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From: nat-edu@gnosys.svle.ma.us
To: Multiple recipients of list NAT-EDU <NAT-EDU@TAMVM1.TAMU.EDU>
Subject: Save St George Campus (New South Wales, Australia)
Date: Monday, October 14, 1996 10:09 PM
Original Sender: reyburn@peg.pegasus.oz.au
Mailing List: NAT-EDU (nat-edu@gnosys.svle.ma.us)
(This article original appeared on the "recoznet-l@peg.apc.org" mailing list.)

Aboriginal studies initiative under attack from top university

From Rhonda Craven, Project Co-ordinator 'Teaching the Teachers'
14 October 1996

Dear Colleague,

Proposals by University of New South Wales senior management in UNSW Options 2000 to discontinue primary teacher education have outraged Aboriginal Education organisations and professional associations. Student places are proposed to be transferred to other courses at Kensington that attract more HECS and status than primary education courses.

The School of Teacher Education at UNSW is the home of the 'Teaching the Teachers: Indigenous Australian Studies' Project of National Significance.

This project has attracted substantial external funding from DEET, CAR and AEISEP and publication has been assisted by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. All materials are endorsed by the National Federation of Aboriginal Education Groups and the late Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) and NSW Aboriginal Education Consultative Group are the joint principal consultants on the project.

The project was initiated at UNSW and has been the key impetus for Australian universities to recognise their moral responsibility to teach preservice teachers how to understand and teach Indigenous Australian Studies effectively.

At UNSW the core model 'Teaching the Teachers' course is taught each year to preservice primary teachers and dance education teachers as a compulsory component of their degree. Aspects of the course are also taught to secondary preservice teachers. UNSW also has made available the project materials to all Australian universities and continues to distribute these materials at cost price to Aboriginal organisations, Aboriginal education regional support organisations, university lecturers, education authorities and school teachers. An introductory teacher-oriented textbook is in progress and is expected to be completed in 1997.

This proposal by Australia's leading university to dump primary teacher education in favour of elitist courses must be seen as a deliberate betrayal that disposes of a nationally recognised course in core Aboriginal Studies that is of real value and integrity to the wider Australian community. Aboriginal Studies Association delegates at the 6th Annual conference held at UNSW were disgusted by these proposals and unanimously moved to write a letter to the UNSW Vice-Chancellor.

One team of Deans asserts in UNSW Options 2000 that a key feature of the Australian environment in the next decade will be "a reduction by government in social programs and social initiatives, with an emphasis on user pays, market mechanisms and incentives, rather than prescribed processes or targets" and the need to "move to UNSW 2000 as a client focused administratively efficient university". Another team of Deans advocates the need to "let market forces prevail". Professor Boyd Rayward, Dean of the Faculty of Professional Studies has said that "one of my concerns is that the unfavourable attention that the primary education program has attracted in the University may reflect a regrettable sense that teaching at this level represents a field that is intrinsically inferior academically and socially compared with medicine, banking and other high status professions" and has recommended the primary teacher education course be discontinued to support this general elist view at UNSW.

Rhonda Craven, Senior Lecturer Social Studies says:

"this is economic rationalism gone mad. The proposals all reflect a lack of concern for social programs and initiatives including nationally recognised courses in Aboriginal Studies, Computer Education and Special Education. Of particular concern is that these proposals attack a key to longterm reconciliation at the heart. This deliberate framing of higher education as market driven is a total abdication of social responsibility."

One section of UNSW Options 2000 asserts that "the professional discipline of education is not part of the UNSW core." Yet nowhere is any justification given for this assertion, which indicates that UNSW is "too good for teachers". Staff of the university's widely respected School of Teacher Education reject this view, arguing that teachers have as much right to study at Australia's University of the Year as doctors or lawyers.

Professor Alan Watson, School of Teacher Education says:

"The proposal to abandon primary teacher education is publicly indefensible. The foundation of an educated person is laid in the primary school years. Primary education is not a revenue making option. However, a primary program is a symbol of the university's commitment to a literate and just society."

Staff believe that the helping professions - such as teaching - will be abandoned by universities which take the economic rationalist line being proposed at UNSW. Associate Dean of the Faculty of Professional Studies John Scheding says:

"The economic rationalists ignore the social benefit that all of society receives from professions like teaching, because that benefit cannot be measured in dollar terms. Yet such an attitude within a university is myopic in the extreme, since a lack of well-trained teachers will inevitably lead to a lack of well-prepared applicants for university courses. It is doubly astonishing that it is UNSW which should be proposing to do away with Teacher Education courses, since its own Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Niland, chairs the Ministerial Advisory Council on the Quality of Teaching and is on record as actively promoting its importance".

What You Can Do

University authorities are pushing this proposal through at a rapid rate, hence we would appreciate your urgent assistance in:

  • advising us that your organisation or you as an individual wishes to have your name added to a list of associations that deplore UNSW Options 2000 proposals to abandon primary teacher education (send advice to r.craven@unsw.edu.au or fax: 02 9584 3256 or UNSW, St George Campus, PO Box 88, Oatley, NSW, 2223),
  • writing letters to the UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor John Niland (j.niland@unsw.edu.au, The University of NSW, Sydney, 2052) and politicians expressing your disgust that the top university in the country could so easily propose to abandon the national initiative it has created in the Teaching the Teachers project.

    Please send copies of your letters to: Rhonda Craven (Facsimile 02 584 3256, e-mail r.craven@unsw.edu.au, UNSW, St George Campus, PO Box 88, Oatley, NSW, 2223).

Evil will only triumph when good man and women choose to do nothing.
Kath Walker
Yours in Aboriginal Studies,

Rhonda Craven
Project Co-ordinator 'Teaching the Teachers'

UNSW OPTIONS 2000 IS AVAILABLE AT: http://www.unsw.edu.au/main/areas/options/options.html

ST GEORGE 2000 response to UNSW Options 2000 is to be made available on the WWW soon.

Don't Axe St George

Rhonda Craven
Senior Lecturer, School of Teacher Education
University of New South Wales