Explore the Melbourne Graduate School of Education's rich history, from the first Education course in 1903 to the faculty's establishment in 1923 and its standing today as a nationally and internationally recognised leader in the field.

In the videos below, Emeritus Professors Kwong Lee Dow and Peter McPhee discuss the history of teacher colleges and their amalgamations and affiliation with the University, as well as the effect of the Commonwealth's entry into education.

Professor Kwong Lee Dow is a distinguished educationalist and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne. He was the Dean of the Faculty of Education for 20 years.

Professor Peter McPhee was the University of Melbourne's inaugural Provost and is an internationally renowned historian.

This two-part conversation series was produced to mark the Graduate School's world number two ranking in 2014*.

*(QS World University Rankings by Subject)

    • Transcript: Video 1 of 2

      Field Rickards: Earlier this year in 2014, in the discipline of education, the Graduate School was ranked number two in the world. To mark that occasion, I thought it was important to bring together two distinguished scholars to record some of the history of the Faculty and how we got to where we got to.

      I'm joined by Professor Kwong Lee Dow and Professor Peter McPhee, both emeritus professors at the University of Melbourne. Kwong Lee Dow is a distinguished educationalist and has been distinguished for more than 40 years, 20 of those years as Dean of the Faculty. Peter McPhee is an internationally renowned historian, and his recent histories include 160 Years: 160 Stories celebrating achievements and people at the University of Melbourne.

      So I hand over to Peter and to Kwong, who will take us through some of the history. Thank you.

      Peter McPhee: I'm Peter McPhee, former Provost of the University of Melbourne and now Professorial Fellow in the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. I have the great pleasure of speaking with Professor Kwong Lee Dow, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and someone who has lived through and been part of many of the great changes that have affected education in the city of Melbourne, in Victoria, in Australia, and indeed changes that have mirrored those of many other centres of education throughout the world.

      So Kwong, welcome. To begin with, I wonder if you might say something briefly about your family. Because I understand there was a family history of involvement in education.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes, Peter. I think looking back it was - I was destined to move into education. My mother had been a teacher in the early days when people left school themselves and immediately started teaching. She did that for three years and then came to the Teachers' College in Melbourne in 1930 and 1931 and then went on and taught in schools. I've inherited a lot of the background there. People wonder about my own background, I'm actually a third generation Australian, in that both my parents were born in Australia and three of my grandparents came from China.

      Peter McPhee: I see. As I said, you've had a life which has encompassed many of the great changes that have affected the training of teachers and the delivery of education, and you've been instrumental in many of those changes. We live in a situation now, at the University of Melbourne, where our Graduate School of Education is very highly regarded internationally, in 2014 it was ranked as high as number two in the world. Yet my understanding is that the place of Education within the University of Melbourne has not always been so secure or as esteemed. Is that right?

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes, indeed. It's a very interesting history. Because so much of my own career was spent in the Faculty of Education in the University of Melbourne, I've taken a great interest in seeing this evolution through to the wonderful news that we had in February of this year. That on one of those international rankings by subject, the Melbourne Graduate School of Education was not only the top one in Australia, but ranked second in the world.

      Second to the Institute of Education in the University of London - I'll say something about that later, because I've worked there - from last year actually being third. So I said to the Dean, when Education was third, oh, Field, this is dangerous, because what's going to happen next year? Well, what happened was that Education came through to second.

      What I hope in this time that we're spending this morning is to just characterise a little how Education has come to that point. The origins are interesting, because in the first 50 years of the University's history, there was no Education in the University. Indeed, the first education course that was taught in the - under the auspices of the University was begun in 1903 and the first graduates came through, I think, in 1906. The diploma in education at that time was a mix of some arts and science subjects, basically two years of that, and one year of education studies and practice, managed through the Teachers' College.

      That's the college that's now called the 1888 Building. In the early 1890s, because the depression, the College was closed for a few years and was taken over as a private school, actually. It reopened in 1900, the director, the head of the College was Frank Tate, who a couple of years later became the first Director of Education in Victoria.

      By 1906, there was a head of College, John Smyth, Professor John Smyth as he was known from 1919, when he became a professor of the University, but he was employed by the Education Department, salaried by the Education Department, was the Principal of the Teachers' College. That pattern, by the way, is very similar to the way things evolved in Sydney, with the Sydney Teachers' College and the University of Sydney.

      Peter McPhee: Was the Teachers' College formally part of the University of Melbourne?

      Kwong Lee Dow: It was not, it was a part of the Education Department of Victoria. The same pattern was true in New South Wales, and I think, Peter, in most of the other states. So by the time my mother came down to the College in 1930, there was for most students a one year course of training for the Primary Teachers' Certificate. She actually did two years, she did an Infant Teachers' Certificate in the second year.

      But a number of people, particularly those who were destined or had been part of secondary schools, the high schools that began in 1905 with the Melbourne Continuation School and developed through agricultural high schools in places like Ballarat and Sale and Shepparton. The people teaching there sometimes had the opportunity of studying, in the University, arts subjects or science subjects towards degrees which many subsequently completed, but also doing some education work. That was the diploma of education in those days.

