TEACHER SCARCITY A REAL DANGER

This article was published in the NT Sun on December 4 2018. It was under the heading of ‘Teachers set to dwindle’.

TEACHER SCARCITY A REAL DANGER

The question of teacher supply is a problem looming on the education horizon.

Professor Barry Harper, Dean of Education at the University of Wollongong, recently raised the need for the Australian community to prepare for a looming teacher shortage. If educational systems ignore his advice, this may well result in schools without teachers.

Harper, in his paper ‘Factors fuelling the looming teacher shortage’ (Media @ University of Woollongong) advises that a significant percentage of teachers will be retiring within the next five to ten years. Educational authorities understand that a vacuum in teacher supply will create problems. He states that “ … efforts to plug the gaps left by retirees are being thwarted by two factors. … One is the attraction of teaching overseas … the other is a desire by a significant number of teaching graduates to only teach for a short period of time before moving on to other careers.”

The number of teaching graduates attracted to overseas teaching destinations runs into the thousands. As far back as 2003, British school principals had headhunted 3,000 Australian teachers. “There are also hundreds of Australian teachers working in New York schools with many more scattered throughout North America … and Canada.” (Harper)

Harper suggests that Australian teacher graduates are classroom ready because their training includes first hand practical teaching experience. They are attracted overseas by salary and the experience of living abroad. An upside for Australia is that they don’t want to stay away forever. They come back with a world view of education ready to commit to teaching in our classrooms.

“Unfortunately Australian public school systems do not recognise (their qualities). Rather, teachers returning from overseas find themselves behind their colleagues who stayed at home, both in pay and promotional opportunities.” (Harper)

Adjusting the profession to accord equity to both returning from overseas and stay-at-home educators, may help to boost overall teacher numbers.

The more significant issue is that of graduating teachers opting for short term rather than long term careers. Various studies referred to by Harper confirm that fewer graduating secondary students are opting to train as teachers, with 25% of graduating teachers opting out within five years of starting their careers. “Around 32% of qualified teachers (are) working outside the profession.” (Harper).

This issue is one that must be addressed before chronic teacher shortages become a school and classroom reality. The jury is out on whether education ministers and their departments “ … can make our schools attractive for a long term (teacher) commitment rather than as staging posts for other careers.”

CDU’S FUTURE SHOULD BE CAREFULLY SHAPED

This column was published in the NT Sun on November 27 2018.

There has been much ado about Charles Darwin shifting to have a major operational focus in Darwin’s CBD.

Students are to help save the city!

CDU’s FUTURE SHOULD BE SHAPED CAREFULLY

Homegrown tertiary education in the NT commenced in 1974. The Darwin Community College (DCC) occupied two large rooms in Mataram Street, Winnellie. In time and over the years, the DCC became the Darwin Institute of Technology (DIT) and later the NT University with campuses at Myilly Point Larrakeyah and Casuarina. In 2003, the NTU merged with the Menzies School of health Research and Centralian Colleges in Alice Springs. The Charles Darwin University (CDU) era began.

CDU’s major campus is in the suburb of Casuarina. Other campuses are in Palmerston, Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy. A waterfront campus housing the school of business opened in 2015. The university includes smaller training centres at Jabiru, Tennant Creek and Yulara.

Interstate offices are located in Melbourne and Sydney. “Charles Darwin University … showcases teaching and research unique to its region. … Its membership of the Innovative Research Universities … enhances the outcomes of higher education.” (Good Universities Guide 2017, p.303)

External students enjoy online study opportunities. A large percentage of its externally enrolled higher degree students are from interstate and overseas. The university supports Indigenous Students through the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ANIKE) at the Casuarina Campus and its outreach program at the Batchelor Institute of Tertiary Education.

Administration reorganisation and changing priorities are sometimes forced by political pressures and changes to funding policies. In spite of challenges study options have been expanded. In its early days, the university was limited to offering only first and second years of degree courses. CDU students often had to complete their studies at southern universities. Full degree courses in Science, Engineering, Education and Medicine are now available.

The development of Charles Darwin University into the future must be carefully considered. Our university is set to become central to CBD re-development under the Darwin Cities Deal.

The vision is one that includes magnificent architecture, state of the art facilities and student accomodation.

The plan is similar to that in Newcastle NSW, which has “ … a university in the middle of the city. It means … when students finish classes in the evening, they’re moving through the city and keeping it alive.” (Madonna Locke, urban designer in The Deal , November 2018, pg. 8)

The purpose and intention of university study must always be student focus. The evolving vision encompasses large numbers of overseas students living in Darwin, in order to revitalise and save the city. Surely the prime purpose of academic education is to provide study opportunities leading to the conferral of worthwhile degrees. Future direction must not diminish this prime focus.

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CHILDREN NEED EXPERIENCE WITH ‘REAL’ MONEY

This was published in the NT Sun on November 20 2018

CHILDREN NEED EXPERIENCE WITH ‘REAL’ MONEY

In our increasingly cashless society there is a distinct danger that children will grow up without understanding the value and worth on money. It was recently reported that 81% of business transactions are now completed online or by card. Only 19% of transactions involve hard currency. With coins and notes disappearing from purses and wallets, the value of money is becoming abstract and without real meaning.

