Teacher Quality is an Issue

Natasha Bita’s column (‘Teaching entrance standards miss mark’, The Australian, 27/2/22) brought back memories of similar advice from over 30 years ago.

Bita reports that “cash strapped universities have offered teaching degrees to school leavers with below average tertiary entrance results.” That reminded me of advice offered Year 11 students at my son’s school toward the end of 1988. Officers from the (then) Commonwealth Department of Education were visiting to advise students on how much application and effort Year 12 would require in order to satisfy tertiary entrance requirements.

The group talked metaphorically, creating an ‘expectational ladder’ for students to contemplate. Top rung students with exceptional TER scores could consider dentistry and medicine. The advisers talked of ‘down the ladder’ scores in the 80 and 70 percentile range. A score of 60 was described as an absolute cut-off, allowing students to consider basic accountancy.

A group member then added, “but if you get less than a score of 60, there is always teaching!”.

Australia has been blessed by generations of good teachers. However, their contributions have too often been diluted by the teaching efforts of their mediocre colleagues. Far too many students have suffered at the hands of inept teachers. If universities are allowed to offer training to those who will not make the grade as classroom teachers, the mediocrity which has dogged the profession for decades will continue to be manifest.

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