RASA has submitted our response to the ACMA consultation paper on the future of amateur radio examinations.
We would like to thank all those who sent us submissions. All submisisons were very valuable and have been incorporated in the paper.
De-identified versions of the submissions may be found at the end of this article.
The Executive Summary of the RASA response follows. A link to download the full RASA response may be found after the Executive Summary.
RASA recognises that the current arrangements for amateur examinations, put in place in 2009, have become out-dated, inefficient, expensive and have created significant discourse and inconsistent performance outcomes for the Sector and the Regulator.
RASA sought the view of the Sector via email, our bulletins and website.
It is noted that the ACMA indicates a strong preference for a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in all three Approaches proposed in the Consultation Paper.
It is our view that Amateur Radio is neither a vocation nor a trade. Amateur Radio qualifications are not formally recognised for paths to further education or employment. Amateur radio is a hobby and community service activity and, as such, the rigour, cost and impost that are inherently a part of the RTO model are not necessary to meet operational and technical qualification obligations.
However, ACMA’s regulatory obligations require a level of rigour and inspection to ensure integrity and auditability. It is noted that the existing system has suffered significant operational shortcomings and compliance issues.
The Sector seeks a model that:
- is financially viable for candidates and places no additional cost on the regulator;
- is responsive, efficient, accessible and uses 21st century service delivery platforms; and
- provides ACMA with an adequate level of oversight and regulatory compliance.
The RTO model, whilst robust, only adds cost and overhead to what is a not-for-profit Sector.
The United Kingdom ( UK) model has provided good boilerplate development for the hobby of Amateur Radio in Australia for many years. Indeed, the design of the Foundation Licence and the Vocational model for assessment was derived from the UK. It is to be noted that Ofcom has successfully moved away from the UK VET/TAFE involvement in assessment to a model based within Amateur radio.
RASA suggests the ACMA consider a model similar to that practiced in the UK. Such a model avoids the impost of an RTO, but still provides regulatory oversight for a government regulator with similar obligations to that of the ACMA.
This suggested model satisfies the needs and aspirations of the Sector, those being value for money, responsiveness, accessibility and compliance. The delivery and regulatory platform has been tested and proven in the UK.
RASA believes a model based on the UK experience would satisfy the regulatory requirements placed on the ACMA by the ITU, as well as meeting the expectations of the Sector and its stakeholders.
Download the full RASA response
The following texts are originals of submissions that had been sent to RASA. Note that the views expressed may not represent the views of RASA.
For clarity, the colour of the text alternates between submissions.
This is a bit random.
I am in the process of doing technician, general and extra ARRL exam study because I wanted to sidestep the Australian system.
What I have noticed about the US system is that it is about conveying the minimum amount of knowledge to operate appropriately and within the law as a radio amateur. The training appears focused on passing the exam with enough surrounding knowledge to put it into perspective.
What they are not trying to do is teach you to be an electrical engineer, if you want to go on and build and make complicated electronic circuits then that is something you can learn to do as part of the hobby, its not something you need to be taught to operate within the hobby.
Previously I had started the training for the Advanced license from that radio school in Sydney and after about 10 assignments I abandoned it because I had done all the work at TAFE back in the 90s and it was taking weeks and weeks which interfered with my two jobs.
As an example:
A 20 question assignment on the differences between primary and secondary cells probably could have been condensed down for 99% of people to:
- Usual series / parallel combinations and caution about mixing batteries of different Ah together.
- Don’t try to recharge primary cell batteries.
- Always charge a secondary cell battery using a charger that is designed for the chemistry of the cell.
- Charge wet cell ventilated Lead Acid batteries in a well ventilated space.
- How long will a battery of xx Ah supply a current of yy amps.
- Use fuses, batteries have no off switch.
I am guessing most hams don’t need to know about:
- Battery internal construction.
- Internal resistance and temperature coefficients.
- Mol, Coulombs, redox reactions.
Perhaps a total of 7 multiple choice questions on an exam.
So now where am I? A summary:
- The exams to only cover the minimum safe knowledge and legals.
