I returned back to Sydney, Australia from two years of professional development in Europe last August. I have been busy re-establishing myself with both family, friends and work. However, the latter has taken up the majority of my time.
Since being back I have noticed professional learning right across all sectors in education as being more prominent than when I left. The profession has been a-buzz with excitement, trepidation and even fear, because of the pace of change. The main catalyst has been the 2009 PISA results showing Australia’s drop in ranking amongst the world’s leaders in Education.
The new Australian National Curriculum being introduced is meant to re-instate content and realistic benchmarks for our students Australia-wide, and not rely on State governments to interpret their own less stringent or mediocre curriculums. The Australian Curriculum will allow for the national assessment of learning, in turn informing future governmental focus’ and driving system, leadership and teacher development.
AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) was established in January of 2010 to oversee the teaching standards of all Australian Teacher Regulatory Authorities. For the first time in Australia’s history we have not only a national standardised curriculum, but also national teaching standards to work towards, as well as professional benchmarks, in terms of competencies.
The government announced this week the increased standards for those wanting to enter the teaching profession. Both Federal and State governments have taken Finland’s approach to teacher quality and are raising the benchmarks for all undergraduates. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, undergraduates must:
- Score more than 80% in three Year 12 subjects, including English.
- Be in the top 30% of students finishing their final year of High School.
Personally, I welcome the approach to the profession. I commend the government (both Federal and State) in taking this hard line, particularly in light of a possible short-term decline in university enrollments for Teaching… ‘To attract the best, they must be the best’.
This year also sees the implementation of the National Teaching Standards for ALL teachers, particularly those in NSW schools who have not needed to be a part of this process if teaching prior to 2004. Admittingly I am one. However, I am hopeful that this, in conjunction with the undergraduate process, will greatly improve our profession and in turn, student achievement in the coming years.
The ABC’s Q & A episode on March 11th was one of the best discussions I have heard in some time on all things current to education in Australia. The discussion around funding, teacher quality and standards, and the ability to weed-out those under-performing educators was a tightly packed, fast-paced episode, in which I came away feeling encouraged about the future of education in Australia.
Though monetary funding has been tight since the GFC in all countries, the only reason I can see to the failure of the government’s plan here is the pay and the superannuation packages on offer for teachers. If education is not an attractive career for both men and women as a long-term prospect, then the top 30% of our population will look elsewhere.
One incentive I noticed for educators in Germany is to be given a pension/superannuation which is one of the highest in their country. It makes the short-term average wage seem acceptable in light of the twilight years. It is something, that particularly for men, would be a main attraction to all levels of education, including Primary.