Saturday, February 09, 2019

Proposing Change to the Australian Qualification Framework

I propose the Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) be modified to provide more complete coverage of education. I also suggest education be considered in 5 year blocks.

For example there are typically 5 years before starting school, traditionally 10 years of compulsory education, and the 3 year Bachelor degree typically requires 2 years of prior study to matriculate and get on such programme. So actually a 5 year programme, if include grade 11 and 12 as preliminary requirement.

I therefore suggest that grade 10 is identified as AQF-0. If wish to refer to the individual years then can use decimals. So that grade 1 is AQF-0.01 and grade 10 is AQF-0.10. Whilst time prior to school is AQF-0.001 to AQF-0.005.

Further, the current use of the terms diploma and advanced diploma, mess up prior usage of diploma being equivalent to a 3 year qualification, equivalent to a degree, issued by an institution not having the charter to issue bachelor degrees. Whilst associate diploma was a 2 year qualification.

So I suggest that AQF-5 rather than being referred to as a diploma is retitled to Certificate V. That AQF-5 is 1 year in duration, whilst other certificates are measured in fifths of a year. So Certificate I is one fifth of a year., whilst Certificate IV is four fifths of a year.

The academic year being nominally taken as 50 productive weeks. With total student workload for a year being 1500 to 1800 hours. So that is 30 to 36 hours per week. Whilst one fifth of a full year programme is 300 to 360 hours. With only Certificate I being permitted to be less than 300 hours.

AQF-6 to AQF-10 will be named diploma I to diploma V. Whilst an additional 5 levels added, AQF-11 to AQF-15, to be named  Masters I to Masters V.


Training to be separated from education, and carried out in different institutions. Education to cover foundational knowledge and enabling competencies. Education primarily an evaluation process, either a person can grasp a competency in a few trials (no more than 5) or they cannot.

Training, to be carried out in specialised training academies. Typically 1 year of training for every 5 years of education. Training is what olympic athletes, soldiers, and firefighters do. It is highly repetitive of technique, it develops proficiency and makes response second nature. Training involves 20 or more repetitions until achieve the required performance. Only a certificate of practice (CoP) will be awarded for completion of training: it will identify the multiple AQF awards it relates to.

No one can progress from one AQF level to the next unless they achieve 80% raw pass mark: no statistical wrangling. If a person achieves less than 80% , but more than 50% then they can do training at current level, if they achieve 80% or better on training then they will be permitted to progress to next level. Progress between levels is not dependent on training. Training typically takes place when reached the education level desired and prior to entering the workforce. No degree will contain industrial experience requirements: industrial experience will be met by training programmes. No rubbish masters of engineering practice and similar nonsense, just a certificate of practice.

If a person fails to get more than 50% then either they didn't put in the effort or they require more training at the lower level. For example if fail to complete an AQF-1 qualification then require more training at AQF-0. Grade 10 involves completion of 3 five year blocks, but it is unlikely that someone needs training across all 15 years. Likely cover the first 5 years in one day or less, and second 5 years in one week of less. It is the last 5 years which mostly need reviewing. Therefore 1 year of training  should be adequate to review and develop proficiency.

Student and Citizen Handbook

Furthermore all the subject matter for grades 1 to grade 10, should be documented in a single volume book, around the same size as Pears Cyclopedia. The book can make reference to dependent references, such as novels to be read. The major subject matter however is to be placed in the book, and the book is to identify the years it is intended to be relevant for (eg. 1970 to 1979). The book will be a students primary source of reference: starting at grade 1. If they can read the entire book in one year, that is good, but as students they still have to work through the study matter relating to the subjects.

The books allow the comparison of generations and countries.

Back to AQF

People who get less than 50% at grade 10 level required to do AQF-0 training before moving onto studying for AQF-1 or permitted to claim any form of unemployment benefit. All foreign students also required to complete AQF-0 training.

Typical breakdown of the proposal is shown in following table, there is no secondary school certificate or matriculation certificate in the proposal, just the AQF levels (as a result the existing doesn't mesh well with the proposal ):

