Archive for the ‘Education & training’ Category

Asian education systems

February 17, 2012

As the economic centre of the world shifts to the East, so is the centre of high performance in school education. Four of the world’s five highest-performing systems are Hong Kong, Korea, Shanghai and Singapore, according to OECD’s 2009 PISA assessments of students. InShanghai, the average 15-year old mathematics student is performing at a level two to three years above his or her counterpart in Australia, the USA and Europe

In recent years, many OECD countries have substantially increased education expenditure, often with disappointing results. Grattan Institute’s new report from its School Education program, Catching up: learning from the best school systems in East Asia, shows how studying the strengths of these systems can improve our children’s lives.

Success in these systems is not determined by culture – by Confucianism, rote learning, Tiger Mothers etc. –  nor is it always the result of spending more money. Instead, these systems focus on what is known to matter in the classroom – a relentless, practical focus on learning, the creation of a strong culture of teacher education, collaboration, mentoring, feedback and sustained professional development. 

Many western countries have begun to introduce versions of the reforms that these East Asian systems have implemented, or are talking about doing so. Most have much further to go. This report  provides an extensive assessment of how other countries can implement the lessons of these high-performing systems.

Thanks to the Grattan Institute for this work. Visit the Grattan website to download a copy of the report

Collaborator Profile – Brendan Dyson (your China man)

April 6, 2011

Who and where are you?

I work for the Australia/China Technical Experts Network, based in Canberra. Always been interested in Trade and Exports and the vital role networking and collaboration plays.  

What’s your job? 

On the Australian side, I work with over 3,000 Australian collaborators from Commonwealth & State agencies – business, professional/industry associations, research institutes & companies in the areas of education, tourism, engineering, minerals & energy, agriculture, manufacturing, advanced materials & biotechnology.

On the Chinese side, each year I work with around 1400 middle to senior level Beijing and Provincial Chinese officials and business managers to arrange:

  • Short term studies (2-5 days) at Universities to learn about economic, social, cultural or political developments of Chinese interest in Australia.
  • Longer term studies (4-12 weeks) mainly at Universities (but not always) to undertake detailed studies of specific interest to the group.
  • Technical on site meetings with companies, research institutes, professional and industry associations.
  • Discussions with companies & agencies covering everything from iron ore to E- Government. 
  • Seminars, trade displays, promotions, introductions and site visits for Australian companies interested in developing co-operative relationships in China.

 What’s exciting you at present?

Watching the growth of the China juggernaut and trying to anticipate some of the economic and geostrategic implications for Australia.  

 What are your top 3 tips on how to collaborate?  

1. Listen to everyone – What’s happening at one level has implications at other levels. Before my China epiphany (2003) I’d be at work telling Hong Kong contacts that no iron ore was available. Then I’d go home, have dinner and ask my wife what shares we should buy for our superannuation fund. Wake up Brendan!! Get your head out of the trenches and think about the other persons’ world. Everything is interconnected, get in the helicopter and look for the common threads.

2. Never Burn Bridges. Keep collaborations alive until the timing is right. A large Chinese iron ore investment fell over in 2004 because the Chinese were unsure about how good a deal they were getting.  No one then understood the strength of the China boom. A couple of iron ore price rises and six months later the Chinese group would have jumped at the deal.  But by then it was too late. They had burned their bridges with the Australian supplier and would never get the same offer again.

3. Small population/large countries like Australia have to collaborate to survive. We must get better at it.
Australia’s 22 million people can’t do it all on their own in a world of almost 7 billion. In finance, in trade, in government, we’ve borrowed and benefited from others. Australian researchers know that our spending on R&D, even if doubled, could never produce some of the breakthroughs and some of the productivity enhancing technologies coming from overseas. The more we work with others the better off for everyone.

 What collaborative projects would interest Cockatoo readers?

The priorities in the past have been agriculture, education, minerals and energy, although collaborations in other areas have also been successful. I deal with literally every area and every level of Chinese business and government so there are always opportunities for collaboration. Some will move quickly, some will move slowly. Collaborations in the area of education are generally successful and easy to stay abreast of.  Non education collaborations are harder to follow. My main role is to arrange the initial introduction, organise the initial site visit etc.  Often I don’t know for years afterwards if the collaborations succeeded or not.  But if Cockatoo readers are willing to take a punt, I’ve always got a Chinese audience for you.

The connected university (BEST PRACTICE)

October 7, 2009

 A new UK report says the UK’s universities are precious national assets. And with the collapse of the UK’s financial services sector, universities are a key to the revival of innovative businesses.

The report highlights the importance of universities as sources of knowledge and skilled employees, as well as centres for regional economic clusters e.g. Cambridge. In the last 15 years, the process of formal knowledge transfer – developing spin-out companies, profiting from patents and licences – has been professionalised. This ‘commercial university’ model has helped promising clusters emerge.