      By the time I came to the University and had completed an honours degree in science in the late - through the second half of the 1950s, and then went to the Education Faculty as it then was in 1960, there had been a clear separation between the teachers' colleges, which were still very active. Indeed, at that time they were especially active because there was a huge shortage of teachers after the Second World War. There was a clear separation between that and the Education Faculty of the University.

      The Faculty had started in 1923. At the time, the one and only professor was still the Principal of the Teachers' College and employed by the Education Department. That changed in the late 1930s. GS Browne, the professor, ceased to be employed by the Education Department and became fully employed in the University. Things developed from there. He had a very long period as professor and Dean and was followed by WH Frederick, who had been the Principal of Wesley College. He was Dean for about a year - 10 years.

      Then AG Austin, the education historian was the Dean from about 1966. But he was already on the staff, and I remember as a student doing the diploma, the first year, it was called, of the Bachelor of Education degree. He was a very important and respected figure in that program.

      So there'd been that kind of development. By the time I was a student there, there was a quite reasonably substantial number, I don't know whether it was somewhere in the 10, 12, 15 full time staff in the Faculty. It was a one professor faculty, and its size, Peter, was probably smaller than some of the large departments in the Faculty of Arts. For example, the History Department that you know so well would have been bigger at that time, I think, than the Faculty of Education.

      Peter McPhee: Yeah, so when I did my Diploma of Education after my arts degree, yes, I was struck by how small Education was.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: So when you were a student, Kwong, the typical pathway into school teaching was what?

      Kwong Lee Dow: For secondary school teachers, it was to have done a first degree in the one and only university in the state, and then do the Diploma in Education. For primary teachers, it was to go to one of the teachers' colleges, and there were, by that time in the late '50s, a series of those in metropolitan Melbourne and teachers' colleges in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo. So they were courses that a few years earlier were two-year courses post-Year 11. They became two-year courses post-Year 12, they became three-year courses post-Year 12, and ultimately bachelor degrees of the colleges - I'll talk about that later, maybe more next time. Bachelor degrees, that was the norm for primary teaching.

      The secondary teaching was a very serious problem because the shortage was so great and the numbers that were coming through from the University of Melbourne were insufficient. It led to two separate things. It led to a big push for education to be a core part of the new Monash University, that took its first undergraduate students, if my memory is right, in about 1959. It took its first education students around about 1961. So there were big education numbers going into Monash.

      As well, at the Secondary Teachers' College, which is this Alice Hoy Building that we're in at the moment, there was beginning, in the early 1960s, controversially, an alternate course called the Trained Secondary Teachers' Certificate for students who were unable to get into the University of Melbourne, and a little later, maybe unable to get into Monash either, and/or who had had some failure in their early stages. Particularly kids from the country was a problem. The Education Department felt it just could not lose those people, so it started its own course.

      Peter McPhee: That was part of the Faculty of Education?

      Kwong Lee Dow: No, it wasn't part of the Faculty of Education. It was a quite separate program run totally by the employing authority, the Victorian Education Department. I said it was controversial, because of that. There had been a feeling at the time that we'd reached the stage where there should be separation between the employer and the people that were doing the education and preparation of teachers. Teachers, like people in other professions and other fields, should have the opportunity of the autonomous experience of independence in those years, rather than being seen as very much an employee of the government department.

      Peter McPhee: Tell me something, then, about your transition at that time from someone who'd done an honours degree in science, I understand…

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: …and how you came to be a member of the Faculty of Education.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Well, after I'd done the four-year honours degree and the one year of teacher preparation that was necessary to get registered as a teacher, I was committed by having taken what was called at the time a secondary studentship and thereby having my fees completely paid and getting a quite - for the times, a quite significant living allowance. In return, I was required to enter what was called a bond with the Education Department to teach for three years, and indeed, to teach anywhere that the Education Department wanted me to teach.

      So it was the way in which the department staffed the more remote country schools, the less preferred outer urban schools in those parts of the state that people with professional qualifications may not themselves have wanted particularly to live. The pattern really was very similar in the other states. You saw it most strong in a place like Queensland, where people were trained in Brisbane and then sent to the very distant parts of the country.

      So I had it easy, Peter, because after my education year, and I did well in that year and enjoyed it, got first class honours in all the subjects including the teaching practice and that. I had both the principal of Melbourne High School and the head of the Secondary Teachers' College wanting me to work. So in my first year of employment, I actually worked in both those places, half a day, every day. So I'd beetle in between - in the middle of the day, between the Secondary Teachers' College here adjacent to the University, as it was then, and Melbourne High School.

      That's how I started, and very quickly moved into the Secondary Teachers' College because of the shortage of science teachers and the need for someone both to give assistance to university students that were on teaching studentships, but also to take direct entry into the college students. I was teaching chemistry and there were parallel people in physics and biology and maths, and then all the humanities were similarly covered. So it was starting to be quite an operation.

      I did a few years there and was very satisfied with the treatment that I was getting and the advancement that I was having. I had the opportunity, actually, to spend one year full time in the chemistry school of the University, because I was working with a team of people developing a new Year 12 curriculum, textbook, laboratory manuals, guides for teachers and things like that. Anyway, I came from that to the Education Faculty of the University through what was really an ancillary activity of the Faculty at the time.

