Terry D. Evans and Daryl E. Nation
Distance education has had an important place in the education of teachers in Australia throughout the twentieth century. This has been especially the case for primary-school teachers wishing to obtain further qualifications through part-time studies. Central to this chapter is a discussion of the results of a research project with a group of primary teachers pursuing such studies in the late 1980s in the state of Victoria. These results are discussed against a background which provides details of the development of distance education for teachers in Australia, recent trends in higher education in the country more generally, and specific proposals for the use of distance education for both award courses and in-service education for teachers.
Parallel to events elsewhere in the world, ‘restructuring’ and ‘reconstruction’ are key terms in economic and political debate, policy making and practice in contemporary Australia. John Dawkins, who became Minister for Employment, Education and Training in the second Hawke Labour government in July 1986, made restructuring economic rationalism fundamental in educational reform.
Dawkins’ primary goal was a reorganisation of the overall structure of higher education. There were two related fundamental aspects of this re-organisation: the creation of larger, more cost-efficient institutions through mergers; and the elimination of the distinction between universities and colleges of advanced education (CAEs). Two issues of importance for the present discussion, the continuing rationalisation of both teacher education and distance education, were associated with these proposals. Dawkins was also keen to reform industrial training as a part of the Hawke government’s economic restructuring. More recently, he has turned his attention to primary and secondary schooling, putting major emphasis on achievement of a national curriculum and a national structure for the employment of teachers. (A more detailed discussion of these issues has been provided by Smart and Dudley, 1990).
Given that these are merely some of the Minister’s reforming activities, it