Are our trainee teachers up to the task?

Under a recent pilot test designed to evaluate basic literacy and numeracy skills, almost one in 10 trainee teachers failed to pass, a result Federal Education Minister, Simon Birmingham said was concerning.

Pre-service teachers around the nation volunteered to sit the test ahead of its rollout in 2016, when it will become compulsory for all teaching students to pass before they can graduate and register as teachers.

The results, which were released today, revealed out of the 5,000 teaching students, 92% who took part passed the literacy component and 90% passed the numeracy assessment.

However, Federal Minister for Education and Training, Simon Birmingham, said the result fell short of expectations for teacher quality around the nation.

“If the outcomes of this pilot reflected all teaching graduates, last year potentially some 1,800 teaching education students — about 10 per cent — could have graduated without having met the new benchmark,” he said.

“This test will become mandatory from next year, providing universities with a strong incentive to ensure they only accept students capable of being in the top 30 per cent of the population.”

Birmingham added that the department had to ensure that students graduating from teaching courses were able to cope with the demands of teaching and have strong literacy and numeracy skills.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) board chairman, John Hattie, said while it was good news that 90% passed, 10% failing was “too big a number” when multiplied by the number of students they could face.

“This is only the first part of a suite of proposals that are coming forth to turn around the image that teacher education is a problem,” he said.

The Australian Education Union (AEU) said the results showed the need for “rigorous entry standards” for teaching students.

AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said the test was no substitute for ensuring that teaching courses were restricted to strong academic performers.

“This test is a band-aid solution to the problem that universities have been allowed set the bar too low to enter a teaching degree,” Haythorpe said today.

“Teaching courses should be about turning high achieving students into high performing teachers, not helping students who struggled at school learn the basics before they enter the classroom.

“We need minimum entry standards for teaching degrees because as long as universities can enrol unlimited numbers of students in teaching degrees, this issue will remain.”