      There was a woman of great standing, in my view, called Barbara Falk. She was - she'd been principal of a teachers' college for independent school teachers, Mercer House. She came to the University, and the role that she had there was to try to influence, and through influencing, improve the quality of the teaching that was occurring in the University. She started there in about 1963, I think, doing this work.

      A few years later, she rang me - I think it must have been in 1965 - and said, would I be interested in joining her? She was offering me a lectureship. I said to her, look, I'm really interested in what you're doing and I think it's very important, but I've got a career path within the Education Department and I'm happy doing what I'm doing and I really wouldn't want to walk away from that. We just left it there.

      Then a few months later, she rang me again and said, look, would you consider coming and working with us if you were offered a senior lectureship? I thought - I must have been hard-edged, Peter - I thought to myself, this sounds a pretty good deal. Anyway…

      Peter McPhee: She talked you into it.

      Kwong Lee Dow: …she talked me into it, and I joined the Faculty. It was, I think, the last months of Professor Frederick's deanship. He used to say that this group around Barbara Falk, and there was another group of people - Don Anderson was a key figure in the school, in the Education Research Office in the Faculty. He said, you know, you're with us but not of us, because these - this group was not really involved in the training of teachers and the subsequent courses for practicing teachers, bachelor and masters courses, anyway.

      Peter McPhee: Much more concerned with University…

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: Yeah. It's interesting, just in parentheses, that my trajectory was similar to yours, although later, in that I had a studentship too. But instead of working off my bond in a remote country high school, I was offered the possibility of doing a three-year tutorship in history at the University of Melbourne…

      Kwong Lee Dow: Ah, yes.

      Peter McPhee: …and subsequently came to know Barbara Falk through her centre.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: In fact, she showed me very proudly one day, when she was at the History Department as a fellow, an entry in her diary that she had with me to explain to me how to be a better teacher in history.

      Kwong Lee Dow: [Laughs] Yes.

      Peter McPhee: That was a little bit later on. So you joined the Faculty in 1963…

      Kwong Lee Dow: 1966.

      Peter McPhee: …1966.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: Tell me something about the Faculty then. I mean, what did you find when you joined it?

      Kwong Lee Dow: Well, I found that it was a group that was, I suppose, about 20-odd strong with full time people. There were a number of part time people that were particularly concerned with the teaching of school subject they were themselves teaching in nearby schools, University High School was a key one. Those people felt they were there just for relatively short numbers of years. Some of them became very involved and caught up with the wider work of the Faculty in the University, others less so.

      The linkage that I actually had was that there was one of those things that shows again the close association between the University and the then separate Education Department Teachers' College. Because of the shortage of science teachers, there were - from the science professors in the University, there was a recognition that some of the people at the College that were teaching in the sciences were very respected and liked and known by and were working with, in various ways, staff in the University departments.

      They said, look, we should develop a science education degree of the University, which would be largely taught in the College but partly taught in the University. By the time I had joined the Faculty, that was just getting underway and I was able to play a part in that. I actually taught in the education component, some work about the contemporary science curriculum and assessment in science and things like that.

      So that was a program that was very much an opportunity that was welcomed by the Science Faculty and by the College, to get a university degree. I had a feeling that the Education people were a bit - the Education people in the University were a little bit sceptical about this. But my presence there, I think actually facilitated it, in a funny way. So as well as working with Barbara, I did these other things as well for a few years.

      Peter McPhee: So who were the key people within the Faculty at that time, who you remember?

      Kwong Lee Dow: I think that you could really divide the Faculty a bit into the people who were involved with things to do with child development and the psychological developments, and there were linkages at that time. In the Redmond Barry Building, where both the Department of Education, the Faculty of Education and the Department of Psychology were in the same building, there were linkages there. So there were some people in the psych area, and then there were people in the broader humanities area.

      I mentioned AG Austin, who was, for most of my time there, the Dean. He had published a lot in the areas of 19thcentury history of Australian education. He got a young man who had been in the Education Department, in the curriculum branch, who was also very interested in history, his name was Dick Selleck. He's become Australia's big figure in educational history. So he was a young lecturer at that time, with Bon Austin.

      There were some interesting women on the staff. There was a woman called Gwen Dow, her husband also was in the University, Hume Dow, in English. She'd come from MacRobertson High School and went on, through the period that I was there, to do some really innovative and interesting things of alternative ways of the initial preparation of teachers. She worked closely with the then Director of Secondary Education, Ron Reed. And horror of horrors, she worked closely with a leading figure in the Victorian Secondary Teachers' Association, Bill Hannan, and they developed this course. I had a little bit to do with that. So she was an interesting figure.

      Two others, Olive Wykes had been in the French Department and had studied in France, Sorbonne. She was involved in earlier times with the creation - the founding of International House, the residential for overseas and Australian students. She had moved totally into Education after having a period in which she was both in the French Department and in the Education Department - in the Education Faculty, she'd been a teacher.

      Then there was another person who - named Wilma Hannah - who had been earlier on the staff of the Secondary Teachers' College, very much in the field of English, had worked closely with the then - the first principal of that College, Alice Hoy, after whom this building is named. She impressed me because of her wide knowledge of schools and, at the same time, a real concern for students in a very practical and sensible way.

