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Should Australia be more strict in recruiting teachers?

Teaching standards in Australia need to be stricter. Source: Shutterstock.
Teaching standards in Australia need to be stricter, say some. Source: Shutterstock.com

Teaching is arguably one of the most important jobs there is. In few other professions can you have such a strong influence and impact on young minds.

It is therefore imperative that some of the most influential people in society are also highly intelligent. But concerns have been raised about the intellect of teaching graduates in Australia.

Speaking to ABC NewsLabor’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said standards for teachers should be higher. She is calling for services to encourage more intelligent students into teaching courses.

The marks prospective teaching students receive in high school have declined over the last decade.

The pressure to do well in Australian schools can be immense. Upon completion of Year 12, pupils receive what is known as an ATAR score. This rates the pupil out of 100. The average score given to students is 70.

This is used in schools all over the country except in Queensland, where the old Overall Position – or OP – scoring system is still used.

The number of students who enter teaching with ATAR scores lower than 70 has increased monumentally over the last decade. In 2006, 25 percent of teaching students had ATAR scores below 70. This rose to 42 percent in 2015.

Many schools, colleges and universities have argued on behalf of their teachers.

Speaking with ABC News, Prof Tania Aspland from the Australian Catholic University said: “ATAR is only one measure of a student’s potential to become a great teacher.

“In fact, there is no empirical evidence that shows a high ATAR makes a good teacher, there is none whatsoever.”

Non-academic traits like compassion and humour are equally as important when teaching, Aspland said.

“What I want entering the teaching profession is people who connect with young Australians and take them forward in their learning.”

Education Minister Simon Birmingham agrees. He feels that simply looking at ATAR scores is a reductive way of measuring someone’s teaching ability. You need to look at the whole of the person upon graduation, not just their ATAR score as a teenager, he believes.

“The most important output is, of course, the graduate from the university, and having confidence that the graduate is competent and skilled and proficient to go into the classroom, not the skills of the kid who starts at university,” said Birmingham, speaking to ABC News.

“We also want to make sure that people who go into the teaching profession have the right skills, traits, empathy to be able to inspire and develop the skills in young Australians.”

As Adeline Collins, a Monash University teaching student said: “A lot of teachers do a lot and they put their heart and soul into their job and they should really be recognised for that.”

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