Piccoli firm over teaching benchmark
No backing down: NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli stands by his plans to set benchmarks for new teachers. Photo: Nick Moir
NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has refused to back away from his plans to set benchmarks for new teachers based on HSC results, despite universities saying they may not implement the plan.
Universities threw their support behind a Commonwealth government plan announced on Monday for new standards for teaching students which include an assessment of aptitude but do not set a minimum standard academic result.
Applicants could be screened for their suitability for teaching via methods which could include ''interviews, demonstrated values and aptitude, and a written statement.''
The move comes less than a week after the NSW government announced its own reforms aimed at improving the quality of teaching, including setting minimum HSC requirements for school leavers hoping to enter teaching degrees.
Universities Australia said institutions in NSW will not implement any proposals which conflict with the national plan.
"The significance of the federal government's intervention shifts the responsibility for achieving teacher quality to the national arena. In effect this national plan displaces the recently announced NSW plan,'' said Universities Australia's chief executive Belinda Robinson. "All universities will act on the basis of a national plan and NSW universities will not implement any proposals that are inconsistent with it.''
But Mr Piccoli said that while he hoped to work on the plans in collaboration with universities, his government would not back away from setting a ''tougher standard'' for teachers in this state.
''My interest is not in university revenues [but] in making sure we've got the best teaching possible … Singapore, Finland, Ontario, South Korea - all of the countries that outperform Australia have very high standards for entry.''
Mr Piccoli warned NSW students who studied teaching degrees and did not meet the HSC requirements would not get jobs after graduation. ''The universities can enrol them but they won't get a practicum placement and they won't be registered when they graduate.''
Like the state government, the federal government has also called for a new literacy and numeracy test that teaching graduates will have to pass before they can graduate, to demonstrate their skills are equivalent to the top 30 per cent of the population. Other aspects of the federal government plan, part of its National Plan for School Improvement reforms, include taking a national approach to teacher practicum and a review of all teaching courses by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.
School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the changes were aimed at ensuring every teacher had the ''passion'' and ''personal capacity'' to be the best teacher possible. ''It's not unusual for some universities to go through a process of asking people to write down why they want to be a teacher, to spend some time in an interview identifying their passions and their interests,'' he said.
The executive dean of education at Charles Sturt University, Professor Toni Downes, said having both plans in place would be ''the worst case scenario''.
''It would almost strangle the university sector,'' she said. ''It's going to be one of the most highly regulated professions … If the state government cared about getting the best and brightest, I think they'd go out and work on transforming the workplace, helping teachers to be more highly respected with higher rates of pay.''
Plans at a glance: Compare and contrast
School leavers must score at least a Band 5 result, or more than 80 per cent, in at least three subjects, including English.
Teaching students have to pass a literacy and numeracy test.
Graduate teachers to have a reduced workload to focus on mentoring and collaborative practices.
All teachers will have to be accredited with the NSW Institute of Teachers, and those returning to the profession after five years away will have to complete a refresher course.
A new admission process which recognises personal attributes needed to become a teacher, which could include interviews or presenting a portfolio of participation in community activities.
Teaching students have to pass a literacy and numeracy test before graduating.
An agreed practicum structure and common assessment framework.
A comprehensive review of all teaching courses by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.
Poll: Should school leavers who want to become teachers have to achieve a minimum standard in their HSC?
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