Writing in the Sunday Territorian (August 19) Sophie Elsworth warned that children are losing ‘the sense of cash’. Our card focussed culture is eroding their understanding of money and finances.

Elseworth’s column cites a recent Financial Planning Association report. “The report … quizzed 1000 Australian parents with children aged between 4 and 18. … A majority of parents (66%) concede electronic transactions are a massive barrier for children grasping the true value of money. It … showed 68% of parents were reluctant to speak to their kids about cash.”

Parents have an important part to play in helping their children overcome ignorance about money. The article suggests that giving children pocket money “… makes it a lot easier for parents to discuss and teach their kids about money. … The truly important thing is to teach kids about the ‘value’ of money.”

Giving children pocket money and encouraging them to save some of it, initially in money boxes and then by banking into a savings account can help. With that should come conversations about the reason for saving. There is a paradox to parental responsibility in this matter. Elseworth wrote the FPA report “ … showed 38% of parents admitted to borrowing money from their child’s piggy bank or bank account to pay for urgent expenses.” That does not set a good example on money management.

Although children should have been introduced to money at home, schools have a part to play in extending their awareness about the value of money.

Educators often state that children learn best when their initial experiences involve the use of concrete objects.Their understanding is reinforced if they can use and handle the materials being discussed. The Australian Curriculum requires that “ … students learn about the nature … and value of money.” (ACARA Mathematics overview). Children start with simple experiences which include them handling money and understanding it in a very basic way. More complex matters are presented as students move up the grades through their schooling years.

Elseworth advises of caution offered to parents (and teachers) by Tribeca Financials Chief Executive Officer Ryan Watson. He urged that young people be taught that “credit cards are the devil”. This may be a little extreme but cards need to be managed carefully and sensibly.

EDUCATION FUNDING PRIORITIES NEED REVAMP

This was published in the NT Sun on November 13, 2018.

EDUCATION FUNDING PRIORITIES NEED REVAMP

There has been a significant change in the setting of funding priorities for schools during the past ten years.

Prior to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, it was extraordinarily difficult to attract money for school capital works programs. Principals and school councils were often frustrated by the delays in gaining initial approval. Generally works were included in treasury’s forward estimates.

In some cases, approved works remained in abeyance for so long, they were re-announced as new initiatives before gaining final funding approval.

Minor New Works programs for infrastructure projects up to $250,000 were similarly queued for lengthy periods of time.

The GFC consigned this scenario to history. In order to stimulate building and construction, the Federal Government created the Building Education Revolution (BER).
Many billions of dollars were released to state and territory educational systems. ‘Build, build build, like there is no tomorrow’ became the order of the day. Along with all educational authorities, the NT Education Department was overwhelmed with BER money.Funds were allocated for major construction in every Northern Territory school.

A BER downside was the prescription placed on the use of money. Buildings had to be for science laboratories, school libraries, classrooms, assembly halls and physical facilities. When particular schools had higher priorities they were discounted. Timelines attached to the program required projects to be completed and funds expended by specific dates. This meant that building and construction programs had to be undertaken during term time disrupting school programs, in some cases for weeks on end.

Although the BER is now history, there has been a significant shift in funding priorities for NT schools. Compared with pre BER days, it seems that limitations on capital and minor new works funding have been relaxed.

Government tenders in the NT News each Wednesday confirms that money is being allocated for playground equipment, shade structures, irrigation upgrades and other works that were rarely funded in past times.
Previously, it had been up to school communities to fundraise for these ventures.

It is a worry that major funding for schools seems to be based on the fact that projects must support the building, construction, and infrastructure industry. There is a need for funding to recognise and support teaching and learning programs in classrooms. The ‘heart’ of the school is the teaching/learning interface. Buildings and facilities are necessary but should not be prioritised to the detriment of core learning needs.

Funding balance is important. While facilities are necessary, the support of students through classroom programs must not be compromised.

WATERSHED TIME FOR YEAR 12’s

Published in the NT Sun on November 6 2018.

WATERSHED TIME FOR YEAR 12’s

Several thousand Northern Territory Year 12 students are reaching the pinnacle of their primary and secondary educational experience. Many are sitting their publicly assessed examinations which commenced on Monday November 5.

These exams continue until Friday November 20. Then begins the wait for exam results, due to be released on December 18. With the approach of Christmas students completing Stage Two and graduating from Year 12, will have their results and can begin planning the next stage of their lives.

Other students who have opted for school assessed subjects will also be considering vocational careers. For some students, there may be disappointment, but the majority will experience the joy that comes with success. Commitment and effort generally lead to positive outcomes.

Before the release of results, ‘Schoolies Week’ will be happening for our Year 12 cohort. Many students will let their hair down and chill out, possibly in Bali or at some other recreational resort. Celebration is fine and should be without incident if the cautions offered by parents and authorities are observed. Most schoolies week mishaps are avoidable.

