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Graduate teachers not up to scratch: Victorian government

Date

Jewel Topsfield

Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced a review into teacher education.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced a review into teacher education. Photo: Ken Irwin

Universities and colleges are failing to produce teachers who meet the needs of Victorian schools, according to the state government.

In a submission to the federal review of teacher education, Victoria says it has “higher expectations for teacher education graduates” in some areas.

Of concern was that degrees were not equipping teachers with the specialist knowledge required in literacy, maths and science.

Courses often did not devote enough attention to teaching children with special needs - this was seen as an area of specialisation rather than a core requirement for every teacher.

And classroom organisation and behaviour management skills had been consistently identified by principals as areas in which graduate teachers were often lacking.

“There are growing concerns about the capacity of providers to produce sufficient graduates with the professional skills and knowledge required to teach in contemporary classrooms.”

The submission suggests reducing the number of universities and colleges that offer teaching degrees in order to improve quality.

There are 400 courses offered at 48 institutions in Australia, including 12 universities, colleges and TAFEs in Victoria.

Victoria wants federal support to introduce numeracy and literacy tests that teaching students must pass before they graduate, as well as compulsory  practical components for all students in rural or disadvantaged schools.

It also wants a tougher selection process to ensure students have an aptitude for teaching.

An example, it says, is the Teacher Selector tool used by Melbourne University, an online test that measures personality traits such as emotional stability, conscientiousness, perseverance or grit, and openness to views of others.

Victoria’s submission comes amid anxiety over the low entry scores required to study teaching, with most top year 12 students eschewing the profession.

The average ATAR (tertiary entrance rank) for education courses in Victoria was 61.9 this year, dropping as low as 40.25 at Federation University’s Mount Helen campus.

This compares to an ATAR 98.95 for biomedicine at Melbourne University and 98 for law at Monash University.

Entry standards for teaching degrees are outside the scope of the federal review of teacher education, chaired by Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven.

But in a submission to the review, Melbourne University recommended that all teaching courses become graduate-entry rather than undergraduate degrees over time.

“A major threat to teacher status lies in the perception that less able people are being admitted into teacher education as reflected by low ATAR scores,” it said.

It also said graduate-entry degrees would mean candidates had made more mature decisions to enter teaching and would lead to the profession becoming desired by many bright undergraduates and career changers.

The submission also called for more funding for so-called clinical programs of teacher education, such as the Master of Teaching at Melbourne University, in which student teachers spend time in schools every week. 

It recommended minimum entry standards and a quota of commonwealth-funded teaching places, to control the oversupply of primary teachers and secondary humanities teachers.

And it said alternative teacher education programs should only be supported if there was evidence of their success.

“Programs like Teach for Australia - while five times more expensive than traditional programs - are increasing despite an absence of a reasonable evaluative basis to continue this support,” the submission said.

Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne last month announced an extra $22 million for the Teach for Australia program, which fast-tracks non-teaching graduates into disadvantaged schools after six weeks of initial training.

One of the academics behind the Melbourne University submission was Professor John Hattie, who was recently appointed president of the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership.

Mr Pyne said at the time Professor Hattie would play an important role in refocusing AITSL’s work to closely align with the government’s approach to teacher education.

For more education stories go to www.facebook.com.au/theageeducation

51 comments so far

  • Sorry to say this but let's look at three professions: paramedics, nurses and teachers.

    In order of highest to lowest, the average ATAR scores required for entry are: Paramedicine, Nursing, then Teaching.

    Now, the salaries from highest to lowest: Teaching, Nursing, then Paramedics.

    Look at the size of the education union and compare it to the understaffed paramedic association and you can see that union might has dictated the salaries rather than community needs and expectations.

    Paramedics are incredibly underpaid for their qualification wheras currently teachers are overpaid on average, given the current graduate quality.

    That said, the salaries for teachers should actually be much higher than they currently are, but alongside that so should the entry requirements for teaching be greatly increased. With proper funding there is no reason why teaching cannot attract the calibre of students as law - but current teachers must face the fact that a lot of them would not make the grade were this education utopia ever to occur..

    Commenter
    Matthew
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 11:25AM
    • It's frequently misunderstood that the entry requirements as such simply reflect who applies and how many places are available. The cut-off is an indicator of how low it goes before all places are filled.

