Australia can Follow Finland to Reverse TAFE and Training Crisis

Australia should consider whether it wants a higher education and vocational training system more like that of Finland or more like the USA, according to a new report from The Australia Institute’s Nordic Policy Centre.

The report, co-authored by Professor Andrew Scott, Emeritus Professor Tor Hundloe and Mr Shirley Jackson, shows Australian vocational training is in crisis and explains how the higher education experience of Finland should be used as a blueprint for improving outcomes in Australia.

The report has been released ahead of The Nordic Policy Centre’s roundtable discussion on building an equitable vocational pathway in Australia, which is being hosted by The Embassy of Finland in Canberra and will be attended by business, TAFE and labour union leaders.

Key Findings:

  • Australia is excessively prioritising university education over vocational training and apprenticeships
  • Social and institutional prejudice against vocational education is impacting Australia’s ability to prepare for the labour market of the future
  • Finland has achieved remarkable upward educational mobility with an equitable higher education and training system built on four pillars;
    • Publicly funded education and training
    • Producing highly capable graduates
    • Supporting students financially via social security
    • Debt-free tuition and training
  • Australia should consider adopting these policies and a ‘Youth Guarantee’, which would see every unemployed young Australian offered work, work experience, training or education

“Australia can learn from Finland’s attainment of excellence with equity in its post-school educational institutions,” Professor Andrew Scott said.

“We do not, at present, properly recognise and resource vocational pathways. We have still to break free from the prejudice against ‘vocational’ education as being somehow culturally inferior to ‘academic’ learning.

“Crucial first steps towards improving vocational training outcomes in Australia include restoring proper public funding of TAFE institutes, placing them on a more even cultural footing with universities.

“Finland shows us how to have both high-quality, research-intensive universities and effective vocational training institutions, which should be the ultimate educational goal in Australia.”

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