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Proactive, self-starting facilitator required to empower cohorts of students and enable them to access the curriculum. “Modern advertisement” for teacher, quoted in Planet Word, J P Davidson

One undisputed fact over many years is that the best teachers help students achieve their best. Suggesting whether this is because of their personality, their skill, their knowledge, some other aspect, or logically, a combination of all, has often occurred. The fact countries who achieve highly have strong initial selection processes and standards is not lost on many.

Australia [or one should say for many years Australian states and territories] have also held such discussions. The latest is centred around the Action Now : Classroom Ready Teachers Report from the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group, headed by Greg Craven.

Before discussing this you might want to actually read the report which you can download here. You can also get a Fact Sheet on the Recommendations and/or FAQs on the Report.

One thing which has been a surprise is the positive reception. This particularly so in a period of confrontation and dispute about most things educational. To quote Stephen Matchett, the report ‘had rave reviews’ and, it is ‘a report that is so astutely argued and carefully written that the usual suspects are silent’. For over a week it seems to have maintained this high regard. Few areas have raised even much comment, the most noticeable seeing to be whether there should be higher initial standards for entry to university as opposed to ensuring higher standards when they depart. Who would have believed it ?

The government obviously saw it as a win and this is demonstrated in its Australian Government Response paper. They say as part of their Next Steps statement, ‘It is our intention that the majority of the Advisory Group recommendations will be developed and delivered within the next two years’ and even more clearly stated - ‘when asked about the full-scale re-registration process for all education faculties that will now occur - those that do not pass will close’. So far not even uproar about this position.

Meanwhile others have had their say about whether the suggested remedies are suitable, appropriate, a ‘good thing’ or otherwise. Some instances include : Review calls for teacher education overhaul : experts respondPoor students likely to make poor teachersChanges to teaching degrees are no guarantee of success for kids Uni trainers on noticeSmart choice : top kids make the best teachers.

As indicated, the main point of contention would seem to be whether you raise standards of entry to teaching degrees or work to ensure a higher quality, better prepared graduate at the end. For example, as discussed in Teacher report a missed opportunity. There is no single answer to this. Many highly performing countries insist on entrants from higher cohorts than we do [think Finland], the ATAR may not be the most accurate guide and in many instances is not the final decision maker [bonus points, special schemes, mature entry, … ].

NSW is probably the only state to go down the path of initial requirements. Details of these requirements are listed at BOSTES Teacher Accreditation - University entry standards. Even this is not hugely proscriptive, generally concentrating on the area of literacy, but it is a start in this direction.

Implementation of the recommendations can now be rolled out, though we will obviously not see the full impact for some time. However, one can only see it as a positive step. One which should bring rich rewards in many educational areas and for students of all levels.

Meanwhile, the higher education deregulation “debate” continues apace with the only solution seemingly still a final no. At the same time, there seem to be ‘more ideas flying around reforming higher education at the moment than a box of Mexican jumping beans’ [High Wired] or, more delicately, ‘Plan B higher education reform ideas are everywhere at the moment’ [Andrew Norton].

The united front previously seen from universities no longer seems as solid. Senate Committees will report back in mid March. Nick Xenophon continues to call for a review to find a better solution and is gaining some degree of support. The word ‘fair or fairness’ continues to be used [but in what sense ?]. The NTEU continues to castigate both the concept and the Minister. A Queue of critics denounce deregulation states Campus Morning Mail. Indeed support seems to be drifting away - flooding away, maybe ?

The problem with this is that a solution to the wider problem does not appear to be on the horizon. A recent roundtable at the University of Canberra [Students, taxpayers pay for reform] and a meeting in Albury have looked at options available. Individual areas have been looked at, e.g., ‘Limit’ demand driven system.

The latest contribution is covered in University reform : in search of plan B which concludes by saying ‘Pessimistic university leaders fear that reform fatigue will soon set in. A golden opportunity to make Australia's higher education more vibrant and sustainable would be lost’. On a brighter note ‘Optimists hope this is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end’. Where would you fall ?

We probably will not know until into March, with reviews to be completed and other matters concentrating the attention of parliament elsewhere. If you want a clearer idea of where higher education is at the moment, why not take a look at Mapping Australian Higher Education, 2014-15, which will perhaps provide a better perspective on where the sector and the potential for students actually stands at the moment.

Other Areas of Interest

The VET area continues to undergo levels of turmoil, particularly so in Victoria but also in other states. Certificate recall exposes training reports that nearly 10 000 certificates have been recalled [nearly 5% of all those issued]. While affecting students most of all, companies involved are finding the penalties are really biting. The also applies to those VET providers overpaid $16m in loan scheme. Steve Herbert, Victorian Training Minister, currently has an inquiry underway which will lead to improvements one hopes. At the same time ACPET has called for a national ombudsman to help overcome the problem. Proactive, reactive, … ?

Congratulations to Professor Barney Glover, from the University of Western Sydney, who has been named as the new chair of Universities Australia. We wish him every success.

They may be able to read and write, but Mathematics doesn’t seem to be the strongest. Half of kids failing basic mathematics paints a gloomy picture indeed. Based on NSW results in NAPLAN Year 7 test results, it details results in the examples provided as low as 34% correct. Be aware, NSW actually performs higher in this area. While not everyone is mathematically inclined, the questions even at this level are not exactly rocket science. Match it with reports such as Aspiring teachers abandoning HSC maths and the cause of this may be potentially obvious. Sadly, it becomes cyclic and worse as a result. Roll on the need to have higher standards in mathematics for aspiring teachers.

Site Changes

The following pages have been completely updated : links, descriptors, exclusions, additions : All Technology Curriculum pages, Entry Options pages, Mathematics, Gifted Research, Indigenous Education Research, Sports. They can be accessed via the Curriculum, Education and Tertiary Education links in the menu.

Updates have been added to the following pages : Calendar, Conferences, Journals.

22 February 2015.

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