Teaching should not be a last resort as a career choice

HERALD SUNAPRIL 20, 2014 8:00PM12 COMMENTS

Teaching should not be a last resort career, writes Rita Panahi. Source: Supplied

GEORGE Bernard Shaw wrote: â€œHe who can, does; he who cannot, teaches.â€ For many this disparaging idiom still rings true, but the reality is much worse; we now have many who cannot teach populating schools and driving down academic standards.

The OECD‘s latest Program for International Student Assessment shows that Australia is falling further behind the top performing nations in key areas including mathematics, science and reading.

Simply pouring more money into the sector is clearly not the answer. According to OECD figures, between 2000 and 2009 Australia was one of four countries whose reading results deteriorated significantly â€” despite spending growing over the period by a whopping 44 per cent in real terms.

Since then, spending has continued to increase while results have continued to decrease.

Labor‘s much vaunted â€œeducation revolutionâ€ has failed to reverse the decline and our children are being outperformed by students from an ever increarising number of countries, particularly from South East Asia.

“” style=“box-sizing: border-box; width: 300px; height: 250px; border: 0px; vertical-align: bottom;”>

There is one overriding factor that sets apart the best education systems in the world â€” teacher quality.

One look at the top performing nations shows that, while they have vastly different learning philosophies and practises, the common denominator is that their teachers are sourced from their best students.

The teaching unions would say â€œpay more and attract better candidatesâ€ but that is an outright fallacy. Despite their ever persistent whinging and striking, Australian teachers are among some of the best paid in the world.

Arguably the best and most qualified educators are from Finland, where every teacher is required to have a master‘s degree, and yet Finnish teachers earn less than the OECD average and significantly less than in Australia. That is despite Finland being the eurozone‘s most expensive country, with a cost of living that is well above the European average.

The simple-minded notion that increased wages will attract better candidates is disproved by any analysis of teachers‘ salaries throughout the world.

South Korea, along with Finland, consistently outperforms other nations and has an education system that is rightly envied around the world. While Finland favours small classes, minimal testing and homework, the South Koreans have large class sizes with an emphasis on long hours, rote learning and frequent exams.

Where these two disparate yet equally successful systems come together is in the strict selection process that only allows the best and brightest to become teachers. The belief that teacher quality is the greatest determinant of academic success sees only one in 10 teaching applicants accepted in Finland.

In South Korea teachers are recruited from the top 5 per cent of school leavers.

Compare that with Australia, where standards have dropped so low that, in 2011, teaching accounted for the highest proportion of university offers for students with an Australian tertiary admission rank of less than 50. Those academic failures, who could not get into any other course but teaching, will be graduating soon and coming to a school near you.

What will be the ramifications of having the next generation of teachers coming from a substandard pool of graduates who themselves struggled at school?

Will these teachers pass on their own academic deficiencies to their students? It is perhaps with this in mind that the Federal Government is putting in place measures to boost teacher quality, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy.

Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, recognises the importance of attracting the best candidates: â€œThis Government knows there is nothing more important to a child‘s education than having great teachers.â€

The Victorian Government is also implementing a new performance and development system for teachers that will put an end to the ludicrous notion that teachers are somehow above scrutiny and assessment.

The simplistic arguments against linking performance to pay are as deeply flawed as they are self-serving; there is no suggestion that a teacher‘s performance would be based solely on their students‘ NAPLAN scores.

A variety of factors would be assessed and of course those teaching in areas with significant socio-economic issues would not be expected to achieve the same outcomes as a teacher in leafy Canterbury.

Under the new system there is a target that only 60 to 80 per cent of teachers would move up the pay scale each year.

That seems like an exceedingly generous figure but it is an improvement on the system we‘ve had thus far, where almost every teacher automatically moves up the pay scale regardless of their ability, effort or suitability.

We are blessed to have a multitude of talented, dedicated teachers but there is simply no place in our classrooms for uninterested, incompetent or jaded educators.

A poor teacher is a destructive force who can inflict significant damage to a child‘s long-term learning outcomes.

It is time to restore pride into the teachingprofession and reward the best and most committed educators while weeding out the chronic underperformers.

Teaching should be a profession that is held in the highest esteem, not a last resort option for those who can‘t gain entry into any other course.

They do rank higher on the ranking tables - Finalnd spend 5.1% of GDP on education, we spend 4.5%. Tory reaction = LET'S SPEND LESS!!! Surprising?

Vastly different countries with vastly different cultures as well, just as silly a comparison as South Korea or Taiwan (who top the tables at the moment).

I've always thought most teachers (at any level) have a bit of a shelf life. The buggers who've been around the system for a thousand years get jaded, disenfranchised & bitter. And some of my best teachers were either what you'd call "drop-outs" (people who'd done a short teaching stint as part of another course/profession, loved it & stayed) or low academic achievers.

There's a lot of different factors, problem is the education board has to look at things from a top down level, and set an environment that's going to work for thousands of different kids with different personalities, different ways of learning, backgrounds

Is she "Mrs Bolt?"

Got halfway through the article before thinking, hang on, where the ■■■■ was this printed?

*scrolls up*

Yeah, that's why I unsubscribed years ago.

Absolute bulltwang.

Is she "Mrs Bolt?"

Pretty much actually, from what I've seen. You can tell by the way she reverently quotes Pyne as though he's saying something deep and insightful rather than spouting platitudes without any discernable plan to actually do anything.

Got to laugh at the thrust of the article though, if it wasn't so tragic. She complains that too many teachers are poor academically, and so the answer is to NOT pay them any more, but instead to make it harder for them to get raises. Yep, way to attract the best of the best, there...

