Is increasing entry standards for teaching courses the answer?
Shadow Minister for Education, Tanya Plibersek, has vowed to toughen entry requirements for teaching degrees under a Labor Government, if universities don’t toughen their standards when accepting students into Initial Teacher Education degrees.
This follows recent data that revealed declining ATAR scores for students entering teaching courses. Under Labor’s plan, entry would be restricted to only the top 30 per cent of high school graduates.
However these calls have been met with mixed reactions from education authorities.
Australian Education Union (AEU) Federal President, Correna Haythorpe, welcomed Minister Plibersek’s tough stance on strengthening entry requirements for teaching degrees.
“The high proportion of students with ATARs under 70 being admitted into teaching degrees is a warning sign that we need to do more to recruit and train the best candidates to teach our students,” she said.
“Low university entry scores for teaching degrees is a growing issue. We know that students admitted with low ATARs are less likely to continue with their course, and there is a clear correlation between ATAR scores and success at university,” Ms Haythorpe added. “We want to have confidence that when teaching students finish their Initial Teacher Education course they are well prepared to meet the graduate standard.”
Though the Australian Council of Deans of Education (ACDE) revealed it did not agree with the amount of emphasis being placed on ATAR scores.
“There is no way that teacher education providers will let teaching students loose in classrooms unless they have passed a number of difficult hurdles during their years of study,” said ACDE President, Professor Tania Aspland.
“The hurdles, which must be cleared prior to graduation, include a literacy and numeracy test and rigorous means of demonstrating that teaching students meet robust national teacher professional standards,” she added.
“A threat to mandate a cap on ATARs of 80 may sound like a quick fix but, in reality, fewer than one-in-four students are chosen on the basis of their ATAR alone. There is no evidence to show that those with higher ATARS become better teachers as non-academic traits are also vitally important in teaching quality.”