- Take it out of the hands of RTO, move it into the hands of a ACMA/RASA/WIA volunteer organisation.
- Publish some damm text books, the Americans shit all over us on that account.
- Move the training online.
- Do online examinations using modern tech and trust people in remote locations to not cheat. At the end of the day it’s their arse if they break the law.
- Focus on getting people on the air and operating with some understanding, I see this over an over again, 99% of people are going to buy a commercial radio they are not going to build one. Those that are inclined to do so will do their own study.
I think that is it.
I studied very hard for my Advanced licence, and being totally blind, I mean it was hard. I passed my exam with a score of about 95%. I did my exam in the presence of xxxxxxxx and remotely with xxxxxxxxx. I was very disappointed that the final exam result merely shows pass or fail, rather than the percentage. I know the reason for this thrust in modern education in general but honestly it is no incentive for those who actually work really hard at the course, to not have their efforts properly recognized. Surely someone who gets 95% and someone who just passes have different qualifications and should be recognized so. In any case, while the current system is good, there are obviously issues for remote exams and even in my case, issues with accessing material in alternate formats such as electronic or Braille.
I’d like to see online exams considered, but have concerns in terms of the diagrams. People like myself required either someone to describe the diagram or to draw it in a raised format which is not possible when doing an online exam. I would thus like to see the system made flexible whereby most or all of the exam can be done online, with certain questions being optionally done in the presence of a facilitator. Alternatively, the exam pool questions could be rewritten such that questions with diagrams have adequate wordy descriptions. In any case, I do not want to see the watering down or simplification of the three levels of license. Ultimately, the traditional method of studying for an exam, doing trial exams, then doing a final exam is still superior to other modern methods where one may learn something in short term memory but forget it rapidly after the exam period.
Just my two cents worth.
<name & callsign supplied>.
There is considerable scope for improving the way in which Amateur exams are being conducted in Australia, without adding to operational costs, exam fees or diminishing the standards of the license.
The exam process is the front door to the Amateur Radio. If we can render the process more inviting, it will directly translate into improved uptake of the hobby by the next generation of operators.
The proposals listed here are quite separate in nature. They can be discussed, accepted or discarded, each on its own merit. However, the logical order in which these reforms are described could reduce implementation hassles.
The consultative process
We could ask a hundred people about how they think the exams ought to be run and receive one hundred answers, often diametrically opposed. Ultimately it will come down to a consultative process where opinions fall into categories and hopefully a consensus will emerge that is financially productive, acceptable to a majority of Amateurs and acceptable to the ACMA.
The biggest Examination resource is the present pool of Assessors around the country. They understand better than anyone the things that frustrate prospective operators. If you are looking for a new plan, send some of the new ideas to this group via email as a starting point. Let them make comment on these ideas and allow them to add some ideas of their own. What you receive back from that process can be collated and ought to form the basis of a Reform Plan. This is probably a reasonable way forward.
A Wrong Direction
This is a personal perspective and should be treated as such, but I observed at the 2017 WIA AGM Forum
that a few people liked the idea of integrating progressive course work as part of a future exam process. I think this is a really bad idea and the wrong way to go for several reasons. Fundamentally, we are not a university with a network of paid and accredited instructors, so having coursework assessed would be very slow to measure and authenticate and would descend into a costly administrative nightmare. You would probably loose lots of your assessors, not encourage more of them. Having said that, my key objection is the way it would alter the nature of our qualification. Historically and around the world, Amateur Radio licenses are granted when a person reaches a fixed threshold. On one side they are an operator, on the other they go back to try again. Many candidates already have advanced skills and it would be insulting to force them into course work when they can pass the exam outright. Many candidates would refuse their involvement. Amateur exams remain one of the few tangible qualifications that a person can get by proving their knowledge on the day. If we must encourage more people into the hobby, it is by providing more and easier opportunities for them to reach and retry for the necessary pass marks. Getting candidates to wade through a sea of designated course work won’t do that.
- Consolidation of Standard and Advanced examination processes.