      So they're just a few of the people. On the psych side, I suppose I'd mention the name of George Bradshaw. He'd worked with the Australian Council for Educational Research, and maybe next week we could talk a bit about the linkages there. But he was a significant figure in the establishment of a body at that period, in the late 1960s, called the Australian Association for Research in Education. It was really trying to get some coordination and some strength into education research, to start seeing that as an important field, and a field that it was worth trying to get governments, particularly the Federal Government, to give some funding for.

      Peter McPhee: I'm interested in that, because of course one of the reasons why the Graduate School of Education is thought of so highly is the quality of the research that it is involved with. So you were there in the Faculty in the '60s and '70s where, if you like, that research culture was really beginning to take off.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes, that's right. It did take off, but it was constrained by two things. One was the size that it - we just didn't have the big numbers. Secondly, that there had not been as strong a tradition built anywhere in the world. It was coming, you saw it in London, there were also other centres in the UK, it was developing in Australia, and Melbourne and Sydney were key places, the University of Queensland, actually, also, but a bit limited.

      I want to come, Peter, next to a period in the latter part of the 1980s when there was a recognition, I think, that the separate teachers' colleges were standing apart from the big colleges of advanced education as well as the universities, and the need to find some way of associating them in a better way. It was true that John Dawkins, the Labor minister in the Hawke-Keating period was a real driver for a new look at the structure of higher education.

      But this particular linkage between the University of Melbourne and the colleges of Melbourne, the secondary college and the primary college, had been talked about a lot. Indeed, when David Derham was Vice-Chancellor and guy called Bill Pye was the Principal of the College, they looked at this possibility in the early 1980s. David Derham pulled back from it in the end because he felt that it was going to unbalance the University, the numbers in Education were going to be too big.

      Well, it came again. It came from a series of reasons. The federal initiatives were just beginning, the state was interested in this. The situation at Melbourne had already changed to the extent that, at the Melbourne colleges, that the primary college and the secondary college had come together as one. Then they had been forced into a further linkage with the early childhood developments in Kew. There was a Kew kindergarten teachers' college led by a very able woman. That had all come together in what was called the Melbourne College of Advanced Education.

      Barry Sheehan was the then director of it, David Penington was just about to come into the Vice-Chancellorship. The initial discussions had been with Sheehan and David Caro, the previous Vice-Chancellor. Then when David Penington arrived, he saw that this was something that made sense for the University. Not that he was being pushed by John Dawkins, he saw this himself. In fact, this was a period in which he and Dawkins were in good relation and he brought Dawkins to the University and Dawkins was very pleased to see that this initiative was already well underway.

      So what that did, Peter, was that the amalgamation of MCAE into the University, and at that time it was also foreshadowed that there could be a linkage with what had been a technical teachers' college, the Hawthorn Institute of Education. That when that was brought into being, those things, over a period of planning and careful organisation, instead of having a Faculty of Education with an 800 EFTSU, it went to 4800, close to 5000. That all came into the University, initially the MCAE at the beginning of 1989, ahead of the other Dawkins-led amalgamations.

      Peter McPhee: Because you'd already been taking the steps.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yeah.

      Peter McPhee: Kwong, I should clarify, you were the Dean at this point.

      Kwong Lee Dow: I become the Dean of the total enterprise at the beginning of 1989. Barry Sheehan ceases to take that role and is appointed Deputy Vice-Chancellor in the University. So we had this period of working initially with these entities as ongoing bodies, then trying to see what parts might be better placed and what people might be better placed in other departments of the University. Not only in arts and science and commerce, I might say, but people went into agriculture - one of the great successes was that the librarian from the MCAE, Helen Hayes, came into the University of Melbourne Library and soon became the head librarian and took very major roles in the University.

      So this was a period in which difficult linkages were being worked through. After a few years of that, David Penington, I think very wisely, saw that it was - the time had come to have a careful review of where this was all heading and what the longer term picture was going to be. I think he came to getting the very best person in the world, as I read it, to lead that review, Sir William Taylor, who had been the head of the Institute of Education in the University of London and was then - he'd taken senior roles in the administration of the University of London, and then was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hull.

      He came from that and spent two weeks here with a Deputy Vice-Chancellor from what became the University of Western Sydney, Jillian Maling. The two of them spent two weeks looking at what was happening here in Melbourne, talking to people in the state government, talking to people in Canberra. They produced a report which said a number of things, but I think that it was the first sort of recognition of just what the real scope of this exercise could be. I'll just read you a couple of things.

      Peter McPhee: Yes, you have a copy of University News with you that explains the review.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Well, indeed. This University News was headed, Big Changes for Education Institute. What they said was that the University has, in the Institute, a faculty with the potential to be a nationally and internationally recognised leader in the field. They say no other faculty in Australia has its combination of breadth and depth of specialisation in education. No other faculty is better positioned to be able to address education in so many different settings, and they list those out. When you think now of Field Rickards and an education operation that is seen as number two, you can see the seeds of that as a potential development. But what they saw was that we were a long way from it.

