Friday, 2 September 2016

PSTs have to pay to sit their skills test!

From the Brisbane Times
Teaching students have complained they were "left in the lurch" by the introduction of a new compulsory literacy and numeracy test and had to borrow money to pay the $185 fee to sit the exam.

All teaching students are now required to pass the test - modelled on questions from the Year 9 NAPLAN exam - before they finish their degree. University leaders are questioning whether students who already have a degree should have to sit the exam, given they are almost certain to pass.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) received a $1 million government tender to design and run the tests until 2018. It will also receive up to $3.7 million a year in revenue from student fees given around 20,000 education students graduate annually. 

John Lister, Master of Teaching student at the University of Melbourne, said the implementation of the test this year had been a "total shambles" at his university.

Students were told by the university in April that they were not required to take the test but they "may wish to consider" taking it. Two months later they were told it was compulsory for them to sit the test. 

"A lot of students were struggling to pay for it - the fee is a quarter of the fortnightly Youth Allowance payment," Mr Lister said. 

"It wasn't pay week; I had rent. I had to ask my mum to pay for it."

Mr Lister said students had enquired whether they could receive a loan to cover the fee from the university or student union.  

Fellow student Cass Dene said: "Many of us, including me,  had to ask parents to pay for it.

"We are lucky we had this support, but I fear for those who may not have been able to get that financial support in the time we had."

The University of Queensland announced earlier this year that it would cover the cost of the test for the first three years so they are not financially burdened. 

Field Rickards, Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne, said he agreed with the principle that teachers should be in the top 30 per cent of the population for literacy and numeracy - the aim of the test.

But he said the implementation of the tests this year had not been "ideal" and that $185 was not a "trivial" amount.

Professor Rickards said: "In a year or two, we could have sufficient data to say the test is redundant for graduate students and we could seek an exemption.

"There's no point having a test costing $185 if 100 per cent of students pass."

Ninety per cent of students passed the test when it was trialled last year.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said: "Skilled teachers are essential to lifting student outcomes and this test will ensure we have educators in our classrooms with strong personal literacy and numeracy skills.

"The Turnbull Government's 'laser focus' on literacy and numeracy will ensure that our new teachers are graduating with better skills that they'll then be able to pass on to students to lift the education outcomes of future generations."

The cost of the test compares to $490 for the Graduate Medical School Admission Test and $155 for the NSW Police Entrance Examination. 

A spokeswoman for the ACER said the tests operate on a "cost recovery basis".

"The fees are used for the administration and delivery of the test and ongoing test item development," she said. 

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