We believe everyone is looking forward to a break at the end of the year. 2020 has brought so many different emotions and it’s feeling tricky at this point to get perspective. Two articles appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald on the same day yesterday, speak to significant shifts within the educational sector. At NGS it’s hard to picture the extent of the educational dislocation across the State. Where there was minimal educational disruption for our students – this was not the experience of other students in different locations and in different sectors. There is increasing talk about the educational gap and we suspect this talk will grow. Learning gaps within a cohort and between students of the same age in different environments have always existed – by Year 3, students in disadvantaged backgrounds are on average 10 months behind students in advantaged backgrounds. COVID has increased this gap by another 5 weeks. This is obviously a concern for the government and the plan to place over 5000 tutors into NSW Government schools is one type of assistance. However, the data speaks to a growing crisis in our education system. Even without COVID, the cycle of educational disadvantage is something that makes me feel uncomfortable and should make all Australians feel uncomfortable too. Tutors in schools sounds good on the surface but is little more than a band aid.
At the other end of the educational spectrum is the huge shift occurring in the University sector. This time last year, the sector was making more early offers to Year 12 students than we had seen before, new courses were being touted and models of futuristic specialist buildings were on display. School leavers have watched this year as changes to the cost of courses have dominated the news. The collapse of the International sector provides the largest challenge. For many Universities this has led to financial stress and resulting impacts on staff, courses and wider offerings. Negotiations to try and reinvigorate the flow of international students into the market is essential to the sector itself as well as the wider economy. The estimated $2.5billion loss to Sydney’s economy alone from the loss of International students is just one impact currently being experienced. What is the vision for higher education? – this too is starting to blur.
2020 has given us many challenges. A healthy plan rather than a disjointed response is needed to formulate a different future vision – the next generation deserves this.