Center on International Education Benchmarking

1. Australia’s Prime Minister Suggests Training Sector Overhaul, But No New Funding

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s training sector is set for a federal overhaul as part of an economic plan to recover from the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for a rewrite of a national skills and workforce agreement between the federal government and the states to secure more accountability for spending federal funds, but did not call for increased funding. Morrison aims  “…to link funding to industry demand for skills, simplify the system, unify rules between states and increase the performance monitoring to reveal where the money is spent.” This announcement comes after total spending on vocational education and training fell to its lowest level in more than a decade. Morrison said putting more money into the current vocational training system would not be effective, but said current funding needs to be tied more effectively to skills needs and subsidies need to be better coordinated. The opposition has accused the Morrison government of creating a skills and training crisis and cutting billions from vocational education and training. In response to Morrison’s remarks, Labor’s Education Spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said: “We heard no plan today – no extra dollars, no timeframe, no detail.” Read more here.

Scott Morrisson
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

2. The Netherlands Faces Teacher Shortages as Primary Schools Reopen

netherland teacher

Primary schools in the Netherlands, which reopened with half-day or alternating-day schedules on May 11, are now preparing to reopen full-time for all students on June 8. School leaders have raised concerns that teacher shortages—which existed prior to the coronavirus pandemic and have been exacerbated during the crisis—will impact their ability to fully staff schools. Currently, nearly 40 percent of primary schools report facing teacher shortages, and more than half report that many teachers are now staying home to avoid the risk of contracting the coronavirus. According to Ingrid Doornbos, vice-chair of the General Association of School Leaders: “We already had a shortage of primary school teachers and that is even more the case now.” Additional staff support may also be required in order to adhere to health and safety guidelines, which are currently being adapted for the transition from half-time to full-time school. Read more from Dutch News.

3. Singapore Supports Workers Impacted by Coronavirus with Jobs and Skills Training

As part of the fourth round of budget measures announced in Parliament this week, Singapore included S$2 billion (US$1.4 billion) for the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package to create close to 100,000 jobs and training opportunities for workers impacted by the coronavirus slowdown. The government’s goal is to create 40,000 jobs in 2020; 15,000 of those jobs will be in the public sector and will include both short-term healthcare jobs related to the pandemic as well as long-term positions in key industries such as early childhood education and long-term care. There will also be 25,000 new training positions for recent graduates and mid-career job seekers to help them gain industry-relevant experience. A new initiative, the SGUnited Skills Program, will provide training for 30,000 job seekers who wish to upgrade their skills through continuing education and training courses designed in partnership with industry. Read more in The Straits Times.


4. High Schools to Reopen Nationwide in Japan, with Restrictions

Japanese Students

A survey of Japan’s 47 prefectures, which oversee high schools across the country, this week found that all will reopen high schools in June. This includes harder hit regions like Tokyo, with varying restrictions in place to help alleviate the spread of coronavirus. The regional plans include precautions such as staggering attendance days, splitting classes into morning and afternoon groups and shortening the school day to just three hours. Some urban schools will start the school day later, so students can avoid public transportation during peak commuting times. Japan’s public schools did not implement distance learning during coronavirus shutdowns, due to concerns that students would have vastly different and inequitable learning experiences outside of the classroom. Now, school boards are pushing to make up for lost time, hoping to allow all students to finish the curriculum for this school year. In response, some prefectures have cancelled extracurricular events and cut summer vacation time, from 40 days down to 20 or less. Others are considering holding mandatory classes on Saturdays as well. Read more at Nikkei Asian Review.

5. Quebec Reopening Plan Includes Full-Time and Part-Time Scenarios

Quebec’s draft reopening plan for this fall, shared this week with education officials and the opposition parties, has a favored scenario of returning all students full-time attendance, but an alternative part-time option if they are not able to open schools full-time. Premier Francoise Roberge made it clear that he prefers the full-time option, saying “..we can be hopeful that all the students who are physically ready will go to school…at the start of the year.” The part-time option would have elementary students attending schools two days one week and three days the next. High school students would attend half-time or one of every three days. Attendance will be mandatory in either scenario, and any students who stay home will be required to follow homeschooling guidelines. Despite the highest level of coronavirus infections in Canada, Quebec was the first province in Canada to open schools for students this school year, with all schools outside of Montreal opening last week.

Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge
Quebec Education Minister Jean-Francois Roberge

Read more about how education systems around the world have responded the challenges of school closures and distance learning during the coronavirus pandemic in our Archives.

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