      Peter McPhee: That's right, but the potential is there, but not the actuality.

      Kwong Lee Dow: I'll just read you this little bit.

      Peter McPhee: This is from the review.

      Kwong Lee Dow: From the review. He's talking about the potential for research. A senior member of staff has been appointed with the task of leading the Institute to the sunlit uplands of a secure research reputation, from which Melbourne can look down upon the efforts of those toiling on the lower slopes. The sunlit uplands are a long way off. The current base of external funding, spread across large numbers of staff, is unlikely to provide the fuel to sustain a march to the foothills, let alone the strength to cross the ravines that lie before the stony path to research success that waits to be climbed. Better in the first instance, perhaps, carefully to select and properly to provision some scouting parties. The right people are quite capable of planting a few flags, the rest can follow later.

      Peter McPhee: Yes, it's a wonderfully literary way of saying, for the potential to be realised, some tough decisions need to be made.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Tough decisions were made, Peter. With the help of the then head of Human Resources, Liz Baré, by 1994 we'd reduced the staff numbers very substantially, commensurate with really halving the size of the Institute of Education and subsequently getting it even smaller. But it did enable some new fresh appointments to be made. By the time I ceased to be Dean in 1997, became Deputy Vice-Chancellor with Alan Gilbert, we had - I can't remember whether it was eight to 10 professors. That was a very big shift, and it was the base, I think, from which Brian Caldwell and then subsequently Field have been able to develop the Faculty as it has been. So I wanted to just tell that story from the very early beginnings.

      Peter McPhee: Well, it's an extraordinary story, isn't it? That within that period, from you as a student in the 1950s, through the period of your deanship at the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s, such radical transformations had taken place. Were you aware, particularly when you were dean, that there were parallel changes going on?

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: I mean, presumably in Australia with the Dawkins reforms, but even internationally, that the world of education was changing?

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes, and indeed, Peter, during the time that I was doing this big downsizing of the Institute to recreate a smaller, manageable faculty, I'd been asked to be an adviser in Hong Kong to some developments there. Where the plan was to disband four British-style teachers' colleges in Hong Kong, and create on a new site in the area close to the Chinese border in the city, called Tai Po, a brand new institute of education which would do for Hong Kong the kinds of things that we've been talking about.

      I had a key role in that, I was a member of the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation, I did a review of the teachers' colleges, I was adviser to the - what we'd call the interim governing council of the new institute, and then I was a member of the council of that Hong Kong body for about four or five years. So I was going to and fro Hong Kong, seeing this very kind of development there which was parallel in all sorts of ways to - because of the British traditions, parallel to what we were doing at Melbourne. So there it is happening in a quite different frame.

      Peter McPhee: But I - the upshot of that, of course, is that the University of Melbourne's Institute of Education, the Faculty of Education is in fact making international links and is part of an international discourse that's going on about the best way to provide the training in education.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes. It's interesting, Peter, that the - if you just come back to Australia, the parallels are that, where the major capital city teachers' colleges were linked into universities, they've - the pattern has been different. Because Melbourne took this really big operation. In Adelaide, the University of Adelaide had Education in the way that Melbourne had, but it didn't change at all. The teachers' colleges went into the University of South Australia, there was a little bit into Flinders, but mainly into the University of South Australia. Adelaide, in its education, just hasn't had the scale, the opportunity.

      It was interesting in Queensland, where the major developments went into QUT and Griffith University. QUT became a very large education - had a very large education faculty. I was invited in 1996, I think it was, to lead a review of education at QUT, they'd centred at what had been Kelvin Grove Teachers' College, and it was a very big operation and facing the same sorts of problems that we'd worked through just a couple of years earlier. So these are interesting patterns.

      In Sydney, Sydney Teachers' College became the Sydney Institute of Education through a couple of amalgamations there and then linked into the University of Sydney, because the College was in the grounds of the University but it was, until then, an Education Department operation. So that was that.

      Down in Tasmania, Alan Gilbert had me - when he was Vice-Chancellor of Tasmania, he had me down there looking at what he should do with two things in Launceston. One was human movement studies, it was everything from physical education through sport and exercise science, they even had dance education in there as human movement. What do you do with that, that came in through education and so forth. What do you do with technology education, which had been the old trade training operations? I walked in there and all the lathes were all laid out and, you know, it was all that sort of world.

      So we're seeing around different parts very much the same things happening at much the same time. But I think, in a way, Melbourne beat the - was first cab off the rank. It was because, I think, David Penington saw that this was a real thing to do. He pushed away a number of other possible amalgamations.

      He couldn't push away agriculture, he was forced to take on a series of agricultural colleges that had parallels, in its way, with the education. I actually, in Alan Gilbert's time when there was a change of deanship there, Alan made me go in and act as dean for a year in Agriculture. I walked into these agricultural colleges across country Victoria and felt that I was back in a world that I really understood.

