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Studies in Astrology and Government Accreditation: The Future of Astrology?
By Janet Webber
To our knowledge there is just one school of astrology in Australia that offers government accredited astrology courses. It may have been the first in the world to gain such recognition from a government agency.
Gaining such accreditation was not easy. Keeping it may also be a challenge. However the response to government accreditation of astrology courses from the astrological community in Australia has ranged from guarded and cautious acknowledgment to disregard and even indifference.
In the last 10 months as we have observed this reaction we have asked ourselves why astrologers have not embraced the possibilities inherent in this situation?
We think it might be because astrologers do not understand what accreditation means or entails. We hope it is not because they are threatened by the move.
The following discussion paper is an attempt to open a dialogue between astrologers about the meaning of accreditation for astrology courses, its potential for astrology and the desirability or otherwise of teaching government accredited astrology courses.
I will first explain what government accreditation is, what it means and what gaining government accreditation entails. Then I will argue for the benefits of government accreditation to astrology students and schools specifically and to astrology in general.
What is Government Accreditation of Courses?
An Accredited Course is a program of study that has been designed to lead to a specific qualification recognised as part of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF see below). For example, to gain accreditation, a Certificate III in Hospitality or a Diploma in Professional Counselling or a University Degree must be based on National Accreditation Principles which require that:
Ø the contents and standards of a course ... are appropriate to the qualification outcome identified
Ø the course ... and methods of delivery fulfil the purpose for which it was developed and
Ø the content including curriculum and assessment is based on national competency standards where these exist. (ARC 1998 p A6).
Government accreditation of courses is a formal, Australia wide, recognition of courses offered by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO, see below).
When a course gains accreditation it means that the Accreditation and Registration Council (ARC - see below - or whatever it is called in your state), consider that the course adheres to National standards and will lead to a qualification under the Australian Qualification Framework. Each State and Territory has its own ARC but once a course is accredited it is Nationally recognised and can be taught by Registered Training Organisations anywhere in Australia.
The Australian Qualifications Framework
All Accredited Courses must fit into the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). This is a system of nationally recognised qualifications for post compulsory education and training. The table below demonstrates the framework. The qualifications written in Italics indicate the level of qualification for the Australasian Academy of Astrology and Allied Arts courses.
Schools Sector Vocational Education and Training Sector Higher Education Sector Doctoral Degree Masters Degree Graduate Diploma Graduate Certificate Bachelor Degree Advanced Diploma Advanced Diploma Diploma Diploma Certificate Four Certificate Three Certificate Two School Secondary Certificate Certificate One
This framework ensures that a Diploma in Hospitality in Queensland is of the same standard as a Diploma in Hospitality in Western Australia and that a Diploma in Hospitality is of the same standard as a Diploma in Professional Counselling.
Accredited programs of study are usually written down as curriculum. A curriculum document details the kinds of concepts or skills to be learned, how they can be taught and how the students are to be assessed.
However, individual curricula are gradually being replaced by National Training Packages.
National Training Packages
Training Packages are essentially the same as curricula except that they have been endorsed by the industry to which the training is geared. Among others, the
Ø Australian Meat Industry
Ø Metal and Metal Engineering Industry
Ø Hospitality Industry
now have endorsed Training Packages. There are other training packages that detail the training required for people who wish to work as Florists, in Community Services (child care, aged care etc) and Information Technology.
A training package should demonstrate
Ø How the qualification will fit into the AQF
Ø The name of the course, how it was developed and by whom
Ø The current market need for the course and potential job prospects for exiting students
Ø The prospective target group - ie possible students
Ø Entry requirements for the course - ie age or certain educational standards.
Ø The course outcomes - what students are expected to be able to do on completing the course
Ø How the course fits in with nationally identified competency standards (competency standards are a description of the skills, knowledge and attitudes required to perform particular kinds of work)
Ø Any licensing or regulatory requirements
Ø The structure of the course
Ø What is required of the students so they can receive the qualifications - eg hours of study
Ø The assessment strategies
Ø Recognition of current competencies (RCC) - ie those students who can demonstrate competency in certain areas are not required to study those areas again
Ø Delivery methodology of the course (how will it be taught - in the classroom, by distance, through the computer?)