Presently we must maintain two different question banks. Standard and Advanced. This generates a lot of additional work for all involved and is not the best approach for the candidates. It begins when a person studying for their Amateur Exam and must make a choice about where their skill level is. They can sit for the Standard exam or for the Advanced exam. Exam events don’t happen very often in much of the country. If the candidate thinks that they may be ready for the Advanced, but miss out by a small amount, then they get nothing for their effort and further delay getting on the air. If instead they take the safe path by going for the Standard license, then they could get on-air, but have to go through the whole process again to try for the Advanced at another time. The proposal is that the two license standards share the same exam paper. If the candidate reaches 70% or higher, then they qualify for the Advanced pass credit as they do now. If they reach a lower threshold (say 56-58%) then they qualify for the Standard pass credit.
- Candidates only ever need study a single theory exam syllabus, not two of them. This is more inviting to a prospective new operator thinking of entering the hobby.
- If the candidate is good enough on the day, they pass their Standard theory. If they are better,they pass the Advanced theory on the same paper. This is a much more satisfactory and less frustrating approach for the candidate. (some candidates presently try to sit both exams on the same day, but often the assessors don’t have enough time available to accommodate that request.)
- If the candidate is sufficiently skilled, they only have to pay for one theory exam, not two. Assessors only need to present or order a single exam type. The total number of exams that may have to be run may fall slightly, but yield better outcomes.
- Office staff processing the exams only need to consider the single exam format.
- The work involved with updating and maintaining exam question banks only needs to be focused on one exam type, not two.
- There would need to be a consolidation of some questions in the Advanced question bank in order to reconcile the different license requirements. This would require some small amount of once-only work, but it is achievable.
- A study would need to be done to identify the appropriate ‘Standard’ thresholds in Advanced exams. For example a trial group would be asked to sit several of each exam type to find where 70% in a Standard exam would be on an Advanced paper. (Anecdotally, this would be around 56%, but a short study would be able to identify the true threshold.)
- Internet based exams for Standard and Advanced licenses
With the present model, the administrative time taken to process a single candidate at an exam event is onerous, often as long as the exam itself. Where several candidates are being examined at the same venue, there is a lot of unnecessary candidate wait time while all the forms are filled out sequentially.
This proposal suggests that an assessment can take place at a convenient location for the Assessor and the Candidate where there is internet access with sufficient bandwidth to support a web camera. If the preceding concept of combined Standard and Advanced exams are adopted, the Online model becomes simpler and less costly to implement. The process would go something like this:
- We retain (or expand) our present list of examiners with the various clubs and divisions.
- An Internet site is established with on-line exams for both theory and regulations to the existing threshold standards.
- These will be real exams with automated on-line marking facilities and a pass/fail announcement at the end of each test, but they can only be initiated by the authorised examiners who must remain present for the duration of the exam.
- To stage an event a PC with simple web cam attached to the USB port is needed. The web site is accessed, a fee is collected from the candidate, the examiners check the candidate I.D., they enter these details (with their designated passwords) into the system, along with a head & shoulders image from the web cam of both the candidate and the Assessor. This Web-based Exam is then conducted under assessor supervision, similar to the way it is supervised now and a Pass/Fail result appears on screen at the end of the event.
- If they fail, the attempt is logged with the web site and the candidate can try again at the examiners The next day or week – whatever.
- If they pass, they get to select a callsign from the on-line database and a 20 day license falls out of the adjacent printer, complete with photo. The successful candidate then pays the license fee via credit card form. The assessor endorses the temporary license and the new operator goes home with a usable callsign. A similar process presently happens with car licenses. Industry also does this with vehicle insurance policies where temporary insurance is granted by phone for a few weeks while final documentation is posted to the client.
- The Assessors then email the completed application to the WIA National office, who check the exam fee, confirm all identities (Examiner images are compared against file photo’s) and simply forward the license application portion to the ACMA who generate a formal certificate & license to post to the candidate in the normal fashion. The ACMA would almost certainly prefer to receive these license applications as a regular bundle from a single source rather than intermittent correspondence they receive now from around the country. It would provide a significant productivity gain for them.