Level Description 1 Description 2 Description 3 Existing Age
AQF-0.001 1st Year Age 0 to Age 1
AQF-0.002 2nd Year Age 1 to Age 2
AQF-0.003 3rd Year Age 2 to Age 3
AQF-0.004 4th Year Age 3 to Age 4
AQF-0.005 5th Year Age 4 to Age 5
AQF-0.01 Grade 1 6
AQF-0.02 Grade 2 7
AQF-0.03 Grade 3 8
AQF-0.04 Grade 4 9
AQF-0.05 Grade 5 10
AQF-0.06 Grade 6 11
AQF-0.07 Grade 7 12
AQF-0.08 Grade 8 13
AQF-0.09 Grade 9 14
AQF-0.10 Grade 10 15
AQF-1 Certificate 1 Certificate I 1/5th Grade 11 Certificate I 16
AQF-2 Certificate 2 Certificate II 2/5th Grade 11 Certificate II
AQF-3 Certificate 3 Certificate III 3/5th Grade 11 Certificate III
AQF-4 Certificate 4 Certificate IV 4/5th Grade 11 Certificate IV
AQF-5 Certificate 5 Certificate V 5/5th Grade 11 Diploma
AQF-6 Diploma 1 Diploma I Grade 12 Associate Degree  17
AQF-7 Diploma 2 Diploma II 1st Year Bachelor Degree Bachelor Degree 18
AQF-8 Diploma 3 Diploma III 2nd Year Bachelor Degree Graduate Diploma 19
AQF-9 Diploma 4 Diploma IV 3rd Year Bachelor Degree Masters 20
AQF-10 Diploma 5 Diploma V Graduate Diploma Doctorate 21
AQF-11 Masters 1 Masters I Masters 22
AQF-12 Masters 2 Masters II 23
AQF-13 Masters 3 Masters III 24
AQF-14 Masters 4 Masters IV 25
AQF-15 Masters 5 Masters V 26

Upto Masters II expectation is work will be via study of established body of knowledge from Masters III onwards expect original research. Can also add extra 5 year block, Doctorate I to Doctorate V.

The most important factor however is that progress from one level to the next there is an increase in depth of knowledge and specialisation, not an increase in breadth of knowledge. Most professional bachelor degrees are optimised bundles of AQF-6 qualifications, and why I call them fake degrees. The MBA being the biggest fake masters of them all, typically graduates have inadequate knowledge of business at the undergraduate level: they do not have a B.Bus and have no right to a masters in such discipline. (Nor Bachelor of accountancy, industrial management, or economics.)

On Engineering

{NB: Most of this refers to current AQF levels, not my proposal}

Here in Australia where typical degree is 3 years duration, engineers think themselves superior because they have 4 year degree, and think they have honours degree. But it's not an honours degree. Most students have only one interest and that's a ticket to employment in a job they see as highly paid. Though they really don't have the aptitude.

Since Engineers Australia absorbed the institute of engineering associates in the 1980's , our technical workforce has been effectively sabotaged to meet the elitist whims of professional cults. They largely get paid more not because of the work they do, but because of their education, and industrial awards based more on educations, than actual contribution and value to individual business. I think it was APESMA or whatever name it had at that point in time, that indicated the issue is potential: that is they should be paid based on potential to do higher level work, not actually doing higher level work.

The problem is that high levels of unemployment, favoured ignoring job requirements and raising educational requirements to do simple work. But the educational awards not relevant to the job. Now we have people who think that such education is necessary, and complain we have a shortage of people, when we don't have such shortage. People haven't progressed through the ranks they have jumped to the top of the ladder, they are not fully qualified to be where they are: and yet...

Queensland doesn't require an army of so called "engineers" (RPEQ's) to resolve its stormwater drainage nightmares, nor to get its stalled mining and construction boom moving. It needs an army of tradespeople, technicians and Associate Technologists. In terms of mining also need to raise the common intellect to comprehend to mining technology. Or raise the intellect of the mining engineers, so that they comprehend just how deficient and defective their own knowledge is.

But regarding stormwater drainage all that is required is one chief "engineer" for the state to be responsible for water resources, backed by a team of appropriately qualified persons. The B.Eng would not be an appropriate qualification for such team.

I reiterate the 4 year B.Eng is not an honours degree, it is not even a bachelor degree, it is an optimised bundle of AQF-6 qualifications. The requirement of the AQF is increased depth of knowledge from one level to the next, not breadth. Breadth of knowledge is acquired by gaining multiple AQF awards: it is important to full articulation of awards and mobility of the workforce.

A typical degree in the traditional disciplines covers no more than 5 major areas of practice. So that is 4/5th's of a year for each area of practice. So if only cover one area of practice the programme is less than 1 year duration: AQF-5.

However, recognising that unlikely to cover all the dependent mathematics and science, the required breadth branching into the depth. Then typically the first year of the degree is becoming a common mathematics and science year. So that leaves 3 years to cover 5 areas of practice, or 3/5th's of a year for each area. So full programme in any area of practice would be less than 2 years, the programme can be increased to 2 years (AQF-6) by providing more background knowledge in the specific area of practice.

An army of appropriately qualified persons can thus be educated in 2 years, from scratch. Or if consider others have appropriate foundational knowledge, then they can be trained in 1 year.

Thus if we are to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and it is so important. Then an AQF-5 qualification in technical science and mathematics, should form the foundation of all higher degrees. They would then have a common foundation to build upon, whether it is B.Sc, B.AppSc, B.Tech, B.Eng, B.Arch. And there I guess the architects would object.