Ø What human or physical resources are required for the efficient delivery of the course
Ø Further training pathways and
Ø Ongoing monitoring and development of the course
Registered Training Organisations
A Registered Training Organisation is a training provider authorised to award government accredited qualifications
Registered Training Organisations can be Universities, TAFE Colleges, Private Providers and even community based organisations. Large companies and corporations who conduct staff training can also become RTOs.
Private providers are small, privately run training organisations who provide a wide range of training to members of the public. Some examples in South Australia are
Ø COPE (Centre of Personal Encounter) who provide training in Counselling Skills
Ø SA College of Natural and Traditional Medicine
Ø Workplace Education Service, Adelaide
Ø The Australasian Academy of Astrology and Allied Arts.
RTOs are able to teach a number of different packages according to their areas of expertise and registration.
The Australasian Academy of Astrology and Allied Arts is a private provider and a Registered Training Organisation. Currently the Academy is able to teach only the Accredited Astrology Courses, although several people have suggested we look into "Train the Trainer" programs (ie teaching the Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment), as this would be one way to train other astrologers to teach accredited courses.
The Certificate Four in Workplace Training and Assessment is a course that can be taken by
Ø People for whom training others is a large part of their job (for example a supervisor who trains workers to operate and use a forklift)
Ø People who work within a structured training and assessment organisation, in other words a TAFE lecturer, or a trainer for a private provider / RTO.
The Certificate is a minimum requirement for any one wishing to train others within the AQF - in other words if anyone wanted to teach a training package they would need to gain a Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment in order to do so.
Despite Graham and I having Teaching Diplomas, Graduate Diplomas in Education and 50 years of teaching between us we were required to gain the Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment before our Academy could become an RTO and before I could teach the curriculum that I wrote.
The Certificate IV in Workplace Training and Assessment involves gaining competency in
Ø Planning assessment
Ø Conducting and reviewing assessment
Ø Training small groups
Ø Planning and promoting a training program
Ø Planning a series of training sessions
Ø Delivering a series of training sessions
Ø Reviewing training.
In addition to employing teaching staff who have a Certificate 4 in Workplace Training and Assessment RTOs must
Ø Abide by national principles, standards and protocols
Ø Implement continuous improvement through self monitoring and evaluation
Ø Participate in external audits and reviews
Ø Meet the requirements of endorsed industry Training Packages and/or accredited courses - in our case this is the curriculum we wrote
Ø Abide by a defined code of practice
Ø Collect and store (for a minimum of 7 years) student information and make that information available to the student as required.
In order to become an RTO you need to demonstrate that you can do these things. In order to remain an RTO you need to demonstrate that you continue to fulfil these requirements.
Gaining Accreditation for a Course
The process of gaining accreditation starts with an idea for a course. An application to the relevant state authority is then made. Once the application has been accepted the process includes:
Ø Investigating if similar courses have already been developed
Ø Finding out if there are any existing national competency standards for the proposed field of study
Ø Developing the course content and a series of Learning Outcomes, Assessment Criteria, Assessment Methods and resource requirements for teachers and students
Ø Ensuring that the proposed course meets requirements of the Australian Qualification Framework for the level of qualification being proposed
Ø Appointing and gaining approval for a Course Advisory Panel (CAP) which will monitor the course development, course content, proposed delivery methods and planned assessment procedures.
Once the CAP is satisfied that the private provider has met these requirements they recommend that the course be accredited. The training package is then submitted to the Accreditation and Registration Council (ARC) for approval. Normally this process takes about a week. In the case of our accredited astrology courses it took approximately three months, as there was no precedent for the accreditation of astrology courses.