With such a system the workload in the Examination office is greatly reduced, as other than collecting statistics
from the examination web site, they only need to perform a small amount of work for processing successful candidates. Few resources are expended in processing unsuccessful candidates. Thereafter, exam events could be more spontaneous, requiring a lead time that is limited only by Assessors convenience. Provided the internet is available, exams could be held in a quiet Club venue, or even at a Hamfest event. If Internet access is difficult, most provincial libraries would be cooperative in providing the quiet on-line environment needed to stage an exam. (Many libraries encourage this sort of use of their resources.)
This approach would make a large difference to the number of exams being held, for less workload. Even when candidates fail, there will be reduced stress and tension as they walk away with the result, rather than waiting a month or more for news of failure.
Presently the process itself deters and infuriates many genuine would-be amateurs to the point that they have walked away from the hobby, never to return. Another aspect of this proposal is the additional interest it will generate. Amateurs generally pride themselves on embracing new disciplines, Internet based exams would be an example of sensible use of this new technology.
- The Exam Question Bank
With our present system we have a large question bank which forms the source of exam papers. This is a closed bank and candidates and educators alike have no access to it. Over many years I have assisted more than one hundred students through Standard and Advanced exam training via radio club classes. I have seen first hand what motivates potential amateurs, I have seen how the system has treated them, and I have seen what makes them walk away. There are three important issues that must be addressed in conjunction with any proposed examination system – Internet based or otherwise.
- Question Bank Access
As the exam question bank is not presently available for viewing, it places significant pressure on exam candidates and instructors. It is extremely difficult to give candidates a representative view of what they will encounter in an exam situation. The degree of difficulty of many trial papers presently in circulation is greatly misleading. Many exotic and unreasonable questions have crept into the question bank and class instructors, never being able to view exam papers, have difficulty in adequately preparing their students for them.
It is important that this information be made available to both students and instructors. This should not be seen as quest to reduce technical competency, but as a valid educational aid. It is unlikely that students would achieve a 70% pass threshold purely through attempting to memorise 700+ questions. (If this were possible then arguably, the candidate would deserve a pass mark)
- Relevance of Questions
The 20 week Advanced classes I have previously conducted have been based upon known syllabus material. They have been extensive and candidates work hard. At the end they sit the exam and hope to pass. I have often been asked about the relevance of questions encountered in exams. Typical of this is ‘Why do amateur operators need to be examined on things like geostationary satellites and the rotational speed of the sun?’ I have never been able to provide a reasonable answer to some of the questions that are encountered.
It is not simply a question of standards or degree of difficulty. It is the appropriateness of empowering prospective amateurs with the skills and safety standards consistent with promoting the art of communications as a hobby. At some point there must be acceptance that a new amateur need not know everything about everything, and in some areas it is sufficient that they can find the information if it is needed.
Question: Does a prospective new amateur need to be conversant with Packet Radio protocols and repeater construction, or would it suffice that they can access this information if and when they needed to know.
When would-be Amateur candidates see these gratuitously irrelevant questions in trial papers, it provides a greater rationale for them to cast the entire amateur exam process aside as arbitrary obstructionism and find something better to do with their time. It is contentious, but I believe it is essential to candidates and educators alike that the question bank of any amateur exam be placed in the public domain – even if this requires an expansion of the bank to a larger size.
- Examination Consistency
This is a fairly slippery topic to address, but important nonetheless. It comes to pass that some exam papers are harder than others. I appreciate that questions extracted from the question bank are taken in a pseudo-random way from appropriate categories, but the fact remains that some papers presented to candidates are most certainly harder than others, by a good 10 to 15% margin. It is a condition that has both infuriated and alienated more prospective amateurs than any other. It is not just an anecdotal observation, but the result of consulting many exam candidates over an extended period. A real example from recent exams: an Advanced candidate had been studying hard for some time, (one who was not prone to exam jitters and mental blocks) he then attempted and passed six consecutive trial papers, including those taken from the ‘AR’ newsletter and the W.I.A website. The lowest score was 82% of the necessary 70% pass threshold. The candidate then sat and failed the real exam. Others candidates whom had averaged between 50-60% in the same trial papers have gone on to pass a subsequent real exam event.