More recently, the ‘connected university model’ has emerged – building clusters, connecting to the national and international economies, bringing together thinking, practice, and finance. Several ways to do this:

  • Ensuring tech transfer organisations are performing at the standard set by leading UK institutions.
  • Recruiting and developing ‘boundary spanners’ – people who can make the linkages.  
  • Better measuring benefits of university-business interaction and communicating them to the public.

 Local government should look at how it applies planning regulations to universities. Physical spaces for business interactions are important. Also a need for a broader dialogue on the role the university in local economic development. 

The connected university (PDF).

Contributed by Professor Roy Green (UTS).

Green Jobs – relevant to many members

August 20, 2009

Cockatoo members should note the 30 July announcement of 50,000 new green jobs and training opportunities for a greener Australian economy – involves $94 million pump-priming exercise as a ‘major reform of Australia’s training system to help support jobs and communities being hit by the local consequence of a severe global recession’.

Leaving aside the hyperbole, there is an opportunity for readers to access some of this funding, and to leverage federal support for other submissions to the feds. The components are:

  • 10,000 member National Green Jobs Corps – long term unemployed youth take part in 26 weeks of green job training and work experience.
  • 30,000 apprentices trained with new Green Skills -tradies complete their training with practical job-ready green skills.
  • 4,000 training places for insulation installers – to help long term unemployed or disadvantaged people into the workforce (Shudder at this waste of public funds!)
  • 6,000 new local green jobs – focus on environmental sustainability in priority local economies.

The National Green Jobs Corps is most relevant to local government because it involves a 26-week environmental training program for 18-24 year-olds in bush regeneration and planting native trees; wildlife and fish habitat protection; walking and nature track construction/restoration.

We have made some preliminary enquiries – no Department has yet put their hand up, but DEEWR is the obvious candidate. Contact us at for more details.

Universities must engage in regions, says OECD

May 14, 2009

 A very interesting OECD report “Higher Education and Region’ has landed on our desk, written by Cockatoo member and ‘Oz-phile’ Patrick Dubarle, Paul Benneworth et al. It should be compulsory reading for every Vice-Chancellor, university academic and regional development practitioner in the civilized world. It draws on findings from 14 regions across 12 countries.

 The basic message is that higher education institutions (HEIs) must do more than educate and research – they must engage with others in their region, provide opportunities for lifelong learning, and contribute to the development of knowledge-intensive jobs.

 The report synthesizes the main developments, and provides scores of examples of best practice. Some that attracted our attention are:

  • The ‘Knowledge House’ in NE England – addresses the reluctance of SMEs to go anywhere near a university by providing a nifty, common entry point to the five universities in the region.
  • University Jaume I in Valencia – helping to transform the SME-based ceramic tile industry.
  • University of Sunderland – helping to make Nissan’s new plant the most productive in Europe.
  • Provincial University of Lapland – reaching out to remote communities.
  • Aalborg University (Denmark) building its education program around Problem Based Learning.
  • Monterrey International Knowledge City (MICK) in north east Mexico.

 The book can be purchased on-line at the OECD – ISBN 978-92-64-03414-3. Patrick Dubarle is now a freelance consultant, living at beautiful Meudon – contact him at

EU reinforces innovation thrust

April 15, 2009

‘Higher, more effective and efficient investments in education, research and innovation are a key factor for the sustainable long-term growth of a competitive European economy and should remain a high priority’ – this is one of the recommendations adopted by EU research ministers at the Competitiveness Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium on 5 and 6 March.


The Ministers also highlight the importance of reaching the goal of investing 3% GDP in R&D.


Elsewhere in the recommendations, the ministers call on Member States to encourage universities, research institutes and industry to ‘step up their cooperation’; the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT) will play a key role in achieving this goal.


According to the ministers, the role of frontier research needs to be ‘reinforced’. Furthermore, as the ministers noted, the review of the structures and mechanisms of the European Research Council (ERC) should be a priority.


The Ministers unanimously adopted over 30 recommendations and key messages on how Europe should respond to the current economic downturn. Got to


Contributed by Professor Roy Green.

Canadian Youth Business Foundation (BEST PRACTICE)

April 15, 2009


The Harper Government is investing $10 million in the Canadian Youth Business Foundation.


This is a national charity getting a lot of attention of late – it provides start-up mentoring, financing, resources to help young Canadians, aged 18-34, create their own businesses. Founded in 1996, it supports youth who would not otherwise realize their full potential and launch a business. 


Modeled after the UK’s Prince’s Trust, CYBF has been recognized as one of the most efficient organizations of its kind globally. As such, CYBF is often called upon to mentor youth entrepreneurship programs in other countries.


