“The biggest barrier is the upper year 11 and 12 curriculum which is so favoured toward tertiary entrance.
“Fixing up secondary school and allowing kids to achieve ‘excellence’ even if they want to be a panelbeater or a barista or a chemist is something that we’ve never had on the table in Australia.”
A rethink was “pretty damn critical”, Professor Hattie said. His University of Melbourne colleague John Polesel, whose research in this area was cited by the Gonski 2.0 review, noted Australia was well behind Denmark and Germany, where about 25 and 50 per cent of their respective high schoolers undertake an apprenticeship.
“The reasons they work well are because the employers actually play a role in designing and delivering the courses and also providing that workplace experience, so that young people are actually learning on the job,” Professor Polesel said.
“That doesn’t come cheap. For those employers to do that, they actually have to bear a short-term cost. But the short-term costs of training them are worth it in the long run because … you end up getting a skilled employee who can actually do what you want them to do because you’ve taught them how to do it.”