TAFEs accused of rorting system to boost funds

The state government will crack down on training providers found putting staff and students through unnecessary basic courses so they can maximise government subsidies.

Enrolments in ”foundation” courses for students who lack literacy and numeracy skills soared in the first quarter of this year. These courses racked up more than $61 million in government funding in the first three months of the year, according to opposition estimates.

The government clampdown comes amid reports that some TAFEs have enrolled teachers with postgraduate degrees in foundation subjects.

One long-term teacher at The Gordon TAFE said she was told to complete two government-funded foundation subjects despite holding postgraduate qualifications. She said she learnt little as she breezed through one of the subjects in 90 minutes, although it was supposed to take 20 hours.

”I just think it’s totally wrong,” she said. ”It’s extremely upsetting to me to see such a valuable education resource treated with contempt.”

The teacher said she was told to enrol in one technology subject that failed to cover any material outlined in the course guide and instead focused briefly on using a new student management system. She said teachers felt uncomfortable about the training but believed they had no choice. ”They’re not going to rock the boat. They need their jobs.”

The Gordon TAFE said it had always been transparent about professional development policies.

”The introduction of a new critical business system earlier this year created a skills gap within the institute,” it said in a statement. ”To ensure relevant staff were proficient with the new system, they completed two units from Certificate III in general education for adults.” The statement said the units were delivered in accordance with compliance requirements.

Foundation course enrolments rose almost 42 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2012. However, TAFE enrolments fell for apprentices and trainees, students with disabilities and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Higher Education and Skills Minister Peter Hall said the government was aware of ”a number of instances” where foundation courses appeared to be misused. ”The Victorian government will … investigate options to make sure foundation courses are used for their intended purpose.”

Last year it was revealed the government would slash almost $300 million from the TAFE sector.

Opposition spokesman for higher education and skills Steve Herbert said it was unfortunate some TAFEs were resorting to ”manipulation of the system”. ‘It is clear cash-strapped TAFEs in their desperation to maintain services and provide support to students are relying on the overuse of foundation course enrolments,” he said.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.