A new nationwide study by Monash University has revealed high levels of public trust and value for Australian teachers.
The report, titled: ‘Perceptions of Australian schooling: What matters in 2021,’ examined the perceptions of over 1,012 Australians to develop a deeper understanding of effective teaching and schooling, while taking into consideration the current challenges faced by teachers and schools.
Seventy-two percent of those surveyed trusted that teachers' work was in the best interests of students. The report also found that 76% of respondents agreed that teachers in Australia cared for the wellbeing of their students.
Dr Fiona Longmuir, a Lecturer in Educational Leadership at Monash University, said the deep connections that the public, and particularly those connected with school communities have had through 2020-2021, have amplified these positive perceptions in many ways.
“Other research at Monash has shown the exceptional work of school leaders in facilitating such positive outcomes,” Dr Longmuir told The Educator.
“Leaders have prioritised the needs of students and families through compassionate approaches, timely and clear communication strategies, and awareness of their important roles in guiding communities in times of crisis.”
Dr Longmuir said leaders have needed to balance needs of students, families and teachers so that programs and learning continued.
“With public perceptions being so positive, we can see that they have done this very successfully.”
Covid as a catalyst for positive change
When looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the public perceptions of Australian schooling, 41.6% of respondents said their perceptions of teachers’ work had improved as a direct result of COVID-19.
A substantial majority of respondents, 91.9% also indicated the importance of students from low socio-economic households to be provided with subsidised or free access to laptops and other devices necessary to complete their schoolwork at home.
The study also found there was perceived merit in a hybrid or more flexible approach to schooling with 76.6% of participants in support of rethinking the way schools operate in the future by creating a more flexible model where students attend school but have the option to take some classes online.
Over half of the respondents (56.7%) believed the shift to remote learning during COVID-19 was successful in Australia.
Dean of the Faculty of Education at Monash University, Professor Viv Ellis, said the report offers a better understanding of the public’s perceptions of teaching and schooling in Australia.
“The findings of this study provide us with nuanced insights into the current state of education across Australia,” Professor Ellis said.
“The study identified the significant and influential role of teachers in supporting students socially and emotionally and this aspect should be centred in future discussions about the teaching profession more broadly. The findings will also contribute to evidence-based policy-making and inform public discussion and awareness about policy and practice.”