IN the 1950s education had a far higher status than now. Australia participated in the Colombo plan, delivering aid and education to developing countries in Asia. In 30 years Australia sponsored about 20,000 students to study or train here. This was so successful that another 100,000 came as privately funded students.
In the 1960s, education in the sciences was boosted, partly through fear of Russia and partly through the excitement generated by Professor Sumner Miller’s science shows on TV. In the 1980s tertiary education was free. It didn’t last long, because market economists are unable to visualise the long-term benefits of free education. They turned education into a business.
Initially that came as a HECS tax, then education was sold to full fee-paying overseas students, with migration right as a sweetener. Now the state government has chopped funding to TAFE at a time when we don’t have enough trained people and when industry groups are calling for more skilled migration. Like market economics, this is an absurdity.
Don Owers, Dudley