Clare raises “nuclear option” for teacher education

University education faculties could lose accreditation if their students are not taught the “fundamentals” -teaching maths and English and managing classrooms according to Education Minister Jason Clare.

“That’s the nuclear option. The other option is that they could get limited accreditation or conditional accreditation,” he told the ABC.

Universities could also have to publicly report their performance on preparing their students for the classroom and compete for funding incentives.

They are among recommendations state and territory education ministers have backed from the Commonwealth-commissioned review of Initial Teacher Education (ITE), chaired by Uni Sydney VC Mark Scott.

It was hard to see ministers doing anything else– with school standards a go-to for media in the bad news business, no State Education Minister can afford to alienate teacher unions.

Professor Scott and colleagues filed in March, recommending ITE course content and completion, classroom ready skills and assessments of ITE faculty all be assessed.

Back then Mr Clare backed the report,  putting education academics in the frame. “If you ask any teacher, they’ll tell you that what they learned at university didn’t really give them everything they need to be ready to be a teacher in their first year out of university.”

Where they stay. “I have asked teachers this question a lot, they almost always say that they didn’t feel prepared or ready for the classroom on day one. And part of that is that the practical experience they get while they are a student, was not up to scratch,” Mr Clare told ABC Radio Friday.

And so Ministers have signed off on:

      • universities improving ITE pracs

      • mandated “core content” in accreditation

      • “a stronger link between performance and funding of initial teacher education, including establishing an ITE Quality Assurance Board to monitor the quality and consistency of ITE programs and their outcomes”.

    This is a win all-round for Ministers.

    Mr Clare demonstrates the Commonwealth is on the case, giving him something to say when he does not want to answer questions about funding private schools. And his State colleagues can point to their various regulatory authorities acting on ITE accreditation to divert attention whenever anybody mentions ATARs.

    And they all benefit from the implicit culture-warring in blaming academics. Thus The Australlan endorsed the plan, editorialising “after years of promises of better teacher training and classroom performance from universities and governments, Education Minister Jason Clare and his state and territory counterparts have wisely chosen the direct approach to tackle the malaise.”

    The new ITE blameathon follows years of criticism of education academics, starting strongly with a report chaired by Greg Craven (then Australia Catholic U VC) which found, “not all initial teacher education programs are equipping graduates with the content knowledge, evidence-based teaching strategies and skills they need … Initial teacher education providers are not rigorously or consistently assessing the classroom readiness of their pre-service teachers.”

    In response to the minco announcement, Scott Eacott from UNSW’s Gonskl Institute, had a gallant go at reframing the debate, tweeting, “I look forward to the day when a report aimed at fixing teaching focuses on the induction and on-going support of early career teachers, reduced workload for ECT, the overall professional support/development of teachers, reduced administrivia, improved working conditions, and equitable dollars, not just ITE

    But overall ITE academic leaders stuck to the long-standing pedagogical line, in responding to the adoption of the Scott review. “Overall, the report does not address the workplace (including conditions and pay) issues that make the greatest difference in the retention and further development of teachers and their teaching,” Louise Jenkins deputy dean of Monash U’s education faculty said

    “Prescribing what prospective teachers are taught in universities will not have the effects intended; decades of research show that such front-loading of content gets ‘washed out’ in the practice of student teaching without appropriate interventions in the workplace.”

    No matter how right this may be, the independence of ITE course creators is eroded.

    In October 2021 then-Education Minister Alan Tudge threatened funding of faculties that did not include teaching methods he approves of in their curricula and it seemed the standing of education academics could go no lower.

    It just has. 



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