Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blend Public Libraries, Schools, Vocational and e-Learning

This is to suggest the Tasmanian, Victorian and other Australian state governments follow the lead of the ACT Government, by combining the buildings for public libraries, schools and vocation education. This could be supplemented with on-line education resources, to improve education and remove the political problem over the closure of some schools and libraries in Tasmania and Victoria.

On 16 June 2011, Tasmanian Minister for Education and Skills,
Nick McKim, MP released a list of twenty Schools Considered for Closure. This caused understandable concern in the community and the decision was put on hold, 4 July 2011. However, the demographic shifts, with fewer students in some areas and more in other, has not gone away and the difficult political decisions on school closures have been postponed, not eliminated. In the interim funding spent on underused schools will have to come from other areas of the education system, with the Minister announcing $4M of cuts in other programs.

The Minister himself identified part of the solution to this problem in "Tasmania outshines nation in e-learning (27 July 2011). Tasmania has an advanced e-learning system which could be combined with the resources of its state library, schools and vocation training, to provide information and education services across the state. Students and the public could then share the buildings and on-line services. Citizens could also make use of any of the on-line educational resources at home.

Currently many Tasmanian towns have a public library, being a branch of the State Library of Tasmania, a primary school, a secondary school and in some cases upper secondary and vocational training centers ( The Tasmanian Academy, Tasmanian Polytechnic and the Tasmanian Skills Institute).

Educational and civic facilities can be combined, as is done at new Gungahlin Library, in Canberra, which combines a public library, the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) and Gungahlin College. This approach obviously is easier to implement on a larger scale and with upper secondary school than a primary school. But it should be possible to combine such facilities on a smaller scale.

The use of some e-learning will also allow some of the the teaching to be decoupled from student supervision. That is the teachers looking after the students at a location need not be "teaching" them. In fact modern educational techniques emphasize the student directing their own learning, in a group, with the teacher as a guide: teachers don't teach at students any more.

This same approach could be applied in Victoria, where the stae government is reducing funding to council libraries. There would a be a more complex administrative problem in implementing shared library and school facilities in Victoria, than in Tasmania or ACT, as there is an additional elvel of government invoked, with the public libraries in Victoria run by councils, whereas the Tasmanian and ACT ones are run centrally. However, the traditional funding available from shared facilities should more than compensate for any administrative complexity.

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