I have asked candidate groups (in general terms) after exam events, how they have found their paper. There is always a consensus that a number of questions are ‘easy’ and some are ‘hard’ or ‘tricky’. A bad paper is one that has a disproportionate number of ‘hard’ questions. Naturally this is a subjective response tied to the material most or least studied by the candidate, but beyond that consideration is an arbitrary degree of difficulty that can swing either way.
What can be done to improve this situation?
Here are two solutions that may help. One is to implement the strategy of allowing specific poor questions to be altered or removed from the question bank. (as detailed below) This would have the effect of rounding off the silly and obscure questions that are habitually encountered. The second approach affects the question bank more directly. Questions in the computer question bank are held in categories so that would-be exam papers generated from the bank have the right mix of topics. Another factor needs to be attributed to each question: relative degree of difficulty. If a panel of say three or four people were to read and rate each question in ‘degree of difficulty’ on a simple 1 to 5 scale, an aggregate of that figure would be stored as a flag against each question. When the computer is called upon to generate an exam from the bank, it must continue to choose questions from each category until the combined difficulty value falls between two predetermined thresholds.
This process sounds more difficult than it is, but it would be a simple function of programming within the exam database. Once implemented, it would be transparent to the observer, but would go a long way in restoring confidence and integrity to Amateur Radio candidates.
- A Forum for changes to the Question Bank
One of the inherent difficulties in maintaining an examination process dependent upon a bank of questions is maintaining its relevance and integrity. With the present system it is extremely difficult to complain about or challenge any exam question because the very people who train candidates and administer examinations have no access to its content. While we must be very careful about maintaining exam integrity, it should not mean that the process is frozen. We are collectively ignoring one of our best resources; our nationwide network of radio clubs. A more consultative process is needed. A suggested way of achieving this is:
- Each radio club in the country would have the option of putting forward an individual to be available in the nominal role of an Exam Content Consultant. Both Clubs and individuals would have the capacity to submit that an exam question is unfit or unreasonable. In doing so, they must offer an alternative wording for the suspect question. In the case of a question being deemed ‘irrelevant’, the alternative question may simply be a new question from the same general category.
- At intervals of approximately six months, suspect questions would be sent from the National office as a block (by Email) to the Exam Content Consultants who would simply accept or reject the alternative wording. A majority consensus of the recommended change would dictate whether the change is accepted or not.
- The revised/replaced questions would then be introduced to the question bank. Should Internet based exams become a reality, the changes would be available for immediate use. Such a process would not be difficult or onerous to implement. Most clubs would enjoy the opportunity to contribute to a national effort. Not only would it be a truly consultative process, it would be seen to be a consultative process by amateurs across the country.
As previously indicated, these notes represent a personal perspective only. It challenges many existing ideas and as such becomes a starting point when debating new systems with all the key players. One thing is for sure. The existing system is not friendly to candidates, Assessors or the WIA administration. We need to fix this if we wish to maintain or increase fresh involvement into Amateur Radio.
<name and callsign supplied>
Some thoughts from me for the consolation
I do not know much about the current WIA process ( i got my license here from my USA license)
As a ARRL VE and the stories i have heard, i do know that the process here is very expensive and it seems like a lot of paperwork is required. Both for the examine and the examiner.
I think the exam maker program is good as it allows examiners the ability to print their own exams as they need. It does cost in printing, but this can be offset by the money the examiners can receive from the fees. Although there may be some cost to set it up, this will decrease costs over the long run.
I am sure others have already thought of this, but wanted to throw in my thoughts.
I will encourage some others I know (with more knowledge about the current process) to email some thoughts to you. 73
<name and callsign supplied>
I have been an Amateur Radio Operator for only 2 years, so the exams processes are still reasonably fresh in my mind.
Obviously, we need to attract (young) people to this “hobby”, and I would think that given the current state of “the-poor-getting-poorer”, for the introduction of new hams, where finances are concerned, that needs to be kept to a bare financial minimum.
Maybe, if at all possible, make the Foundation Licence (entry level) a “Free Exercise” (including the first year licence). I would reckon that this would give people at least a chance to experience this wonderful “hobby”, and hopefully give them incentive to progress to higher level licences.
