Universities told to raise bar for teachers. Steve Machett
UNIVERSITIES relying on training teachers for income should “put the national interest first” by cutting enrolments of poor-quality students and closing courses.
But the call for higher standards by Brian Caldwell, a former dean of education at the universities of Melbourne and Tasmania, and a leading schooling consultant to government, is undermined by Canberra’s open-access policy, which funds a place for every Australian any university will accept.
Last year, there were 65,000 people studying teacher education across the higher education system.
According to Professor Caldwell, “teacher education faculties are the life-blood of rural universities and high standards might lead (to) their having small enrolments or no enrolments at all”.
Professor Caldwell also questioned the accreditation of university teaching courses by the commonwealth and states.In a scathing attack on government and universities, he argues that poorly trained teachers willing to work for internationally uncompetitive salaries makes it all but impossible to lift school performance.
“Universities have complained for years about not getting teaching students with maths, science and language skills, but there is no point in hand-wringing unless we are prepared to set the highest standards in teacher education,” he said.
Professor Caldwell’s calls for a root-and-branch reform to the selection and training of teachers follows Australia’s disastrous scores on international measures of primary school literacy and numeracy, released this month. Australian pupils ranked lowest among English-speaking nations for reading and lagged in maths and science.
His demand for higher-quality trainee teachers is endorsed by Lawrence Ingvarson, principal research fellow at the Australian Council for Education Research. “The recent results on primary performance were a big wake-up call. We have to attract and train better people,” Dr Ingvarson said.