      Peter McPhee: Yes, I suppose one of the significant things, then, about the University of Melbourne's experience of education is that, during that time of the amalgamations under Dawkins, that in general David Penington as Vice-Chancellor was very wary of, but he had agriculture imposed on him, that he did see, in education, an opportunity rather than something that was likely to be forced on him.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: That as you say, what's really significant is that there'd been some initial conversations well before David Penington. So the groundwork had been laid by people such as you and Barry Sheehan, that David Penington then saw the opportunity. So that this was a change that in fact was full of the potential that the review saw, it wasn't a problem that the University was trying to solve, it was also a great opportunity.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: So I look forward next week to some other significant connections with the wider world of education. Kwong, thank you very much.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Good. Thank you, Peter.

    • Transcript: Video 2 of 2

      Peter McPhee: In my first interview with Professor Kwong Lee Dow, we explored his involvement with the history of education at the University of Melbourne, through being a student, then a member of staff, and finally Dean of the Faculty and the Institute of Education. We looked at the history of education as well as Professor Lee Dow's involvement in that.

      What I'd like to do in this interview with Professor Lee Dow is to explore the relationship between the University and what was going on in education more broadly at state and federal level. Perhaps, Kwong, I could begin by asking you about the relationship between the University and the curriculum and assessment elements of secondary education in the state of Victoria.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes, Peter, the University of Melbourne has had a very major part to play over a long time with the decisions about curriculum and the kinds of assessments and the way assessments have been done, particularly at the top end of secondary schools. So the first public examinations in the state of Victoria were conducted by the University of Melbourne pretty soon after it started in the 1850s.

      This went through until about 1912, when the University recognised that there was a role for the schools themselves to participate in the decision making about what was to be assessed and how. They created a Schools Board of the University of Melbourne. That went on for a long time.

      The examinations were not only at Year 12 in those days, there was an earlier junior public exam. Matriculation actually came in as a term in 1943, and there was an exam the year before that, school leaving, and one before that, school intermediate. Though many schools did those internally through a system that was acknowledged and run through the state Education Department, and particularly by its secondary school inspectors.

      By the time that Monash University was created, the University of Melbourne felt that it was not the only voice to lead that link with the schools. It created an entity called the Victorian Universities and Schools Examinations Board. It was started in about 1964 and it lived for 15 years. The tension through that time was that the schools felt that the University was focussing entirely on what should be examined for entrance into the University.

      The universities, by then collectively Melbourne and Monash, and towards the end of the period La Trobe, said the only power we have is the powers that are within the university's acts and we don't have the authority to say a lot about other aspects of school education. So that tension was right there.

      The body itself was broad based, it had people from discipline areas in the universities, it had people from the government schools, it had people from the Catholic education system, it had people from what were called the registered schools, the independent schools.

      It was chaired first by Professor Frederick, who was then Dean of Education and he'd been Principal of Wesley College. It was chaired next by the founding Dean of Monash, Richard Selby Smith. It was chaired next by a professor of chemistry at Melbourne, Alan Buchanan, then by Professor Musgrave, who was a professor of education at Monash. In the last five of those years, I chaired that Board.

      But the tensions grew and there was on the one hand a school sense, and a sense more generally, that we needed to be looking at Year 12 curriculum and assessment for wider populations, some of whom would not be intending to go to university. Some of whom would be not even intending to go further, say in technical and vocational education, but would be going directly into work and into some of the para-professional fields that at that time were still profession-based, such as nursing done in hospitals.

      Peter McPhee: So how did you resolve that tension in the end?

      Kwong Lee Dow: Well, that - it showed up through the role of the government and the Minister for Education, who at the time was the long established Education Minister, Lindsay Thompson, who had himself been a school teacher. He had a good understanding of this. So the universities took the initiative and said, we need to step out of this. We should create a body under state government act and legislation that has the groups needed to be part of such an organisation, from both secondary and tertiary education. There was pretty good agreement that that should be done.

      But there was, at the time - this is through the 1970s particularly - there was, at the time, strong pressure from a big - increasingly powerful group of secondary teachers under the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association, a union body. They were very keen to have a lot of school focus and authority in the curriculum and in the assessment process. So the actual getting together of an act of parliament took a long time, and it was fraught and difficult.

      It was finally agreed and a quite large body was created, I think it had over 20 - it might have had 25 members. I was asked to chair that. I said to the people at the VUSEB, now, will this mean a conflict of interest, and should I cease to chair the universities board in its last years? The view was, no, the view was that it would be a better transition. So there was a period when both bodies were in existence, it actually went for two years.

      The universities board was completing its work, and VISE already created - it's a funny title, the Victorian Institute of Secondary Education - but already created, but needing time to get its operations functioning, to get its curriculum developed, to get its own assessment processes, by that time involving quite a bit of school-based assessment. So the transition in fact went reasonably well.

      The Victorian Secondary Teachers Association, that had been threatening that they would boycott VISE and wouldn't cooperate and so forth, changed their view. So this went on, I continued on, I'd been chairing the VUSEB from 1975, I continued with the chairing of VISE through to about 1982. It was taken over then by a man from the Australian Council for Educational Research, Bernard Rechter, and VISE continued.

      But there was a sense, when the first Labor Government came in, in the beginning of the John Cain era, that some further initiatives were needed. So another body, it was called the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board, was created at that stage. It was led by one of the people who later became a professor in the Education Faculty here, Peter Hill, and he then went onto major roles within the Victorian Education Department. There'd been a secondary school principal, Howard Kelly had been chairing what had become a board of studies.