My Foundation exams experience was through the GGREC, and because there was “no cost” involved for the exam process, it gave me the incentive to “jump-right-in” (I have been on a “disability pension” for 30 years and that ain’t fun financially). Payment for the test and licence was a bit of a shock though … I pulled my belt in a little
Bullet Point #1 : RTO sounds too much like $$$ to me. This is a “hobby” after all, we are not sitting for our Car Licence test. I would think, given that we live in the age of the Internet, that on-line tests would be the best way to go. Something like the example tests that the “amateurradio.com.au” put on.
Bullet Point #2 : Make the on-line exam a “one-shot” timed process, similar to the way the current process works. The applicant would have an official account, and could only take one test per week or whatever time-frame seems fair, till they succeeded. After all, we all need to keep learning anyway, so once the time frame expired the applicant could then retake the test. And only the “Passed” exam to be charged for, if a fee for the exam really needs to be in place.
And as for the applicant having the “answers” with them, most of us, if we were to be working on a project, would be “checking” the answers as we progress toward completion of the project anyway. So I could never understand this “you need to have a ‘good’ memory” process when it comes time for an exam. Given that exams usually have a ‘time-limit’, anyone that has no idea about the subject being examined, would be hard pressed to do the research during the exam anyway. So why be concerned that “They-May-Cheat” just because someone has brought their notes along? Even if the applicant had an ‘elmer’ sitting with them, so what? Would not the ‘elmer’ be a ‘bonus’ to the applicant in the long run? (Sorry for the rant – as you may be able to tell, I am not a teacher, and I have the worst memory of anyone, but, I still love to lean new stuff and this “hobby” is such a ‘rabbit-hole’ of fun things to learn [smiles])
Bullet Point #3 : The exams, if taken on-line, should be part of the database system that looks after the whole Amateur Licencing arrangement, so that the results would be automagical, and there would be no need for an “examiner” as such, maybe just an ‘elmer’. If the applicant is successful with the test, the licencing process would just continue to the “what is your preferred call-sign” part, and then, if still needed, proceed to the payment section. Most of us do our banking in a similar way (on-line), and there is no “real” teller to watch over us there.
Bullet Point #4 : Sorted !! (see above suggestions) — No Internet at home? Go visit a friend.
Bullet Point #5 : Sorted !! (see above suggestions)
Friends, I may have this wrong, but we definitely need to make this easier and cheaper if we are to keep this wonderful “hobby” alive. Young people especially do not seem to have any idea what we are on about, generally speaking, when it comes to AR. And then tell them that they have to take a “payed for” licence exam to start into this “hobby”, I think will turn most away to “easier/cheaper” fun things to do. Once they understand this “hobby”, they will be happy to spend their money, but not before. I guess what I am trying to say is, make it a fun experience to “get-in”, not a “boy, did that cost me” experience.
73 and all the best.
<name and callsign supplied>
My thoughts on the future of Amateur Radio Exams in Australia
Is the RTO model the most effective way to provide examinations?
I think that the RTO model is the most effective way to provide learning, and should account for Instruction (courses) and for Examinations, which should be set up by ACMA as a computer driven multichoice questionaire. RTO Instructors would become Examiners and/or Associate Examiners as required (see below). Both RASA and the WIA have the expertise to set up suitable course structures to end with examinations at the desired level for both new and upgrading operators. The ACMA part in this would be to set up a computer driven exam process which is self marking. This way no preference could be given to either a RASA or a WIA candidate during the process (see below).
If we move away from an RTO model, how do we guarantee integrity of the examination process?
Examinations should be computer based where the applicant logs into the ACMA system to sit their exam after being given a link by the ‘Examinations Officer’. The ACMA would set up a question pool for each level of licence and questions would be taken at random from that pool for each individuals exam – this means that two examinees sitting next to each other could have entirely different questions for the same level, or could in fact be sitting different levels of exam. Course Instructors would be present during the examination as Examiners. The questions supplied and the answers given should be stored in the system for a period of time (say 12 months) in the event that queries arise. This also means that there is no favouritism between RASA and WIA candidates, since the questions are chosen by the system rather than by the RTO or Examiner. Remote Examinations would also be possible with this format (see below).
