Too many teaching degrees are mired in theory, lack practical training and are not equipping new teachers with the skills to teach students maths and science, a federal government review into teacher education has found.
Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven, who headed the review, said he was alarmed to discover that some teaching degrees do not guarantee any practical training before graduates enter the workforce.
In its submission, peak body the Australian College of Educators called for an ATAR cut-off of 70 for teaching degrees.
Mr Craven said some universities would be stripped of accreditation to offer teaching degrees unless they radically redesign their courses under a more rigorous approvals process recommended by the review.
"We are laying down a huge gauntlet here," Mr Craven said. "There is no doubt that some courses are substandard and will have to improve to survive.
"Some universities may stop offering teaching degrees altogether and that would be a good thing. Ironically his university enrols students with an ATAR as low as 50 which makes him part of the problem, not the solution.
The review's recommendations to improve teacher quality include:
· guaranteeing that all teaching degrees include practical training through formalised agreements with placement schools
· requiring new teachers to pass a national test placing them in the top 30 per cent of the country for literacy and numeracy
· equipping all primary school teachers with a subject specialisation, prioritising maths, science and languages
· forcing universities, as part of the accreditation process, to provide detailed evidence that their teaching courses are evidence-based and integrate professional experience with theory
"One of the worst problems we discovered is that there are some teacher education programs where students were not guaranteed a practicum,(teaching rounds)" Mr Craven said.
"Some courses offer what I would call 'dial-a-practicum': you're on your own, here are some numbers to ring up."(I had this issue with a student from Melbourne University who had to find her own school for teaching rounds)
The review finds that requiring primary schools teachers to have a specialist subject would help boost students' declining interest and performance in maths and science.
This is a worry as there seems to be a push from some toward turning primary schools into mini secondary schools. I know of schools where principals are trying to move in that direction. Primary teachers should not specialise too formerly. That would be disastrous in schools. (‘Sorry I don’t do spelling, I majored in science”) The push for teacher training rather than education is also a worry. teachers need to know the theory as well as the nuts and bolts.
In its response to the review, the federal government said: "The government does not propose any single approach such as an ATAR cut-off for entry to teaching."
The government has accepted most of the report's recommendations and will order the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to immediately overhaul accreditation standards.
The government rejected a recommendation to create a new national regulator of teaching courses (There’s a surprise!), saying it would instead use existing bodies to improve standards.