To get to AQF-6 there needs to be an increased depth of knowledge, and likewise to get to AQF-7, and onto AQF-8. There are very few strands in occupational degrees which have a depth extending for 3 or more years, furthermore I contend the intellectual depth is missing from these bachelor degrees. That is the depth of knowledge and understanding that we would expect from someone with the traditional B.Sc or B.A.

A brain dead computer can crunch numbers: prowess with mathematics (more often arithmetic) is not a measure of intelligence. We have to stop taking it as such.

Some B.Eng's do have fewer than 5 areas of practice, and possibly allow for specialisation, but that poses another problem. These degrees focus on technology, the graduates are not engineers. Mechatronics is not engineering, it's just a combination of two areas of technology. Water resources is a specific set of technologies. Mechanical and Manufacturing Management: areas of technology. Industrial engineering: where's the engineering, why's it called engineering instead of industrial management? Architectural engineering: once again technology. Architectural engineering either focuses on the technical science as it relates to buildings, such as structure and the electrical and mechanical systems. Or it is more focused on the design of bridges, both the structural and aesthetic design. None the less we are dealing with technologies.

Real Engineers are not concerned with established technologies, their concern is technologies we do not yet have.

For the established technologies we as a community have expected levels of performance, when they are not met, we are not happy. Buildings are an established technology, we expected them to be fit-for-function, we expect the people designing the buildings to know how to design them to be fit-for-function. To do so requires knowledge of buildings, therefore a civil engineer is not qualified to design building structures, nor are they qualified to design bridge structures. An architectural technologist on the other hand should have the necessary knowledge because they have studied the specific technology under consideration.

Consider this. A team of architectural technologists, versus team of architects, structural engineer, HVAC engineer and electrical engineer. Which team is more likely to get the air conditioning duct going through a principal structural beam? I suggest it will be the latter team of specialists who have no idea what the others are doing. One chief architectural technologist coordinating the design team of architectural technologists. Each architectural technologist capable of doing whatever is required to be done for the current project: no shortage of structural engineers for this project, or need for an extra HVAC engineer.

So the full articulation of the AQF should be used to kick the professional cults into line. We cannot permit technological progress to be hindered by professional cults, who think they are the only ones that know.

Also note our higher places of learning are not like the American's show in the movies, we don't have teachers: teachers are for school. In university you study, and the text book is more often than not more informative than the lectures, and takes about a quarter of the time to read. Tutorials are not school class, you do the work before turning up or don't bother turning up. Tutorials are to get help with problems, if you haven't tried then your problem is lack of effort (so go away and come back when you've done some work). Too many think they are still at school and want to be fed the answers, memorise and regurgitate during the exams.

Graduates with occupational degrees are not our intellectual elite: and often barely competent in the technology they profess expertise. However it is not entirely the graduates fault. They have been misled by professional cults into believing their knowledge is greater than it is, and that they have superiority which they don't. As I say these professional cults need kicking into line: especially those seeking legislation to grant them a monopoly on work. Furthermore those with monopoly should have it taken away. No one would come to harm as a consequence of such change, they will come to harm for the same old reasons: some twerp thinks they no more than they actually do, and all parties concerned failed to exercise adequate duty of care.

In short I am declaring that there is something significant missing from occupational degrees which makes them unworthy of the award title bachelor degree (AQF-7), and it would better serve mobility of the workplace if they were presented as what they really are, and that is optimised bundles of AQF-6 qualifications.

AQF-5 Technical Science and Mathematics

{NB: Still largely using existing definitions}

People studying for qualifications in applied science, technology, engineering, surveying, computer science, would all take the same AQF-5 qualification in technical science and mathematics. It would not be optimised for a specific programme. It would have breadth, but no more than 5 independent strands. Furthermore it shall be broken down into 5 sub levels, Certificate I to Certificate V.

A starting point would be the bachelor of mathematics. What topics does such degree contain, by comparison what does a physics student study compared to an engineering student?

If we do such breakdown, do engineers only have a Certificate I in applied mathematics? Is there 300 hours of mathematics in a 4 year B.Eng? Just maybe. Typical existing programme somewhere between 26 and 36 weeks duration, the shorter programmes have swot vac and examination periods, the longer programmes examine in class (eg. TAFE). So say mathematics typically spread across 2 years though could be compressed to first year. So 300/2 = 150 hours per year, and thus 150/26 = 5.7 hours/week. Just possibly, noting if have 3 hours of lectures, then total workload likely around 2 times that. If have tutorials then for each hour of tutorial can expect to spend 1 to 2 hours studying, so only magnify the tutorials not the lectures. So 2 hours lectures and 1 hour of tutorials, gives 2 + 2(1) = 4 hours per week.