Should examiners be members of the organisation contracted to deliver exams by ACMA?
Instructors and/or Examiners should be a member of the RTO organisation conducting the course or exam. Further to this – they should be members of an education unit within that organisation. There should also be Associate Examiners who can sit and observe the process during remote examinations. Associate Examiners must be a member of the RTO and also should be registered in the Education Unit within that organisation.
How do we make exams available to candidates in remote areas?
Examinations should be made available via internet video calls (e.g. Skype) where an Examiner in a major center oversees the process and a remote Associate Examiner attends with the student as an observer of the process and perhaps also to help with question wording and/or meaning. The remote Associate Examiner’s primary task is to ensure that there are no ‘external influences’ (cheating) affecting the process. The student sitting the examination would be given a computer link by the Examiner to select an exam for the level being tested, from the pool and compiled them into a multichoice online document for the exam. The ‘system’ would be coded to provide an immiediate answer to the examination once complete and submitted.
How can we streamline the process and keep costs down?
The ‘system’ for examination should be set up and maintained by ACMA, since they would have access to programmers with the needed expertise. Operation of the Examination system would be restricted to members of the Education units of registered RTO’s.
While the ACMA is directly involved in the startup of this process, it would have no further involvement in the exam process unless they decide to add to or change the question pool at a later stage. The ACMA should set a suitable fee for an examination (which will go directly to ACMA), and the RTO conducting the exam may add a local fee if they choose.
Obtaining Certificates and Callsigns
A Certificate of Proficiency for the level attained would be issued by the RTO organising the exam after an examination has been passed. In the event that only one RTO sends out CoP’s (e.g. only the WIA) they must be prepared to work alongside other RTO’s, rather than see them as competitors or as as opposition.
Applications for Licences and Callsigns could also be handled by both RTO’s in the same manner they are now, on a first come first served basis. In the case of two organisations (e.g. RASA and WIA) handling callsigns, they must work together in the spirit of Amateur Radio, rather than try to hold each other up.
<name and callsign supplied>
I plan to send in a pretty blunt submission on this topic, it might be useful (or not!) to share my views first.
This is in my view the elephant in the room, if we don’t get this right we go the way of the thylacine.
In the USA the percentage of Hams per head of population is approx 10 times here. The ARRL is seems a serious and proactive organisation. Meanwhile for donkeys years the Wallies have just sat on their hands and the current shambles is the result.
Some disorganised thoughts:
- Examinations (as separate from training/learning), Licensing, Callsigns & Enforcement belong squarely within the ACMA’s remit. Because of the not-for-profit nature of AR, putting these activities in the private domain is inappropriate.
- Training/Learning is really the Amateurs responsibility, but if the Wallies, or any other RTO can help with this, well so much the better. There needs to be clear separation of Exams & training. By all means optionally wrap them up in the same bundle, but they are separate issues.3. Presumably 1.(above) is not going to happen, but whatever happens there must be more than one solution, giving the WIA, or any other organisationa monopoly position is not in any way acceptable. So of the three unattractive options put forth by the ACMA my pick would be number three.
4. There must beAbsolute Transparency, who knows what was in the deal done between the WIA & ACMA – I dont. Commercial in confidence just doesn’t cut it, AR is not a commercial activity.
- Cost, the examination cost is far too high, my (anecdotal) understanding is that is costs > $350 to get on air, given the assessors currently donate their time for free – what gives, someone must have the fingers in the till.?
- Timeliness, again anecdotally I understand 6 weeks is not unusual between passing and being on-air….what’s wrong with Next Business Day ? Has no one at the WIA heard of internet?
- Clearly online exams is the way to go, but there needs to be alternative paper based solutions for those unwilling or unable to access the internet for online examinations. Perhaps supervised by a local JP, police, teacher etc etc.
- Callsigns and Licences need to be issued by the ACMA. Giving a private organisation the power over this is not on. ACMA can manage to issue apparatus licences for all commercial users without any trouble, why can it not manage a dribble of incoming amateurs.