      Then the then Liberal minister, Phil Gude, asked me, after Howard's term completed, if I would be interested in taking that on. By that stage we had created an entity called the Victorian Certificate of Education largely to the work of Jean Blackburn and colleagues that worked closely with her. [Dr Helen Prates] from Catholic education was quite a figure in that. So I took on the VCE role again and did that right through until about 2003. If my memory is correct, did you take that on…

      Peter McPhee: I took over from you.

      Kwong Lee Dow: …yes, you took that over from me.

      Peter McPhee: That's right, and it was in extremely good shape and remains a very significant body, I think, and plays a major role in Victorian education. You spoke last week that one of the key dimensions of the history of education at Melbourne came to be its relationship with the Teachers' College. I wonder whether that was a wider phenomenon across Victoria, the relationship between teachers' colleges and universities.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes, it was. It's really interesting to view the situation today from the way in which all that had developed. At the same time that there was tension about the universities' role in the exam system and the impact that had flowing on through schools. So also there was tension with the fact that the teachers' colleges of the time were part of the state Education Department.

      The argument was that the people who employ teachers shouldn't be the same as the people who prepare them, who do the training. That had been the pattern right through from the beginnings of the Teachers' College, Melbourne, the original college, and then a college at Ballarat starting. Then later, after the Second World War, quite a number of colleges being established, both in regional areas and also around Melbourne.

      So the position came that a group of teachers' colleges would be associated together, just as had been earlier an association of the technical colleges of Victoria. They'd been associated in the mid-1960s around an entity called the Victorian Institute of Colleges, it was led by Dr Phillip Law. The idea was that there should be a similar group of teachers' colleges.

      The reason why they were separate was that, after the Martin Committee reported, it promulgated the colleges of advanced education and argued that they [should] receive funding from the Commonwealth, as the universities were getting some money from the Commonwealth. But they balked at the idea of also funding teachers' colleges. So the colleges developed separately.

      We had set up in 1973 an entity called the State College of Victoria. It was really looking at the Californian system of joined institutions. I joined what was called the Senate, the governing council, the Senate of the State College of Victoria. As well, I was a member of the board, or the council as it was called, of one of those colleges at Toorak.

      I was also, through the Victorian Institute of Colleges, a member of the Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education Council. They had developed teacher education ab initio for the Gippsland community, and that institution, based at Churchill, later became a campus of Monash University, and indeed now as linked with Ballarat University and part of this new Federation. So I was very caught up in the evolution of those colleges that became semi - or became autonomous, semi in the sense that they had this overall governing body.

      I chaired for them the first accreditation body. Because ceasing to be part of the Education Department, and by this stage offering degrees in education, largely for primary teachers but not only, those courses needed formal education. The State College of Victoria set up an accreditation board, they asked me to chair that. So that gave a very good window into exactly what was happening around those colleges.

      So we come to that later period, Peter, when, as I said last week, the Melbourne College, the Secondary College, the early childhood Kew kindergarten college, came together to create the Melbourne College of Advanced Education. So we got a series of other entities, I won't go through them all, but one of them of interest was Victoria College was created from Burwood Teachers' College, from Toorak Teachers' College, from a teachers' college that had begun at Monash, it was called Rusden, and also the Prahran Art College. That all came together as another entity, and indeed, it linked to the teachers' college in Geelong and the Gordon Institute, that had earlier been the basis of Deakin University.

      So Deakin was created to be the first non-Melbourne university, Melbourne, Monash, La Trobe, then Deakin based at Geelong and created from those two entities. Deakin today, of course, is living with the outcome of its amalgamation with Victoria College. So while Deakin is based in Geelong, the Vice-Chancellor lives there and is promoting strongly Deakin as a regional Geelong institution, the reality is that on the Burwood Campus, which grew from the Burwood Teachers' College, there are more students of Deakin than there are in Geelong.

      So, I mean, one of the others just worth mentioning is that there was a college at Coburg. The Coburg College itself first amalgamated with Preston Institute of Technology, it was called Phillip Institute. Then Phillip Institute itself came into RMIT through amalgamation. So that's the explanation of why RMIT, that is indeed a big institute of technology, one of the country's leading institutes of technology, actually finds itself with teacher education.

      Peter McPhee: Yes, it's an extraordinarily complex history that you've simplified for us. It's inextricably linked, of course, with one of the other great changes in education in Australia, and that's the increasing involvement of the Commonwealth in both university and school education.

      Kwong Lee Dow: The Commonwealth entry into the education world is very much something of my generation. Education was almost entirely a state responsibility when I was a student. The University of Melbourne got its funds through charging fees to students, and also getting some support from the state government. It was only later that the Commonwealth entered the field of education.

      I think it must have started with Robert Menzies' decision to create the Murray Commission in the late 1950s, '57 I think the Commission worked. Then Menzies also gave some money to school education from the Commonwealth through specific specified areas, science blocks, libraries were the two main areas. The Commonwealth didn't have an education department until the early '70s, it worked through a thing called the Commonwealth Office of Education. Created the Department of Education and Science in the early '70s, I think Sir Hugh Ennor was its first secretary or head of the department.