The question of ‘what next’ will be already be exercising the minds of Year 12 students. Apprenticeships and further trade training will be on the horizon for some. Contemplation of university entrance to Charles Darwin or interstate universities will be considered by others.

Graduating Year 12 students may elect to take a ‘gap year’. This period of time away from study is used by some for travelling and others for work. A gap year gives students the chance to fully consider career alternatives when not confronted by study pressures.

Some students who have opted for a tertiary program while still at school, may upon reflection during this year away from study, change their minds and choose alternative career pathways.

To go straight to university from Year 12 can mean commencing a course that is really not the most suitable. The options then become changing courses midstream or continuing with a program that ultimately may lead to an unsatisfying career.

Those choosing to work during their gap year, know their earnings can go a long way towards meeting HECS costs and other tertiary study expenses. Degrees are becoming more expensive as Federal Government controls impacting on university funding continue to bite. Accumulated HECS debts are burdensome and can take years to pay back.

To complete Year 12 is a major achievement . All the very best to those graduating in 2018 as they prepare for the next stage of their lives.

TRB IS AN IMPORTANT INSTITUTION

Published in NT Sun on October 30 2018

TRB AN IMPORTANT INSTITUTION

The NT Teachers Registration Board is an important institution playing a key role in ensuring the quality and competence of teachers in our schools.

These boards are part and parcel of the educational make up of every state and territory in Australia. It is behoven upon boards to ensure teachers appointed to our schools meet agreed standards in terms of qualification, competence and character.

Since its establishment in September 2004, the Northern Territory Teachers Registration Board has processed applications from hundreds of teachers. For the most part the board has done a most satisfactory job.

In recent times however, it has been reported that several teachers in our schools have slipped through the net and into our classrooms. That should have not happened. It only takes one or two slips like this to negatively impact on the board’s reputation.

In one case a person had a background that included quite a number of “aliases”. This would have made it difficult to accurately evaluate that person’s background and character. There have been other instances of people being registered when that was not the most appropriate option.

Systems need to safeguard our children and offer them the best possible education. While 99% of our teachers approved by the board fill the brief for appointment, no oversight can be excused.

Any failure will become general knowledge and sully the reputation of the board in the eyes of the public. What needs to be understood is that it can be extremely difficult to work around issues of alias names and identity issues of people who may be trying to hide past circumstances when seeking registration.

The fact that state and territory boards are separate entities only operating within their own boundaries, may be a weakness of the current registration system. We have a national curriculum and national testing program. Consideration should be given to nationalising teacher registration.


Unifying national registration might help overcome glitches that can occur when teachers move from one state or territory to another, requiring new registration. How thoroughly NT registration and police checks are able to explore the history of teachers seeking endorsement may be an issue. A national teacher registration board could also promote the idea of portability of teacher qualifications from one state and territory to another. This would facilitate nationwide teacher transfer.

To nationalise teacher registration would be a logical step in developing an Australia wide perspective on education. It may also help to overcome the likelihood of teachers inappropriately slipping past registration processes and into NT classrooms.

TOM’s INTERNATIONAL WAS TOP DRAWER

TOM’s INTERNATIONAL WAS TOP DRAWER

This year’s Tournament of Minds International Competition was hosted by TOM’s NT. The tournament culminated twelve months of preparation for this event.

Previously known as the Australian Pacific Finals, the program this year was expanded to international status. The NT hosted primary and secondary school teams from all Australian states and territories. Participating teams from overseas came from Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, and the United Arab Emirates.

Interstate and overseas teams arrived onThursday October 11.

The tournament was opened on Friday October 12, with a special welcoming ceremony at the Darwin Convention Centre. The welcome focussed on the ‘Spirit of the NT’ as embodied in the Larakia seasonal calendar.

Part of the opening program included the grouping of students into Larakia weather and climatic seasons. This was to enable their participation in the tournament’s launching.

. The build up season was considered by all primary/secondary language literature (LL) teams.
. Rainy season awareness was offered to primary social science teams
. The monsoon season was studied by secondary social science groups.
. Super grass, goose egg and knock-em down seasons were considered by the primary arts teams.
. Barramundi and bush fruit times were studied by secondary arts teams.
. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) primary teams considered the heavy dew time.
. The big wind season went to STEM secondary teams.

After the opening, participants went on excursions and attended workshops.

Saturday October 12 was competition day at the CDU Casuarina Campus. Teams were allocated rooms to consider challenges and had to prepare their responses within a three hour time frame. The presentations by teams in the competition disciplines, language literature, arts, STEM and social science, then took place in four presentation theatres. Audiences appreciated the imaginative and innovative solutions to problems posed to students.

The presentation of awards took place at the Darwin Entertainment Centre. A table of winning and honours schools is on the TOM’s website at http://www.tom.edu.au/Tournament/Result.

The event enabled Australian and overseas teams to share intellectual challenges and thoughtful, team focussed solutions to challenging problems. All participants were winners. TOM’s NT delighted in sharing the Territory with visiting teams and their supporters, who will return home with great memories.

Published in  NT Suns on October 23 2018