I thought I’d re-read through the initial chapters of Biggs’ 3rd edition to see what has changed. In fact, there were a couple of particularly interesting discussions added that were absent from edition 2.
Biggs’ has gone to great lengths to explain the history of outcomes-based education (OBE), and to separate his theories around constructive-alignment from more radical, less accepted or country specific practices. He states: “Because of the confusion, and the emotion that OBE has aroused, we must clarify what we are talking about, and forthwith.” Biggs’ has introduced a versioning system for identifying these practices. The version that curriculum alignment belongs to is version 3, which he calls outcomes based teaching and learning.
Something else that I noted in the first chapter was Biggs’ updated description of the current state of Australian Tertiary Education. Biggs says:
Twenty years ago, public funding paid for virtually 100% of costs of the tertiary sector, but today that is very far from being the case. Australia, for example, is now heading towards 30% of university funding from the public purse. The bulk of the missing funding comes from student fees. That is having profound effects on both students and on university teaching.
However, the reason for the enormous cuts in public funding was not only to save money and keep taxes low, although that was the rhetoric; it was ideological. It stems from the neo-conservative belief that education is a private good and therefore one should pay for it, like one does for any other goods. That changes the nature of universities and the university mission: they became corporatized and competitive for markets.
I believe that succinctly describes the former conservative government of Australia’s attitude towards education. It’s not one I am particularly fond of. I hope with the new labor government, this attitude changes. In my view, education is not a commodity to be bought and sold, but a basic human right of man-kind and equitable access should be afforded to all, no matter how wealthy or poor you may be.
On that point, I’ll kick my soapbox back under my desk and get on with things.