Improving teacher quality will be the key element in the Federal Government’s efforts to raise the academic performance of Australian students.
On Thursday, Education Minister Alan Tudge launched a review of initial teacher education courses, which he said was the most critical element in arresting declining learning outcomes – particularly in reading, maths, and science.
The six-month review will be conducted by a panel of education experts, led by former Department of Education and Training secretary Lisa Paul.
Malcolm Elliott, president of the Australian Primary Principals Association, Derek Scott, 2019 Australian School Principal of the Year awardee, and Bill Louden, emeritus professor of education at the University of Western Australia, were also appointed as committee members.
The panel will be tasked to find ways on how to attract talented candidates into the profession and prepare them to become effective teachers.
“The recommendations of this review will help ensure we attract high-quality, motivated candidates into teaching and develop them into teachers with the skills our students need,” Tudge said in a statement.
“We want the finest students choosing to be teachers and we also want to make it easier for accomplished mid- and late-career individuals to transition into the profession, bringing their extensive skills and knowledge into our school classrooms.”
The review follows Tudge’s announcement last month that outlined sweeping reforms to lift declines in Australia’s academic standards by 2030.
Australian students have been dipping in the rankings in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) since the early 2000s, recording their worst performance in 2018 when they failed to exceed the OECD average in maths while registering a decline in both science and reading.
However, some educators are already questioning the merits of the review.
Rachel Wilson, associate professor and an expert in education program evaluation from the University of Sydney, told the Sydney Morning Herald that a wider review of the whole education system was required to improve the declining academic outcomes.
“Tinkering isn’t going to fix it. We need a broader review and bolder reforms to the structures of the schooling system,” she said. “We need a cross-party coalition and 10-year plan to address the issues we are facing.”
Professor Michele Simons, president of the Australian Council of Deans of Education, said the that while the latest review had merit, it needs to look beyond initial teacher training and cover undergraduate and postgraduate education qualifications.
“We actually need to look at things like providing quality professional learning for all teachers, regardless of their stage of career,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Rather than just concentrating on graduate teachers, which make up a very small proportion of the overall teaching workforce.”