Assistance in developing a course and gaining accreditation is available from your local Vocational Education and Training Branch (VET) or what ever it is called in your state.
How does becoming an RTO and teaching Accredited Courses benefit Astrology?
The short answer to this question is standards and recognition.
First, any body of knowledge benefits from having relevant, measurable, representative units of knowledge, skills and competencies taught to those people wishing to practice in the profession. The development of these standards implies that those who teach and practice astrology agree on what should be taught. While there is no guarantee that people will agree, consensus can be achieved with good will and open and honest dialogue.
Secondly recognition of astrology as a legitimate and effective discipline seems to be important to astrologers. Sadly, over the past 2 years, I have heard some astrologers comment that astrology will never be seen as a true profession until one of our ranks have been sued. Hence the rush to gain insurance, as both a way to avoid the cost of malpractice and as a path to recognition. What is most frustrating is that
1. Malpractice and the consequent legal result is less likely to be a problem if astrologers are properly and competently educated and trained,
2. Competently educated and trained practitioners and the resultant professional credibility are more likely to be achieved if we have a recognised curriculum taught by a professional teaching body.
While FAA qualifications are a significant gauge of the hard work done by those who have been awarded them, because they are not part of the AQF they mean less than the paper they are printed on. This is not a slight on either the qualifying body or the qualifications. It is a statement of fact.
A Certificate I in Hospitality, for instance, is nationally recognised by any restaurant, hotel or club in Australia. However anyone holding this qualification may further their studies in any other subject or industry by using this qualification to gain entry to a course of study. An FAA Practitioners Certificate is recognised only within the astrological community. They are internal Qualifications. They are not recognised by any other training body.
In recent years we have seen a proliferation of astrological exam systems and qualifications offered around Australia yet there is no formal agreement within the astrological community as to qualification transfer between these "qualifying bodies". I have heard students say "Why study qualification X when qualification Y is much easier?"
Further, as a private and voluntary body the FAA (or any other astrological organisation) cannot ensure the standard of other astrological examination systems or qualifications. Likewise it cannot guarantee the level of service provided by astrology schools. In the current training climate within Australia this situation is laughable.
We have found that prospective students are increasingly asking if courses are government accredited. There is a growing trend throughout the world to bring the study of Astrology into the mainstream. In America Kepler College has gained University status. Astrological associations in the UK have united in an attempt to establish a Professorial Chair of Astrology at either South Hampton University or Canonbury Institute.
Students are now spending more time and money on gaining astrological "qualifications". Achieving good results in their studies is important to them, but, as noted above, most of them know that their qualifications mean nothing to a TAFE, University or a Registered Private Provider. This is no longer satisfactory, as students are starting to demand wider recognition for their investment of time and money.
It is also time for astrological schools to be held accountable for the quality of their teaching and the way they treat their students, who are, after all paying customers.
I have heard too many stories of students being treated with contempt or aggression not to be concerned for the reputation of astrology and astrologers. The teaching of astrology is part of Adult Education. Adults learn differently than children, and they learn for different reasons. Adult learning styles need to be taken into account and the trainer/lecturer/educator need to be aware not only of these learning styles but also:
Ø How to plan and conduct a training session
Ø The needs of adult learners.
Essentially, what I am talking about here are the skills, qualifications and ability of the individual trainer. Practicing astrologers who have gone through a rigorous exam process are increasingly frustrated by "astrologers" who read one or two books and start consulting with clients. Yet this same body of people are content to leave the training of future astrologers to people who for the most part have no idea about the theory and practice of teaching and learning. Putting a certain number of students through exams is just not good enough as a criteria for trainers. That simply indicates that the trainer knows how to teach students to pass exams. Does that mean the students can also communicate the chart to the client?
Studying an accredited course means that the student has a guarantee:
Ø Of quality in course content, course delivery and assessment procedures
Ø That they will be fairly assessed according to the requirements of the course
Ø That their qualification will be recognised Australia wide
Ø That their qualification meets the standard of all other qualifications of a similar level
Ø That they are being provided with the skills necessary to study at a Tertiary level and establish their own business.
