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Posts Tagged ‘academic achievement’

UN agency ranks Australia 39 out of 41 countries for quality education

Newspaper headlines like this Sydney Morning Herald headline just two days ago, is both demoralizing and disturbing.

The League Table of country performance of nine child-related goals is a serious concern, one which many a school, its administration, principals and teachers along with parents will no doubt be questioning.

Is it just lack of money being put into education?

Is it teaching standards?

Is it ill planned curriculum?

Is the curriculum too cluttered?

Just what is behind the continual slide of Australian standards, achievements and quality of education?

While answers to these questions will continue to be hotly debated, a new theory was thrown my way just yesterday:

Australians as a whole don’t value education!

Could there be any truth to this? Could attitude or lack of positive attitude to the value of education be the stumbling block to attaining quality education?

Let’s be honest here.  Despite hours of preparation, attention to detail, provision of challenging resources and superbly equipped classrooms, we’ve all had those lessons that just fall flat.  The students don’t engage with us, each other or the subject matter.  Leaving the classroom at the end of the lesson, we feel frustrated and miserable.  The most in depth analysis just can’t identify anything we, as the teacher, could have done differently.

Could it be that student lack of interest is real and is pervading not just our classroom, but the entire school and society?

Is it time perhaps, for us to be having conversations about our collective attitude to education? To be talking up achievement, the value of education and the big picture of how Australia’s future economic and business success is dependent on a well educated population?

This is a hot potato.  A very hot potato!

Even the most remote thought that our schools are populated with children who don’t give a hoot about what they are being taught or what they are learning is a very scary prospect!

 

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So ATARs are back in the news again.

Just last week I was lamenting the fact that basic literacy and numeracy skills had, for sometime, not been part of the checks made on trainee teachers before they gained certification to teach.   Within that post, I reflected on earlier posts I’d written which lamented the ever lowering ATAR required to gain entry to teacher training courses.

So it was with some interest that I read a report of James Merlino, the Victorian Minister for Education, flagging a proposal in a discussion paper launched at a recent principal’s conference, that would require students wanting to enter the teaching profession to attain a significantly higher ATAR score than is currently the case.  While not stating the cutoff threshold, Merlino has floated the idea that “an ATAR threshold or minimum study scores for English and two other VCE subjects” would be required to gain entry to teacher training courses.  In addition to this ‘radical’ idea is a suggestion that prospective teachers be assessed to determine if they possess suitable teacher qualities such as emotional intelligence, an ability to relate to children/young people and skills of collaboration, flexibility and adaptability.

Both of these per-requisites seem more than fair to me.  Not so to others though!

Sadly, the loudest to dispute the need for such measures came from university vice-chancellors the very next day:

Unis warn of teacher shortages under tougher entry hurdle push

Entry to teaching courses cannot be determined by ATAR scores alone they contend.  Many scaremongering concerns are outlined in this newspaper report:

  • use of such a ‘blunt’ instrument as ATAR scores will lead to teacher shortages
  • when such a model was adopted in New South Wales, there was a 10% drop in student enrollment in undergraduate education programs
  • teacher shortages will occur at a time when Victoria is experiencing a population boom
  • there is no correlation between a student’s ATAR and their performance as a teacher
  • entry standards based on ATAR scores disregard the relationship between socioeconomic status and ATAR scores and will hence lock the ‘poor’ out of the teaching profession

The final  outlandish point made in these duplicitous arguments comes from Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven:

Every point of ATAR that you move up, you are telling thousands of people that teaching is not an attractive thing for you to do,” Professor Craven said. “You could end up with a real collapse of the teaching workforce.” (The Age, August 16 2016)

The Australian Education Union (AEU), on the other hand, supports the lifting of standards.  Given that the AEU reflects the views of teachers working in schools, a valid comment in this discussion may be for university academics to come visit schools and take a real look at the impact of their graduate teachers on the academic levels being attained by students in our schools.  Is it possible that universities are not at all concerned with the quality of their graduates, but rather fear the flow on ramifications to the viability of programs they offer?

It is a fact that entry requirements to teacher training programs have been falling.

ATAR entry to teacher traing 2009-2016

 

Is it not blatantly clear that teachers who have struggled academically through their own schooling are going to find teaching difficult? 

While Finland’s teachers are drawn from the top 20 per cent of students and only one in 10 applicants is accepted. Singapore accepts only one in eight who make the top 30 per cent cut-off. South Korea draws from the top 5 per cent.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, January 21 2013)

 

Is it not about time that we stop discussing this issue and finally take a stand to see whether or not higher academic standards of students entering the teaching profession is a factor that can impact student academic outcomes?

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