By Tania Aspland
This week’s release of the Grattan Institute Report on attracting high achievers into teaching was a breath of fresh air as it moved the focus of the education debate onto much needed improvements in the remuneration, career pathways and status of teachers.
Usually our members, who teach Australia’s future teachers, are targeted by proposals to “fix” Australian education, rather than be trusted to prepare quality graduates. The most prominent of these is, of course, raising the Australian Tertiary Admissions Ranking needed for entry into teacher education, as has happened already in Victoria and New South Wales.
What is rarely reported is that changing the ATAR requirements will not affect the three out of four university students who come into teaching through non-ATAR pathways.
As we show in an animation and accompanying maps the ACDE released this week, there are many routes into teaching that take into account academic standing and many personal traits, emotional intelligence, and the work and life experiences so essential in teaching.
Yes, we would love more high academic achievers to apply to teach but, as the Grattan Institute report highlights, high academic achievers, who may not necessarily be great teachers, place great value on the pay and status of their chosen profession.
Teachers in public schools are registered and employed by states and territories. So, it was heartening to see Victorian Education Minister Merlino support some of the report’s recommendations.
We welcome all moves to attract more good candidates into teaching because if we don’t stop teacher education applications and enrolments from continuing to fall off a cliff, we will have major teacher shortages well beyond current shortages in specific areas.
Moves to improve attractiveness of teaching to high achievers are a welcome start but they are only one piece of the puzzle.
Other issues include the need to address the huge gender imbalance in teaching; how to encourage marginalised and disadvantaged cohorts who are under-represented in our increasingly diverse classrooms and more teachers to work in regional and rural Australia.
Professor Tania Aspland, is president of the Australian Council of Deans of Education