As noted above, what is taught is crucial, particularly if astrologers are going to have a chance of avoiding malpractice suits. While different schools will differ as to their degree of focus on one astrological technique or another, there are certain basic areas that need to be agreed on. Until we have such agreement we will be never be seen as having credibility as a profession.
In addition, students can benefit from government accreditation through the ability to apply for Austudy (if courses are full time, and I see no reason why astrology can't be taught full time) or Pensioner Education Supplement for part time students who qualify.
Government accreditation of astrology courses and registration of astrology schools means that astrology will achieve public credibility as a rigorous, scientific discipline with a guarantee of excellence in training.
It is crucial for the future of astrology that all training in astrology be conducted under the umbrella of government accreditation.
The system may not be perfect and it does mean there is a degree of institutional interference in the conduct of classes. However, this will occur only if there is some thing wrong with the training process, or if there are constant complaints about the school. At the moment there is no formal process of complaint for an astrology student if there are unhappy with their astrological training.
It is important to create a professional training body composed of teachers, students and practitioners of astrology (from ALL astrological organisations) and interested astrology clients. There are probably enough people willing to be part of such a body who can create accredited, professional and credible astrology courses. This body should also look seriously at the training and registration of all astrology teachers.
The profession should also form an industry advisory board to develop a Training Package. In other words the development of this Training Package should not be left to individual schools and associations but be an industry based, industry wide initiative. As a model we could use the massage industry. Not only did they have to overcome the kind of public prejudice astrology has - although in their case it was in terms of sexual innuendo and the implication of "massage parlours" - but they had to find ways to agree on what should be taught, how, and by whom.
Finally the professional training body, in consultation with the industry advisory board, needs to consider the teaching of astrology in TAFEs and Universities. This might be a long term goal. It may even be that Australian astrologers do not go down this road, but provide quality training through private provider RTOs. However, it is an issue worth examining.
Since 1999 when the Australasian Academy of Astrology and Allied Arts was successful in gaining government accreditation for three courses in astrology the public response has been extremely positive. Many prospective students enrol because courses are government accredited. It has often swayed the student in favour of our courses.
Initial Government accreditation was for a:
Ø Certificate 1 in Introductory Astrology
Ø Certificate 2 in Astrology
Ø Certificate 3 in Professional astrology.
In order to meet the requirements of the Australian qualification framework the courses have had to include: Ø Astrological content
Ø Written and verbal communication skills
Ø Research, essay writing and presentation skills
Ø Astrology clinics (on the job training)
Ø Managing a small business.
Our proposals were the first in Australia, and success has opened a totally new way for people to study astrology. Some of our students are receiving Pensioner Education Supplement. We have an Academic Board comprising past and present students, astrology practitioners and the head of an RTO which provides training in health education. Our next task will be to negotiate with the ARC and our CAP to further develop our courses and re-apply for accreditation at Certificate III, Certificate IV and Diploma levels.
We would like to believe that we are not alone in our hope for a better, more equitable and fully professional training program for the astrologers of the 21st Century.
ARC: Accreditation & Registration Council Policies: Re-printed 27th August 1998.
Copyright © by Janet Webber
All Rights Reserved
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JANET WEBBER is a consulting Astrologer and co-principal of the Australasian Academy of Astrology and Allied Arts. Having taught in schools and TAFE colleges for over 20 years, Janet has qualifications in Education as well as Astrology. She was co-winner of the 1997 Alan Johnson Gold Medal, having come equal top, with distinction, in Australia in the FAA Practitioners Certificate for that year. Janet is also trained in Reiki and Seichim and is currently studying for a Diploma in Professional Counselling. She can be contacted by phone: (08)82960210, by email: AstroAcademy@bigpond.com or snail mail: 54 Young Street, Seacliff, South Australia, 5049.
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