So maybe can define a Certificate I in mathematics, however, also need to cover physics, chemistry and materials, and a variety of of subjects. Computer science and programming part of mathematics, likewise technical drawing is part of mathematics as descriptive geometry. Subjects like geology, biology, and astronomy may also be important. Philosophy and language also important, along with management. Some of these subjects are independent others are dependent.

Physics and chemistry are dependent on mathematics so they could be left until Certificate II. On the other hand there are some parts of chemistry to which mathematics is irrelevant.

When defining the subject matter it should not split into 5 independent Certificate I programmes: such as Certificate I mathematics, Certificate I physics. Much of it can be considered as applied mathematics or technical mathematics: and the principal strand thus remains applied mathematics.

When I was studying first year contained engineering mechanics, and computing was part of second year mathematics. For that matter vector calculus was part of second year mathematics, yet applied physics was first year subject, and the topic electrostatics depended on vector calculus.

Mechanics is a specialisation of physics and it can be put into second year. Whilst programming computers is a more general skill that should be brought into the first year. All the mathematics could be completed in the first year. On the other hand much of that presented using calculus doesn't require calculus, so it could be removed and included in second year.

So what we then get is the possibility of an AQF-6 award in technical science and mathematics. Which means its application to technology doesn't arrive until after a 3rd year of study. The problem however is that most technology doesn't, most absolutely does not require 3 years of study, to acquire required design knowledge.

So whilst an Associate Degree (AQF-6) in Technical Science and Mathematics is useful and can stand on its own, it is not relevant to design capability.

Another issue is: should it be optimised? Should there be separate programmes optimised for physics and optimised more for biology. Also technical emphasises application to technology, where as applied science and mathematics can be independent of technology.  For example meteorologists apply scientific knowledge, they don't design or manage technology.

Therefore Certificate I, would start out as applied science and then become specialised in technical science. On the other hand, application and relevance is often better met by application to technology, so starting out as technical science and becoming applied science may be better.

From another perspective. Grade 11 will become Certificate V, and grade 12 becomes Diploma I. When I studied if I remember correctly we took 6 subjects in grade 11, and dropped one for grade 12 matriculation. So that means need to allow at least 6 strands rather than limit to 5 strands. Then again it also means that grade 11 is divided into 6 individual certificate I programmes each less than 300 hours duration. (NB: Don't want to reinvent the UK O-levels and A-levels)

Ok! AQF-5 to AQF-6 can contain upto 5 strands and no more. When move to AQF-7 there has to be specialisation. That is AQF-7 is a single strand, and likewise AQF-8 extends further upon that single strand.

So in the new proposal upto Diploma III there can be breadth, at Diploma IV there has to be specialisation. However specialisation can occur at Diploma III, and where possible it shall be given priority over breadth.

Thus there can be no AQF-6 (exist) in mechanical engineering, but there can be AQF-6 in HVAC, structural/mechanical design or fluid power.

And whilst can study applied mechanics, and thermo fluid dynamics to AQF-7, it is unlikely that can study HVAC to AQF-7.

We lack the people expert in applied mechanics and we don't have such experts teaching mechanics to wannabe engineers, they are "taught" by think-they-are engineers. Which probably explains why much of the so called engineering practice only occurs at the level of AQF-6, and why there is so few contributing to progress in science and technology.

The existing education system is too myopic, and we don't have the people to expand it, and that is because it has become too linked to employment. Not linked because of employment needs but linked through a crazy industrial relations system, and presence of professional cults instead of learned societies. Such fools can regulate the system to a grinding halt.

The existing AQF-7 is not important, but AQF-6 and below are important. In terms of STEM, we need more people at AQF-6 and below, not AQF-7. We also need more rigorous assessment process. We also need to encourage more breadth at AQF-6 and below.

Only one person is needed to design, hundreds to thousands of people are needed to build. People need to step up the AQF ladder not jump to the top. All professions can be broken down into stages of progression, and school leavers don't need the qualification at the top to get started.

Take medicine as another example. How well is the system currently articulated between nursing assistant, to enrolled nurse, to registered nurse, to doctor, to specialist. Poorly I would imagine, as those wanting to be doctors jump in at the top, they don't progress upwards. The doctors don't spend time as nurses, and the nurses don't spend time as nursing assistants, and the registered nurses pursue careers in direction other than becoming a doctor. In short they gain inadequate experience working with patients: as patients seem secondary to careers for some of the newer batch. There is something the goods ones have, which is not part of their training, it is just a natural part of their being, and therefore cannot be imparted by training. The filtering system that is in place is therefore defective in terms of getting rid of those not truly suited to doing the work they are meant to be doing.

The articulation between occupations is not yet properly built into the AQF and it needs to improve.

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[09/02/2019] : Original