On Friday, first face-to-face meeting of Federal and State Education Ministers in more than a year will be held to chart a path out of Australia’s worsening teacher shortage crisis.
The roundtable meeting, which includes principals, teachers, academics and Federal and State Ministers, comes as Australia faces a predicted shortfall of up to 5,000 secondary teachers through to 2025.
Ahead of Friday’s meeting, a number of academics had their say on how the teacher shortage crisis should be addressed.
One of them was Prof Kostogriz, a Professor in Languages and TESOL Education at the Faculty of Education, Monash University, who has undertaken extensive research around initial and ongoing teacher education.
He says the current model of teacher workforce development has produced “a number of social and psychological side effects” which have contributed significantly to teacher attrition and have made teaching an unattractive profession.
“We need an alternative approach to workforce development that prioritises teacher capabilities, professional agency and wellbeing,” Prof Kostogriz told MCERA.
“This is possible if we shift attention away from a reductive economic model and focus instead on the intrinsic values of professional education. In other words, we need to focus us on developing the capabilities that are valued by teachers.”
Dr Meghan Stacey, a Senior Lecturer in the UNSW School of Education, is researching in the fields of the Sociology of Education and Education Policy.
According to Dr Stacey, governments need to listen carefully to what teachers are asking for and support them to do their important and complex work if they are ever going to properly address teacher shortages.
“Large scale surveys across multiple Australian states, alongside international reports from the OECD, have shown that Australian teachers are grappling with extremely high workloads, in particular when it comes to administration,” she said.
“Teachers need more time to collaborate and plan lessons. Given this lack of time, as well as the relatively low remuneration they receive and frequently derisive public commentary on who teachers are and what they do, it's worth asking: why would anyone want to be a teacher in Australia today?”
‘We must consider all viable options’
Mark Grant is the CEO of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), the organisation that supports schools with evidence-based resources to improve students’ outcomes.
He says one helpful step in addressing the teacher shortage crisis would be to adopt a national model of teacher supply and demand, as called for by both the Quality Initial Teacher Education Review and AITSL.
“This will help align demand and supply in the long term,” Grant told The Educator.
“We must consider all viable options for resolving the national teacher shortage. Our 4 million school students deserve a quality teacher in every classroom, every day.”
Grant said the national focus must be on expanding Australia’s teacher workforce to meet the demand while maintaining quality teaching, which studies have shown to be the biggest in-school influence driving student outcomes.
“Without a doubt, a key solution to solving our teacher shortage issues will come from increasing ITE commencements and improving the completion rates of those who start ITE. Currently, it’s around 80% for postgraduate programs, and less than 50% for undergraduate programs,” Grant said.
“Solutions such as recognising high quality teaching practice through certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers [paying them accordingly], attracting skilled teachers from overseas, fast-tracking teachers returning to and into the profession, bringing ITE students into classrooms regularly and with purpose and support, and targeting career changers with appropriate support to meet the national Standard will help.”