Monday, 15 August 2016

New hurdles for aspiring teachers

Aspiring teachers who want to work in Victorian schools could soon have to receive high VCE results and be assessed as emotionally intelligent.

Education Minister James Merlino has flagged a radical overhaul of teacher education in a bid to attract more talented candidates to the profession and boost students' grades.

Teaching hopefuls could soon be barred from Victorian classrooms if they receive poor VCE results. 
Under the proposed changes, students could also face a "final hurdle" test before graduating to determine whether they had the skills to cope in a classroom.

The proposals follow concerns about the declining ATARS of students embarking on teaching degrees.

The average ATAR of students starting teaching courses was 57.35 this year, down from 63.4 in 2013.

"Sadly, the status of the teaching profession has declined alongside falling entry requirements, and students have variable experiences in courses and in their early years in the profession," Mr Merlino said.

In a discussion paper launched at a principals' conference on Monday night, Mr Merlino also flagged a new tool to assess whether future teachers possessed non-academic qualities which could include emotional intelligence, an ability to relate to children and young people, collaboration skills, flexibility and adaptability.

The government is calling for feedback on the proposed reforms and will announce changes by the end of the year. They will come into effect in 2018.

The paper also suggests graduate-only entry into teaching courses and more consistent mentoring and induction programs for teachers.

Student teachers could also face a statewide test that would assess whether they had the skills to be a good teacher.

The test was proposed because of complaints from principals about significant variations in the quality of teaching courses, which led to different levels of ability among new teachers.

The paper's proposal to set an ATAR threshold or minimum study scores for English and two other VCE subjects is likely to trigger controversy.

While the Australian Education Union supports an ATAR threshold, some universities believe it will disadvantage poor students and lead to less diversity in the teaching profession.

Concerns have also been raised about strict academic requirements leading to teacher shortages.

But the state government remained tight-lipped about what any ATAR cut-off might be.

In NSW, students must achieve marks of more than 80 in three subjects, including English, to be accepted into a teaching degree.

And in South Korea, only the top 5 per cent of academic achievers are admitted into teaching courses, while Finland accepts the top 10 per cent, and Singapore and Hong Kong the top 30 per cent.

"Declining entry standards contribute to the damaging public narrative around teaching, and negatively impact efforts to attract talented candidates and thus improve student learning," the paper says.

A federal government review of teacher education rejected calls to introduce minimum university entrance scores for teaching degrees.

But Canberra has introduced compulsory literacy and numeracy tests that all new teachers have been required to sit since July 1.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has previously said that the literacy and numeracy tests would guarantee that future teachers were in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy.

High-profile issues that were not covered in detail in the discussion paper included shortages in subject specialisation, such as maths, science, in-demand languages and special education.

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