      The Commonwealth increasingly was called on to put more and more money into education, as the states just didn't have the taxing powers to have the revenue needed for the kinds of expansion and development of more students staying longer in education, both in schools and going into tertiary education. So we saw that, and I was involved in a number of the initiatives.

      There was one that's now largely been forgotten. In the late 1970s, just as we've had, for all that time, an Australian Research Council covering a range of disciplines, there was for a time an education research and development group. The idea was that the Commonwealth would offer money to people researching in the field of education, offer that competitively and grants were given, and in fact, that committee was chaired by the Dean of Education at Monash, Syd Dunn, and I was a member of that group.

      It only lasted a few years, and education researchers for a decade or two after that kept wishing that this could be recreated. It never was. But the idea was that not only did it support research as an activity, it supported development coming from that research, and of course it supported dissemination. So that was one of the early things.

      But I think we saw the big influence of the Commonwealth in schools through the Whitlam period of the Schools Commission. We saw the big influence of living memory of the Commonwealth in higher education through John Dawkins' period as minister and the creation of what was called a unified national system. In which the separate colleges of advanced education, that go back to the Martin Committee, came into a separate system of institutions, all of which were undertaking some research and all of which were called universities.

      Peter McPhee: You spoke last time of the Melbourne experience of that process under Dawkins, of our relationship with the Teachers' College in the 1888 Building and so on. But that was in fact a phenomenon that was nationwide.

      Kwong Lee Dow: It was nationwide. You saw, for example, the break-up of the Brisbane College of Advanced Education, that itself had been an amalgamation of separate teachers' colleges. Which in the case in Queensland, in Brisbane, led to a big school of education, not in the University of Queensland, but in QUT, Queensland University of Technology. They became one of the really big places in education in Australia. Also some of the Brisbane CAE moved into Griffith University.

      In Sydney, the long-established education operation at the University of Sydney only called a faculty in 1986. It acquired what had been the Sydney Teachers' College, that had been built on its site way back, and it didn't have as big a scope and range as we had. As I said to you, I think we were a beneficiary of the fact that, from the Dawkins amalgamations, we became very, very big.

      We were a second beneficiary from the fact that Vice-Chancellor Penington, who supported that and advocated for it, a few years later said, ah yes, but now we've got to fine down, focus and become a much more research-oriented institution. That also took time, and it's led to the great success of the current Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

      I think if we didn't - if we hadn't had the amalgamation in the first place, we wouldn't have the scale. I've contrasted this with the state of, say the University of Adelaide with virtually no - very small education operation, because it all went into the University of South Australia newly-created. So we had the scale, but we also then needed to actually turn that into a body that had a better balance with graduate education, a better balance with research, and that's the entity that we have today.

      Peter McPhee: So the situation today where the Graduate School of Education has such a high standing internationally, in fact is as the result of a protracted process in which you've been intimately involved, and in which that merger under Dawkins, led by yourself and Professor Penington, was really a crucial dimension, even though it was quite difficult at the time…

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes.

      Peter McPhee: …because there needed to be that reorientation.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Yes. For me, Peter, I think the take-home message is that whatever grand policies emerge, time is necessary, time is very important. As well, you have to stop-up various unintended consequences that derive. We live in a time in which there's volatility and uncertainty, that is part of the world, you can't stop that. But the people who are leading and focussing and helping the development of a direction have to be alert to the fact that there'll be all sorts of odd things come out of the woodwork that have to be addressed and redirected in order to achieve what most people agree is the desired end.

      Peter McPhee: That's right. It's one thing to have the vision of where we would like to be, but it's quite another to make sure that along the way you're dealing with those unintended consequences. I'm struck as well, Kwong, by the persistence of the tensions, if you like, between Commonwealth and state.

      I mean, we live in a world where there are still issues on which the balance between Commonwealth and state responsibilities is by no means clear. The discussions, for example, around the national curriculum that have been going on for so many years. The extent to which you can have a situation in Australia where the major funding for education comes from the Commonwealth, and yet there are major state responsibilities for designing curriculum.

      Kwong Lee Dow: If we ever move to a situation where the Commonwealth took over responsibility, say for the whole of tertiary education - and I think that was something that Paul Keating pondered, let's have school education run through the states and let's have the Commonwealth looking after post-school education. If that came about, I think you would need to have, within the Commonwealth, people located in - through the country. Because I don't think people sitting in Canberra can recognise what the needs of Central Queensland University at Rockhampton and Gladstone and Mackay are, it's too complicated for Canberra bureaucrats alone.

      Peter McPhee: That's an interesting way in which to conclude, Kwong. Let me thank you profoundly for having taken the time to speak with me, and to speak with me, and to speak with many people who I'm sure will be interested in watching these two interviews. Because it is an extraordinarily rich and complicated story that you've told us over the last half century and more, of how the institute to which you came as a student after the Second World War has, through a complicated process, become really a preeminent graduate school of education in an international context.

      Thank you very much for sharing your insights into how that's happened, but also more generally into the way in which education across Victoria and across Australia has unfolded across the last few decades. It's been most instructive, thank you.

      Kwong Lee Dow: Thank you, Peter, very pleased to be here.