Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Victorian Student Numbers

I attended the information session on the implementation of Victorian Student Numbers yesterday and I left with a distinct feeling that this is being driven by Victoria's insistence on setting itself apart from any potentially national system of education management. The new legislation has been designed, according to the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, to serve the following purpose.
The VSN, which is unique to each student, will be used as a key identifier on a student’s records, and will remain with the student throughout his or her education, until reaching the age of 25. The VSN is nine digits long, randomly assigned, and tied to stable information about the student (name, gender, date of birth).

The introduction of the Victorian Student Number will provide the capability to accurately detect patterns of student movement through, and departure from, the Victorian education and training system. It will greatly improve the collection and analysis of timely and accurate data about education in Victoria.

There are a number of problems with the implementation of this legislation.
Problem 1. The definition of whom the number applies to is very loose. For instance, if a Malaysian student in Malaysia is studying a VET program online through a Victorian RTO, that Malaysian student is regarded as a Victorian student. If a Victorian student in Victoria is undertaking training, in Victoria, provided by a RTO based in Qld., then that Victorian is not regarded as a Victorian student. Victorian students who are undertaking training supplied by an enterprise based RTO will not be counted.
Victorian students who leave high school and go to university are not counted as Victorian students. Excuse me?

Problem 2. Once again RTO's are being asked to subsidise the State government's need for getting a jump on the Fed's. In the first half of the year we heard that the new National Regulator was coming, but the Victorian State Government, in it's wisdom had decided that it would not allow the governance of RTO's delivering training in Victoria to be managed by the National Regulator, but would require those RTO's to maintain registration with VRQA. Subsequently any RTO delivering training both in Victoria and in another State, must hold dual Registration with both the State and the Federal systems. We have not yet had confirmation of the Registration fee structures under these arrangements.

Problem 3. Both of these requirements mean more data collection and reporting. The reporting needs to be in a format that will upload into the State / Federal systems. The RTO must make amendments to it's information managment systems, its internal forms and processes and it's staff, to satisfy the needs of legislation and government systems.
There has been no redress of the costs incurred, discussed.

Problem 4. The Fed's are talking about bringing in their own Student numbering system as soon as they can sort out the privacy implications. What will this mean when it happens? The DEECD asserts that when this happens the Federal system will happily utilise the already established Victorian ystem. Oh really??
Currently RTO's already manage their own internal Student Identification Numbering systems and Apprenticeship/Traineeship numbering systems, and collect and report on CHESSN and TFN's (where students access FEE-HELP). Enough is enough.

I fail to see how a system which doesn't track movements from High School to university can `accurately detect patterns of student movement through, and departure from, the Victorian education and training system.' These additional reporting requirements are a penalty to RTO's which is unreasonable and which impacts on the capacity of smaller private RTO's filling niche or boutique market spots to maintain viability.

What do you think? Have your say and leave a comment below.