This response is prepared by MA ENVI: Museums Australia Education Network Victoria.
We are a special interest group of Museums Australia for people working education and public programs in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector of Victoria. This submissionis presented on behalf of the committee, which includes numerous representatives across the museums, galleries, libraries and achieves sector. Thank you for providing an opportunity for us to contribute to this important direction for Victorians.
The Education State vision:
“Education is the key to our own future. It unlocks creativity, opportunity and innovation. It’s what keeps young people engaged, the economy strong, our culture vibrant and society healthy” The Hon James Merlino MP, Deputy Premier and Minister for Education
Lifelong education through a strong education and training system is important to ensuring that where you are born or grow up doesn’t determine your life chances.
A high quality education system positively impacts peoples’ lives through better physical and mental health, creating more links and networks between people and their communities. Education is the foundation of a cohesive, healthy and prosperous society.
Question 1: What will the Education State look and feel like to you? How would you define it?
We are a special interest group of Museums Australia for people working education and public programs in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector of Victoria.
Galleries, libraries, archives and museums are an integral part of the how the Education State will look and feel. We know that these institutions are integral to the way Victorians learn, play, explore, research, connect and revive their sense of wonder in the world, nurture their curiosity and connect and share their learning with others in the community.
Education and learning is at the core of the reason for being for GLAM institutions. We know our visitors come to our centres to learn, and as such we are partners in Victorian’s life-long journey of education from birth to old age. All Victorians go to schools, and may go onto universities, TAFEs or other learning institutions for formal learning, but Victorians’ relationship with learning and GLAM institutions is continuous throughout our lives.
Our landmark, state-owned arts and cultural institutions, State Library Victoria, Museum Victoria, National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Centre of the Moving Image, our living museums like Sovereign Hill, plus our 1,000 museums and galleries across Victoria, and our 250+ libraries, attract well in excess of 10 million visitors each year. Our institutions keep Victorians of all ages engaged with our vibrant culture, support the economy and tourism to our state, showcase and celebrate Victoria’s diversity and keep our society healthy through highly accessible learning experiences for all people.
The Education State would ensure access to all to GLAM centres through well-funded institutions with high quality and world leading resources for visitors, improving the social fabric of Victoria, enriching our communities, and have profound impacts on education.
Question 2: As a learner, what is your experience of education and what impact has it, or will it have, on your life?
Museums and galleries by definition are dynamic, inclusive learning spaces; they are perceived as an authoritative source of knowledge as well as a space where people can contribute their ideas and knowledge (e.g. co-created exhibitions, citizen scientists, intergenerational volunteering, mentorships and exchanges, research placements). They are centres of excellence in learning and education for all, in which some of the most profound learning experiences happen.
As a cohort of learners ourselves, the members of ENVI are all driven in their work by their own love of learning, in particular the impact of GLAM institutions in supporting learning in schools. Of course, our own experiences in education led us to our careers in the sector and our passion and expertise to ensure excellence in education in the GLAM sector for Victorians.
Museums, art galleries, libraries, and archives bring learning to life. Too often learning in the classroom can be reliant on textbooks. In GLAM institutions we see the original objects, such as Ned Kelly’s armor and the bullet holes, touch ancient dinosaur bones, see icon works such as Fredrick McCubbin’s The Pioneer or contemporary works by Australian artists, touch the biggest processional Chinese dragon in the world, learn about Victoria’s Aboriginal cultural heritage and contemporary Koorie culture, have conversations with other Victorians like our RSL veterans who tell respectful personal stories about the impact of war, and even experience life on the goldfields.
Learning becomes experiential, kinaesthetic, social, authentic and contextual as GLAM institutions provide access to priceless, authentic artefacts and curated, informal, immersive learning experiences. These institutions are often at the forefront of research making new knowledge available to Victorians in accessible yet academically rigorous ways both onsite and online to wider audiences.
They are centres where people aren’t forced to come, they come happily – intrinsically motivated – to learn more about the world around them. We know young people don’t just come to our institutions during school excursions, they persuade their parents to bring them on weekends and holidays. We know that parents and grandparents invest in their children’s learning and wellbeing by bringing them to GLAM institutions.
