Aussie teaching profession ‘facing collapse’ amid test crisis
Exclusive: A leading Australian university Vice-Chancellor - and an architect of the LANTITE test that graduate teachers must pass in order to work in a classroom - has slammed calls to raise teacher standards saying it has been a disaster and has prompted the "collapse of the teaching profession".
Professor Greg Craven is the Vice-Chancellor and President of Australian Catholic University (ACU) and was Chair of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG) that recommended LANTITE be introduced, said calls to make LANTITE an entrance exam to weed out poorly performing teacher graduates would further drive down already catastrophic numbers.
Data provided to News Corp Australia shows in NSW between 2016 and 2019 applications for teaching degrees have dropped by 57.3 per cent and the numbers of applicants placing teaching as their first preference has dropped by 40 per cent over the same period.
In Victoria over the same period, teacher applications have dropped by 52 per cent and there has been a 54 per cent drop in first preference applications.
"This is the deepest, darkest, murkiest secret in teacher education in Australia today. For years government and unions have been saying there is no problem with teacher workforce and you can instantly increase the requirements and it will have no effect at all," Professor Craven said.
"In actual fact the last three years has seen a collapse in enrolments and applications for teachers."
NSW and Victoria are facing an absolute crisis in teacher and workforce supply and government know this and they are scared stiff."
Professor Craven said LANTITE was designed as an exit exam to ensure so that teachers could develop the standard through their degree and said moving it to an entrance exam would be "a tertiary massacre".
"The reality is NSW will be importing teachers massively from England, Ireland and America and that process has already started, " he said, adding " you would actually be loading a sinking ship with lead" and "reinforcing failure with catastrophe."
But leading academics say that while NAPLAN results out today have showed some improvement in academic scores in Australian schools, serious reform is still needed to lift standards.
"The universities really do need to raise the bar for their teacher degree intake," said Centre for Independent Studies Blaise Joseph.
"Given we have the test it makes more sense to make it a condition of entry."
The University of Western Australia's Glenn Savage agreed it should be an entrance exam and said: "My personal view is that the requirement to get into teaching should be tough - if you let everyone and anyone into a teaching degree you shouldn't be surprised if people are having problems in a whole range of areas."
The calls for LANTITE to be an entrance exam comes after News Corp Australia revealed a number of tutoring agencies said they had seen a spike in the number of graduate teachers needing help to pass the exam.
Teacher Melinda Wood from The Tutoring Academy is a leading agency for tutoring LANTITE students said: "The test is difficult for many due to the way it is worded and presented."
"It should also be given an entrance requirement to the course, instead of becoming a make or break situation for students who have already done several years of study and now have to stress over this test."
Minister for Education Dan Tehan said: "Our Government introduced the LANTITE test to ensure all graduate teachers had the literacy and numeracy skills to succeed in the classroom. Higher education providers need to take responsibility for the students they accept that do not meet the standards by ensuring they receive additional support to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. The onus is on the students and the universities to ensure they meet the high standards expected by parents and the standards that our children deserve."
Professor Craven believes that more needs to be done to improve the reputation of teaching and that the ATAR entrance debate has become a political football that has downgraded the profession.
"There is a competition to see who can be biggest and toughest in teacher entry," he said, adding that the states are in a race to see who is the "toughest education minister in the toughest education state," but said he believed that the rhetoric was damaging the profession.
"Frankly they are humiliated at the idea being a teacher, all they hear about is the low standards."
He said the dwindling numbers combined with retiring teachers meant we are "basically facing a collapse of the teaching profession, importation of overseas teachers and a return of the composite classroom.
"You need to maintain the flow in because you have huge flow out. Doomsday is not coming - doomsday is here."
Professor Craven said there were a number of recommendations from TEMAG that would help improve teacher education without damaging the reputation of the industry.
In Victoria, the Government raised the entry standard to teaching courses to require a minimum ATAR of 65 in 2018 and 70 from 2019 and Minister for Education James Merlino said: "We make no apologies for wanting the best and brightest teaching our kids - we have made that abundantly clear with universities. Our reforms are focused on improving teaching standards not propping up their business model."