CYBF provides business start-ups with loans of up to $15k and on-line business resources. Loans below $7,500 are repayable over 3 years – above that level, the repayments are over 5 years. Year 1 payments are interest-only. Initial start-up fee of $50 plus $10 monthly administration fee.


The difference is the mandatory world-class mentoring program. CYBF individually qualifies, interviews and trains every volunteer mentor, hand-matching each with a CYBF entrepreneur for 2 years during the critical start-up period.


Delivery partners are located across Canada and most sectors are eligible. Last year CYBF funded 400 new start-ups – total to date of 2,800 companies. They have created $300 million in sales, $69 million in tax revenue, $33 million in exports and 15,000+ jobs.  On average, each new company creates 5 jobs.  CYBF has an impressive repayment rate of 95% – received money is reinvested in the next wave of entrepreneurs.


Contributed by Mark Marich (USA)

‘The Necessary Revolution’ by Peter Senge

March 19, 2009

In this latest book Peter Senge (et al) tackles the question of how individuals and organisations are working together to create a sustainable world.

The book is very refreshing in how it illustrates new approaches being used to create a more sustainable world, and how organisations have moved quickly beyond the words and are now acting with transformative strategies and new forms of collaboration.

Senge tackles the challenges we face as a global society and what we need to look for in future ways of working together. The authors draw from case studies and their previous learning in organisational development and change strategies to apply these systems. One of the key points relates to partnerships between what would normally be seen as ‘non traditional partners’ e.g. the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Coca Cola, focused around conserving water.

They also focus on the key learning capabilities for systemic change, with one being ‘Collaborating Across Boundaries’. On issues such as climate change, energy shortages etc. they state: ‘The imperative to collaborate across boundaries around such issues has been established. Now we just need to learn how to get better at it, quickly. The book is full of ideas and tools that could fit into many organisations and partnering processes, and it reinforces the need for skills development in partnering. Highly recommended.

Contributed by Ian Dixon at Dixon Partnerships (Adelaide)

UK universities take lead in recession retraining (BEST PRACTICE)

February 10, 2009

 The Higher Education Funding Council for England is set to approve a £50m rescue package to help businesses and the unemployed retrain at universities during the recession.

The HEFC proposal is for universities to bid for up to £500,000 to run training and skills programs for business and unemployed people – involves £25m from its strategic development fund, while universities would match it.

The projects would focus on short-term skills training. Practical skills training would not have to be accredited – thus cutting the time it would take universities to deliver programs.

Universities would have to propose ways of working either with employers, or with those who have been made redundant to give them the skills they will need to help them find other jobs.

For instance, redundant financial services workers with science degrees could be retrained to pursue careers in sciences instead.

Via Professor Roy Green (Cockatoo member) – Dean, Faculty of Business, UTS, Sydney

Life Sciences network begins in Melbourne (BEST PRACTICE)

November 12, 2008


Hi Cockatoo, trust you are well.  I’d be grateful if you could make mention of the new network that has been established in Melbourne recently, the ICT for Life Sciences Forum.


Much has been written in recent years about the so called convergence of difference disciplines and the medical and life sciences and how this convergence has the potential to lead to new breakthroughs that could impact health and welfare. In 2006 the Victoria Research Laboratory of NICTA, with funding support from the State Government, undertook to build a new research program which would demonstrate the enabling benefits that ICT could bring to the medical and life sciences. 


Computing and engineering can now be increasingly applied to address issues facing medical and life sciences researchers. These range from providing superior productivity – for example, by speeding up the time it takes to analyse masses of data – to taking advantages offered by the microelectronics revolution to enable the emerging field of medical bionics, where implants and prostheses are able to sense the performance of bodily functions and in some cases restore their function.


We are recruiting a large pool of engineering and PhD students, approximately 50, to undertake research on how engineering can enable medical research.  This is an exciting development, but it has its challenges, the foremost of which is the communication required in this multidisciplinary collaboration. This has led us to work with research institutions, mostly in Melbourne, involved in multidisciplinary research.  


The principal focus of the ICT for Life Sciences Forum is to network local researchers from the different research disciplines. 


The prospect of breakthroughs from multidisciplinary research will only remain a prospect unless the doers – the research scientists – can effectively work together and understand each other.  We are hoping that by networking researchers across Melbourne, we might start to see the benefits emerge downstream with novel solutions in the market. 


There is a lot of excitement about the initiative among the research community, and we will be holding many events and presentations in the coming year.  We held what will become the Forum’s major annual event, the Graeme Clark Oration, in late October. The Oration honours the work and achievement of Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor of the bionic ear. His perseverance and achievement should serve an inspiration for young researchers. Your support in raising the profile of the Forum would be very much appreciated.


Regards, Luan Ismahil, Melbourne –