that are big wins for students. 

Recommendation 6:  

Recommendation 6 talks about examining how ATAR and the VCE Framework affects the quality and uptake of VDSS. "The Committee recommends that the Australian Government work with State and Territory Governments to examine the impact of the Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking (ATAR) framework on the quality and uptake of vocational education and training (VET) pathways in secondary schools". 

Every year VicSRC hosts Congress. Congress a day-long event hosted by VicSRC’s Student Executives where we invite students from all across the state are invited to come together to discuss the issues in education which they care the most about. At, Congress, Victorian students told us how there is a focus on academic excellence in schools, especially in the context of ATAR, which serves to create a competitive tension between students. This fuels a fear of failure and drives anxiety about the need to perform, further exacerbating tensions between students and teachers. The recommendation that the Commitee made would see further research in VDSS and the ATAR.  

VicSRC has heard from students at the 2023 Congress that they want more varied and accessible means of achieving a sense of progress and positive feedback, aside from their test scores. This recommendation addresses a sense of low motivation and self- esteem when it comes to achieving success at school. 

Recommendation 18  

This Recommendation is addressing the systemic barriers that affect women in VET courses. “The Committee recommends the Australian Government expressly recognise and address systemic barriers that hinder participation by women and by gender diverse people in vocational education and training (VET), with a specific focus on lifting women’s participation in male-dominated industries”. This recommendation not only aligns with the findings from Congress that students want investments in schools, alternative pathways and for schools to rethink definitions of success, but it also appeals to the VicSRC’s 2023 Congress point regarding inclusive and accessible education. 

Students at the 2023 Victorian Congress believe that schools and teachers can be 'set in their ways' when it comes to their approach to teaching and learning. This is equally transparent in VET and VDSS subjects. Students want to see schools provided with additional resources, support, and advice to make the school environment a safe, inclusive and accessible place for all students, moving beyond the idea of 'accepting' or 'dealing with' diversity and inclusion to genuinely celebrating it. Initiatives like gender neutral bathrooms and extracurricular activities dedicated to cultural exchanges were provided as good examples of how to achieve this.  

Recommendation 32 

This Recommendation discusses increasing the measures to boost access for regional and rural students to access VET. “The Committee recommends that the Australian Government ensure that the skills reform agenda includes specific measures to boost access to vocational education and training for people in regional, rural, and remote areas, informed by local skills need.” 

Students told us at Congress last year that there were less opportunities to engage with different pathways and extracurricular activities. Students mentioned time and time again they were being “underserved” when it comes to these opportunities.  

We heard that “[s]tudents want to see more extracurricular opportunities delivered, enhancing students’ learning experience at school.” Extra-curricular and Alternative Pathways hold immerse opportunities for students, it allows some diversity on what they get to do and allows students to pick what they want to do.  

Overall, the report made by the committee is representative of students and includes measures for further research and development into making sure our VET system in Australia is inclusive, is representing the needs of students, and Australia's labour market.  

The Recommendations include students in mind. The Report provides opportunity for the State & Federal government to consider student voice when furthering research.  VicSRC’s current involvement with the Senior Secondary Pathways Reform Student Advisory Panel is an example of putting this Recommendations into practice and including student voice in every step of the way.