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We need to do better with teacher training

9 July 2019

3:19 PM

9 July 2019

3:19 PM

Australian teachers are underprepared for the classroom compared to those in other countries, according to a recent global survey. The result indicates initial teacher education in Australia often isn’t up to scratch.

The OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) asked teachers around the world how prepared they were after completing their teacher education degrees. And on almost every measure — including being prepared to teach specific subjects, teach mixed-ability classes, and manage the classroom — Australian teachers reported being less prepared than the OECD teacher average.

While we should not rely too much on international surveys (because teachers in different countries may answer questions differently due to varying expectations and backgrounds), the TALIS findings are consistent with existing research on Australian teacher education degrees. The evidence indicates new teachers aren’t adequately prepared to teach reading or manage student behaviour — aspects of teaching that could hardly be classified as optional extras.

This should certainly raise questions about the quality of content that taxpayer-funded universities are delivering to teacher education students. And it follows on from concerning news that almost 1 in 10 teacher education students fail a basic literacy and numeracy test, which has prompted calls to raise the standard of new teacher intakes.

The TALIS survey also asked teachers about what school spending priorities should be. Australian teachers were more likely than the OECD teacher average to prioritise reducing administrative burden by recruiting more support staff — suggesting red tape for teachers may have grown unreasonably, meaning less time can be spent on lesson preparation.

Interestingly, Australian teachers were less likely to think reducing class sizes or increasing teacher salaries should be prioritised than the OECD teacher average.

This goes to show there are many policies to improve the school system we should consider before we move to throwing even more taxpayer money at the problems. We should start by trying to improve teacher training.

Blaise Josephs is a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies and author of Overcoming the Odds: A study of Australia’s top-performing disadvantaged schools

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