20 February 2014
Higher education and school experts to advise on improving teacher education
Minister for education Christopher Pyne has appointed Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Greg Craven, to chair an eight-member Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group.
Reporting later this year, the group will undertake extensive public and stakeholder consultation while focusing on three key areas:
- Pedagogical approaches: the ways teachers teach their students, and the different ways teaching and learning can occur;
- Subject content: how well teachers understand the content of subjects they are teaching; and,
- Professional experience: opportunities for pre-service teachers to put theory into practice through quality in-school learning experiences.
The other appointees to the group are the Grattan Institute’s school education program director, Ben Jensen; the Melbourne University dean of education, Field Rickards; the chief executive of Independent Schools Victoria, Michelle Green; the president of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers, Kim Beswick; the University of Wollongong’s deputy vice-chancellor, Eeva Leinonen; the principal of Eastern Fleurieu School in South Australia, Trevor Fletcher; and the deputy principal of Haileybury independent school in Victoria, John Fleming.
Surprisingly there are no appointees from the public education system – the largest employers of teachers.
Craven, a longstanding critic of the worth of ATAR scores, saying that university cut-offs lack transparency and are “as easy to rig as a bush picnic race meeting”.
Following his appointment Craven said that “generally speaking”, he doesn’t think it’s too easy to become a teacher.
The selection issues have been somewhat distracting and the real issues are how can we improve it, which is about melding theory and practice, and subject content with the practice of teaching it.
Craven said Australia’s education system is “not a shambles but it deserves to be improved”.
I think it’s like any house. You can always improve the painting in the bathroom and you can always find the things that need to be looked at. We know for example we haven’t got enough science and maths teachers. We know for example we haven’t got enough language teachers.
Generally speaking, Craven’s views seem to coincide with Pyne’s who described ATARs as “a blunt instrument”:
About half the people who go to university these days don’t enter on the basis of their Atar score so it’s a very glib line to simply say we have a minimum cut-off of ATAR scores [and] somehow that will fix every problem. That’s not the problem.
There are many people with low ATAR scores who, given the appropriate support both before they start university and during their university training, can be excellent professionals and teachers, so I’m not obsessed with ATAR scores and I think it’s just an easy way of giving a line off without actually addressing the fundamental issues in the teaching profession.
But, rather curiously in the circumstances, Craven did cop a serve from the Australian Education Union’s federal president, Angelo Gavrielatos, who said Craven headed a university that had some of the lowest entry scores in the nation for teaching degrees and was therefore “part of the problem, not the solution”.
Gavrielatos called for tougher entry requirements, more rigorous assessment for training teachers, more classroom experience prior to graduation, and an ongoing focus on professional learning and development throughout their careers.