- Correspondence Education in Australia: Part 1
I recently obtained a qualification in accounting and bookkeeping in Australia. In English, there are four levels of A qualifications in accounting, from 1, the lowest, up to 4. I obtained a “Certificate 4,” which, however, is not the highest level. “Diploma” is the next level up, where you learn higher level specialized knowledge. Then even higher is the bachelor's degree, followed by the postgraduate degrees: the master’s and the doctoral degrees. They say that a Certificate 4, the one I got, usually takes one to one and a half years of study, but I took the course by correspondence and studied in between work. I was worried because I had no experience in correspondence education in Japan, I didn't know how correspondence education works overseas, and the study was in English, but somehow, I managed to finish the course alright and I got my qualification. Like Australian citizens, permanent residents in Australia receive tuition assistance from the national government and get a certain percentage off tuition fees. Single mothers and people receiving a pension, such as retirees, can get additional assistance from the government. Tuition support is available from the Queensland government for the course that I took if you have a letter of recommendation from your employer. After I paid the tuition fee and submitted all the necessary documents, I received an email with the website that I would be using for the correspondence course. The way it works is that you logon to the website, complete each of a total of 13 subjects, and if you pass all of them, you become eligible for the qualification. Then, just when it was time to start studying and I was all fired up, first I had to pass a test, a test that determines whether the students taking the course are suitable for it or not. There were three suitability tests, one of them being Work Health and Safety, a course where you learn about safety standards in the workplace when working in Australia. This is a course stipulated by the government that all students, even across different qualifications, must take. Then there was a test of communication proficiency in English. And the other test was a simple arithmetic test. The safety standard test involved reading a text and finding answers, and I managed that straight away. The arithmetic test was simple—just multiplication, subtraction, division, and reading graphs. But the problem was the communication proficiency test in English. This test involved three people including myself playing roles in a scenario given beforehand, having a conversation in English, recording it, then submitting the recording. I think I did interviews when I was studying at school, but this was a correspondence course, so the procedure involved sending the recording of the conversation. The scenario set by the college was that I was a bookkeeper and I was proposing to the owner and the accountant of a small company that they use some recommended accounting software. I had to record at least 10 minutes of conversation, and I had to think up the whole of the scenario myself. A 10-minute conversation is surprisingly long. What would we talk about for ten minutes? I was quite worried, but because I was already using accounting software at work, I vaguely knew the advantages and how it worked, so creating the scenario went better than I thought it would. What’s more, this test was not marked on any of the specialized knowledge or details of the accounting, bookkeeping, and accounting software in the conversation, so making a mistake with that wasn’t a problem. The important point was whether I would be able to communicate well, understanding the other people’s wishes and opinions and expressing my own opinions smoothly in English, so I practiced the lines I had written over and over before the recording. Under normal circumstances it might be better in terms of testing English communication skills to decide only a loose outline of the conversation and respond naturally without rehearsing, but I didn't have the confidence to speak fluently in English for 10 minutes, so I wrote everything up in a script (LOL). I finished the script, invited two of my Australian friends, and got them to play the roles of the owner of the company and the accountant. Somehow, we managed to have a 10-minute conversation, and thankfully, I passed the test in one go. I had successfully completed the preparations to start studying for the certificate. I remember that I was more anxious than excited because I had to clear such hurdles even before I started studying, so I could expect that the course was going to be long. In Part 2, I would like to tell you about the actual procedures involved in taking the correspondence course.