Monday, January 21, 2013

Standards Will Slide While Teacher Education is Used as a Cash Cow

Math - Teacher Education
Math - Teacher Education (Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman)
by Dr Stephen Dinham, Chair of Teacher Education and Director of Learning and Teaching at University of Melbourne, The Conversation:

Despite all the talk about improving the quality of teachers and teaching in Australia, the general downward slide of entry standards to undergraduate teacher training courses continues.

While the top performing education nations such as Finland and South Korea draw their teachers from the the top quartile of school leavers (75th percentile or higher), some Australian universities have set their ATAR entry score for this year at 45 or even lower.

Teacher education is typically the largest undergraduate professional program in most universities and is a significant source of income. Unfortunately, to fill the desired number of places, some universities resort to setting minimum entry scores that are far too low in order to meet student and financial targets.

Additionally, when universities experience an overall shortfall in student applications, this “load” is often shifted to teacher education, further driving down entry scores.

This has a number of consequences. Students with higher scores who might otherwise be attracted to teaching feel they are “wasting” their marks if they take on teaching and are in kind deterred. More broadly, lower entry scores reinforce the perceived low status of teachers and teaching.

Meanwhile, those accepted with low scores will find completing their course challenging and teaching itself difficult.

If they do manage to complete their course, they may well end up teaching students who are potential “90+” ATAR candidates, something which presents challenges for both teacher and student.

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