Museums, galleries, libraries and archives are places that people have a learning relationship with for life, and provide experiences which ignite curiosity and affect people for life.
Achieving the Education State will require a journey together with students, families, teachers, education providers, the Department and the Government. There will be unique challenges and opportunities for different sectors. We will need to work together to achieve an equitable Education State that encourages lifelong learning.
Question 9: What opportunities exist in our communities for learning outside of the formal education system, for example in our libraries, museums and community centres?
ENVi sees infinite opportunities in our community for learning outside of the formal education system in museums, galleries, libraries and archives. There are over 1,000 museums and galleries in Victoria which comprises a third of the national total, making Victoria the cultural capital of Australia. The eight cultural institutions funded via (the then) Arts Victoria in 2013-2014 saw 10.4 million visitors alone, and Victorians made around 26.8 million visits to their local libraries borrowing over 48.4 million items.
Galleries, libraries, archives and museums are already doing much to support formal education through the Department of Education and Training’s Strategic Partnerships Network (SPP). Eighty-three organisations are funded under SPP arrangements to deliver programs that directly respond to DET priorities around AUSVELS, Early Years Learning Framework, VCAL, VET and VCE. We recommend building on this established and recognised successful partnership to use as a model on how learning outside of the formal education system could be strengthened in other sectors.
GLAM institutions support learning from birth to senior life. Our centres connect mothers, caregivers and families, through programs to provide learning programs for babies and young children. Young adults are supported in their learning through partnerships with universities to support their teaching programs, both undergraduate and post-graduate students, through work placement opportunities for students looking for career development opportunities, and through exhibitions to showcase their talent and recognise their achievements. Senior citizens visit as grandparents, as our centres offer unique spaces for intergenerational learning. Senior citizens also visit to explore their interests, in groups such as U3A – through which they often access our experts as part of their experience. Our volunteer programs support career development for some, provide opportunities to give back to the community for others, and provide significant support networks for retired and talented Victorians who may be at risk of social isolation.
So, whilst many opportunities already exist, we see great opportunity for the Education State to extend the opportunities:
- In the formal sector of education, barriers to our institutions for schools include the cost of transport. Funding to schools to support visits to GLAM institutions would support access, and broaden engagement.
- The funding through the Department of Education and Training Strategic Partnerships Program has not been increased to keep up with staff salary increases or the significant increases seen in running costs (such as increases in utilities), nor did it increase when Early Childhood was bought into the DET, increasing the scope of work for partners. This is a great partnership, and unique in Australia, we recommend that the government increases financial support to this highly successful partnership with the sector. SPP funding is crucial to ensure delivery of high-quality, specialised learning programs for all sized organisations, and ensures that expert teachers and educators are embedded within the sector, who can interpret curriculum documents to ensure that not only the programs offered connect to curriculum, but that they are interwoven into learning experiences within our galleries and other learning spaces. With some 1000 museums and galleries in Victoria, the diversity and breadth of provision available to the Victorian Government in Victoria’s GLAM sector is extensive and provides a broad range of out of school options for learning across the curriculum. Increasing the overall level of SPP funding available to organisations would ensure that students have access to a broader variety of learning experiences including those provided by niche organisations that specialise in specific content areas of the curriculum. Government funding to already established centres of learning such as galleries, libraries and museums, is an efficient use of government resources, as it leverages on existing infrastructure and resources and maximizes opportunities for students in the Education State.
- Every Victorian has an equal right to learning in GLAM centres, however, some Victorian’s need more support and targeted programs such as for special needs groups, newly arrived Victorians, or disadvantaged youth, need more staff time to develop appropriate learning programs and ensure a supportive learning environment for inclusion in the Education State. While we already work in this sector, more could be done. We recommend setting up funding for targeted community groups such as those listed above, in order to support learning for marginalised groups in our community.
- Much more could be done in the informal sector of learning. The scope for further support of learning in our community is endless, but of course we know budgets are not. Numerous GLAM institutions have not received increases in funding to keep up with salary increases, increasing costs of utilities and OH&S compliance. Many major institutions have undergone restructures and downsizing of staff in the last five years. We recommend that funding to support GLAM institutions’ work in lifelong learning be increased as a key means of achieving the Andrews Government’s Education State agenda.