Here endeth the grizzle….
Why the ACMA should take direct control of callsigns, licensing & examinations:
Clearly the ACMA recognises the current system is broken, otherwise we would not be having this discussion.
There is a view amongst some amateurs that the ACMA potentially gains from the current situation of decreasing amateur numbers and the WIA being ineffectual, because Amateurs are a just a PITA and a drain on ACMA resources. Nevertheless as long as there is still just one Amateur left licensed, he whole structure of amateur licensing and regulation has to be maintained by the ACMA.
In reality, the ACMA gains from a healthy and vibrant Amateur community pushing the boundaries of technology for the following reasons:
1. it gives the ACMA an early warning system of new comms techniques and interference issues which otherwise may slip through to the keeper.
2. AR keeps some awareness amongst the great unwashed about the importance of spectrum management, planning and control – Amateurs have friends and relatives who cannot fail to notice, query, discuss and argue about antennas poking up.
3. Essentially the ACMA and Amateurs are all on the same team in terms of maintaining the integrity of spectrum management. Without Amateur Radio, the total knowledge about spectrum management within the Australian community would be about zero.
4. AR a not insignificant revenue stream to the ACMA coffers.
5. In the bigger picture of decreasing technical skills amongst the community as a whole, it would be an irretrievable loss if Amateur radio is allowed to slide into obscurity. Its a matter of National Security if nothing else.
6. Amateurs need the ACMA and vice versa, strengthening that bond is mutually beneficial.
The ACMA has a excellent reputation for fairness and integrity amongst the Amateur community. That good standing can be even further enhanced with the ACMA demonstrating its commitment to Amateur Radio in a practical way, that is by taking control of Callsign allocation and Examinations, and in so doing remove the uncertainty, lack of transparency and under performance in the current system.
<name and callsign supplied>
As a member of an amateur radio club (ORARC) we found it impossible to conduct exams for radio licences as we only had one assessor (a NA) so we were continually trying to get assessors from other clubs to assist at (Port Macquarie) exams. That involved getting an assessor from other towns like Taree, an hour’s drive away but there only being one assessor in Taree we could not always get him to assist. That meant we had to get an assessor from Newcastle, 3 hours drive away, which we did on numerous occasions.
I have seen many prospective amateurs not sit exams because we can’t get two assessors to conduct them.
This prompted my club to call for members to become assessors, there were half a dozen volunteers who looked at the process and attempted to become assessors, but they all gave up in disgust, except for myself, and later another member had a go after I got to be an assessor, and he passed also, but he was from another town (Kempsey). This all took a couple of years for everyone to eventually give up and for the club to gain a second assessor. In the last 5 years I have lost count of the numbers who walked away from radio because they could not sit an exam or upgrade from F call to S or A call because of the lack of assessors. That is the story of our club’s hassles with assessors and exams.
Since I have become an assessor, I am stuck with being a member of the WIA or lose my assessor status, that involves having to be extorted by the WIA for member fees nearing the $100 mark. I have resigned from the WIA because of the antics of the old system/Board but re-joined after the new Board was elected, now the new Board is showing a dictatorial attitude towards any other radio organisations, plus there is the cost of membership, but my club will lose their second assessor if I do resign and we will be back to bringing assessors in from Taree, Kempsey or Newcastle, a major expense for the assessor involved.
I am an invigilator for marine radio licences and do not need a chaperone to conduct a licence exam, why does amateur radio? If there are good reasons for 2 assessors to conduct exams then there should be an alternative organisation for obtaining assessor status from, the current system is laughable and run by someone who should be remote from the WIA not a part of it, conflict of interest comes to mind in this relationship.
I cannot be more specific with my criticism of the current system without spending a lot of time going through the process again, which I do not want to do all over again.
I don’t know if this story is of help with your submission but it is our experience with the current system. I have not been able to offer any solutions other than only requiring one assessor to take exams which ACMA will probably not go for.
Why is it necessary for an assessor to have a working with children check if there must be 2 present and there are no children involved with exams?
<name and callsign supplied>