Tougher Standards for Would-Be Teachers

Australia's most populous state proposes raising entry standards for teacher education programs, and university leaders aren't happy.

March 8, 2013

The education minister in Australia's most populous state says that university leaders who don't like his proposal to raise entry standards for entry into teacher preparation programs are out of touch.

“I don’t think the universities understand what is happening out in schools," said Adrian Piccoli, education minister in New South Wales. "The profession isn’t happy with the quality of some of the graduates who are coming out of university.”

“The universities think they are doing a wonderful job but I just don’t know that is quite matched by what schools are necessarily saying."

He said teachers, principals and the teaching unions were all pushing for higher entry and exit standards.

Belinda Robinson, executive director of Universities Australia, said teaching was the most regulated sector in Australia. She said the plan ignored the work universities do to prepare students over a four-year degree and accused Piccoli of trying to tell education faculties how to do their job.

“There is no evidence that [higher entry standards] will make the slightest difference to teaching quality,” she said.

Under the NSW government’s broader plan to improve teaching quality, from 2015 universities won’t be able to admit those leaving high school into teaching degrees unless they have scored at least 80 percent in the year 12 Higher School Certificate in three subjects, one of which must be English.

Based on last year’s results, the standard would have ruled out about 70 percent of school leavers. Nationally only about 30 per cent of students enrolled in teaching degrees gain entry based on their school scores, with the majority coming in as mature age or postgraduates, or through other pathways.

The New South Wales move will restrict the freedom of universities to offer as many direct entry teaching places as they want under the demand-driven system of uncapped federally funded places. But universities in the region will remain free to transfer into teaching degrees students who have completed a year of another undergraduate degree regardless of their HSC results.

The NSW changes also include requirements for students to take a literacy and numeracy test before graduating.

Piccoli said the NSW Institute of Teachers will review its accreditation work to assess whether teaching degrees from other states meet NSW standards.

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