      Commenter
      Patrick
      Location
      Clunes
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 1:03PM
    • Ah, yes, it's "bash the union" time again. If the AEU was as strong and militant as Matthew thinks, universities wouldn't have to drop their ATAR scores nearly as far to get enrolments into teaching courses. The poor position of paramedics has been caused by their understandable reluctance to go on strike and the ruthless determination of successive State Governments to take advantage of this reluctance.

      The low appeal of teaching courses has to be seen in the fact that the big money goes to people with medicine, law or business degrees. This has biased student demand for courses, to the detriment of the physical sciences as well as teaching. Solve this problem and you'll kill three birds with one stone.

      In addition, teaching is an occupation with a huge workload in the early years. Experienced teachers learn how to prepare lessons quickly and become a bit quicker at marking assignments, but beginning teachers are really snowed under with work. What I'd do is:

      (a) Increase salaries for teachers (especially beginning ones - flatten the pay progression somewhat);

      (b) Increase teacher status by ceasing the teacher-bashing that governments use to push through cuts to education and stonewall industrial negotiations; and

      (c) Reduce teaher workloads by removing the bulk of administrative work dumped on teachers by governments who regard them as fundamentally untrustworthy and therefore in need of micro-management.

      Give me a teacher before an Education Minister, or a Right wing pundit, any day of the week.

      Commenter
      Greg Platt
      Location
      Brunswick
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 1:56PM
    • ATAR is a rank, not a mark - an ATAR of 95 means the student is roughly in the top 5% of that year's cohort of school leaving age youth. There aren't all that many students with an ATAR o 95 or more, and there never can ... it is not a mark which could be awarded to more and more students if they tried harder. Not that many of the students who obtain an ATAR of 95 or more want to be teachers, because those students get a choice of many courses and they simply want to do other things.

      Commenter
      Andrew
      Location
      Bendigo
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 2:53PM
    • Greg we agree on more than you would like to portray.

      Firstly, we agree that union might dictates salaries. You said so yourself when linked paramedics suffering low salaries due to not going on strikes like teachers do. Unfortunately there just aren't the scores of ambos available to do it. A tiny fraction of Victoria's teachers can still easily block Bourke/Spring St's.

      Secondly, we agree that teacher's salaries should be increased. I said it in my first comment and I repeat it in case you missed it first time.

      Finally, you raised administrative burden and I agree with you on that and I am going to stretch the friendship and raise one more by assuming that we would both agree this could be helped by ditching NAPLAN.

      Our difference may come down to a chickens and eggs argument about how we may begin to lift the profession. Raise the salary and the calibre improves or raise the calibre to deserve the higher salary?

      Whichever way it is, I stick by the point I made before - quite a few (maybe a third of?) teachers would not meet the higher standard that we agree the teaching profession should be, also how it should be regarded and paid.

      Commenter
      Matthew
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 6:05PM
    • @Andrew of Bendigo - who said anything about an ATAR of 95??

      Commenter
      Matthew
      Date and time
      July 14, 2014, 10:33AM
  • As a teacher for twenty-odd years I'd like to say that no matter what you do to courses of study, e.g. lengthen, shorten, tart them up any which way you can, you will never resuscitate a profession that is still poorly paid and the always reliable whipping boy for conservative cultural warriors and even progressives who have fallen under the spell of neoliberalism.

    Commenter
    Paschali
    Location
    hong kong
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 11:34AM
    • I absolutely agree. Pay peanuts you'll get monkeys. The ATAR score for teaching should be at least 95. Starting salary for teachers should be at least $65k. Don't forget they are the ones who teach our future doctors and lawyers.

      Commenter
      Daz
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      July 09, 2014, 1:45PM
    • Daz
      Do you understand what the ATAR score really is? It's not a mark, it's a ranking. An ATAR score of 95 means the top 5% of students. There's no way there would be enough applicants for teaching from the top 5%.

      Commenter
      JayBee
      Date and time
      July 11, 2014, 7:46AM
  • *Sigh* Here we go again.

    Commenter
    Jump
    Date and time
    July 09, 2014, 11:38AM

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