Canvassing the factors that bugger up teacher's education in Australia


This article explores on the ways to improve teacher education in Australia. Effective ways to raise the status of profession and measure and improve teacher quality will be talked about as well.

Top-performing international education systems recognize that highly effective teaching improves student outcomes and value expert teaching.

While there are some reforms in development, strenuous efforts are required to lift the quality of teaching by attracting the brightest candidates into the profession and ensuring they receive the best preparation and ongoing support.

The federal government now requires teacher education students to be in the top 30% for numeracy and literacy. However, an effective teacher possess more attributes than this.

Of the almost 4,000 teaching students who undertook the literacy and numeracy test in May-June this year, 93.1% met the numeracy standard and 95.4% met the literacy standard. So this measure’s impact is minimal.

This was only one recommendation of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG), there are 38 others still in the process of being implemented.

With key recommendations around tougher accreditation standards, TEMAG’s framework challenges initial teacher education providers to develop high-quality programs that can be rigorously assessed.

Universities will need to be able to demonstrate the positive impact they have on their graduates and that their graduates have on student learning. The latter is the mark of effective teaching.

TEMAG’s recommendations are not window-dressing. A paradigm shift, deep program reform and university support will be required to tackle current problems in teaching quality.

Too many teachers

Australian Government failure to make proper workforce planning further exacerbated concerns about teaching quality in Australia. Supply is not well matched to demand. In 2012, the uncapping of undergraduate places led some universities to exploit the fact that they receive funding for as many students as they can enroll. This has been a factor in the oversupply, giving the impression universities use teaching courses as a “cash cow”.

The federal government can foster quality teaching without increasing total funding by investing prudently in the best evidence-based teacher education programs. This is how it would also be possible to get the better of the ethical issue of preparing teachers who have little chance of being employed.

Undersupply of specialist teachers

Despite general oversupply, Australia is also facing dearth of geography, language, computing and history teachers, as well as secondary physics, maths and chemistry teachers, and qualified teachers in some regional areas.

Consequently, more than 17% of secondary science teachers and 20% of secondary mathematics are unqualified in their field. Without even year 12 training in these fields, many science and maths teacher lack the ability to spark enthusiasm for these subjects in their students. This is why TEMAG recommended the introduction of specialist maths and science primary teachers.

Undervalued Profession

To attract the highest-quality entrants, we also require to hold teachers in high esteem.

Unarguably, teaching is deemed to be most challenging of all, yet unlike Finland where teachers command respect as much as doctors, in Australia people hardly recognize that teaching deserves the same respect and trust as other reputed professions. Finland also calls for graduate teaching qualifications.

Graduate students bring real-world experience, including deep analytical thinking, disciplinary knowledge and personal maturity. These are more powerful attributes for selection than the year 12 Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

In a recently released discussion paper, The Victorian government flagged the prospect of graduate-only entry into teaching courses.

This would follow in the footsteps of the South Australia government, which intends to require all teachers to have completed a graduate-level teaching degree. The state will also require government schools to preference the employment of graduates with master’s or double-degree teaching qualifications.

Prospective teachers need to see a career progression to attract the best candidates. Using the current lead teacher and accomplished teacher categories but linked with an appropriate pay level progression would be a good start.

Teachers play a pivotal role in improving student outcomes. We require not only to lift course and graduate standards, but also to ensure that teachers are well assisted so they can contribute fully as highly developed experts in a widely respected profession.