If we want to have better teachers again we should allow teachers to hand out punishment without fear of retribution from the kids with regards to suing and such. I'm not talking about capital punishment either.

I'm also not a fan of the graduate teacher who has no other life experience except, year 12, uni, then is a teacher.

Its interesting now having a child in the education system. The school went to great lengths to explain to parents that "things are done a lot differently now". My question was & still remains - is it better? Why was it changed & what are the results? If standards are falling then is it the teachers or the system thats failing? I know teachers & I've met quite a few new ones & most seem dedicated & professional. The setup in the classrooms however doesn't seem to me to be conducive to learning - not for all students anyway. Having 5 kids on ipads, 5 drawing, another group with an aid reading a story & the rest seem to be wondering around (talking about junior school). I've volunteered a few times to help out with reading, sports & other activities so that allows me some insight into the class environment & it seems fractured. Maybe someone here can give some more professional opinions & ideas but if 25 kids facing a blackboard repeating 1+1=2, 2+1=3 etc etc was how maths was being taught in the past (and possibly still OS) what led to the changes in approach & is there any evidence to suggest it achieves better outcomes? It would seem easy to blame teachers but I was confused just spectating, I'm not sure how the kids fare. I'm sure some kids would thrive in this idependent learning environment but I'm not convinced its the best system from what I've seen & results seem to support that.

BTW I found that the best teachers I had were ones with outside experience. My economics teacher for example had been a stockbroker for 20+ years before going into teaching. Our school finished in the top few every year for the stockmarket game (teams had imaginary 50K to invest). We regularly beat far better resourced & credentialed schools for economics results & that was almost entirely because of this 1 teacher. We also had this history teacher who had travelled the world as a archaeologist & had written something like 30 books mostly on the history of warfare & the middle ages, The guy was facinating & his classes were beyond educational. I'm not sure what attracted people of that calibre to teaching but if they are no longer seeing teaching as a park of their careers then its a sad loss & something I think needs to be addressed.

Worst thing about public schools is this fear of stepping on toes and categorising everything as bullying. Doesn’t teach kids ■■■■ about life. That’s not to say bullying should be tolerated by the way…

If we want to have better teachers again we should allow teachers to hand out punishment without fear of retribution from the kids with regards to suing and such. I'm not talking about capital punishment either.

I'm also not a fan of the graduate teacher who has no other life experience except, year 12, uni, then is a teacher.

Capital punishment in schools would definately make things more interesting.

If we want to have better teachers again we should allow teachers to hand out punishment without fear of retribution from the kids with regards to suing and such. I'm not talking about capital punishment either.

I'm also not a fan of the graduate teacher who has no other life experience except, year 12, uni, then is a teacher.

Capital punishment in schools would definately make things more interesting.

No detention - its straight to the gallows for you!

Being a teacher we are so overcrowded with the amount to teach. Ideally we would spend 2weeks on a maths topic e.g fractions, rather than 1 week which is what we end up allowing due to the amount we need to teach.

The problem is sometimes you get people who are very good at the teaching aspect but have very poor people skills. If kids dislike the teacher they are less likely to actually pay attention IMO

school - heaps of holidays and saucy hijinks.

and that's just the teachers.

if Abbott ever brings homeschooling in im moving to Nepal to live my life out as a goat.

Maybe someone here can give some more professional opinions & ideas but if 25 kids facing a blackboard repeating 1+1=2, 2+1=3 etc etc was how maths was being taught in the past (and possibly still OS) what led to the changes in approach & is there any evidence to suggest it achieves better outcomes? It would seem easy to blame teachers but I was confused just spectating, I'm not sure how the kids fare. I'm sure some kids would thrive in this idependent learning environment but I'm not convinced its the best system from what I've seen & results seem to support that.

It's because there is more to Maths than 1+1 =2. Children at that age are kind of like parrots, they can retain that information, and repeat it, but are they understanding why?

That's why teachers are now being taught "mathematical understanding". It's all well and good for a child to know that 1+1=2, but do they in turn now what 9+2 equals? When the time comes to do random sums, and not just the basic repeated ones, many students will have picked it up and understand what to do. Others won't though, and will disguise their lack of understanding with things they can repeat, but as times goes on they fall behind.

My sister teaches at a local primary school and says that what they've got in the curriculum for years 5 and 6 would take 3.5 years to teach....I think that's right.

They've put so many trendy-left subjects in the curriculum that kids that age can't make informed decisions on.

Capital punishment in schools would definately make things more interesting.

More fatal beatings.

Maybe someone here can give some more professional opinions & ideas but if 25 kids facing a blackboard repeating 1+1=2, 2+1=3 etc etc was how maths was being taught in the past (and possibly still OS) what led to the changes in approach & is there any evidence to suggest it achieves better outcomes? It would seem easy to blame teachers but I was confused just spectating, I'm not sure how the kids fare. I'm sure some kids would thrive in this idependent learning environment but I'm not convinced its the best system from what I've seen & results seem to support that.

It's because there is more to Maths than 1+1 =2. Children at that age are kind of like parrots, they can retain that information, and repeat it, but are they understanding why?

That's why teachers are now being taught "mathematical understanding". It's all well and good for a child to know that 1+1=2, but do they in turn now what 9+2 equals? When the time comes to do random sums, and not just the basic repeated ones, many students will have picked it up and understand what to do. Others won't though, and will disguise their lack of understanding with things they can repeat, but as times goes on they fall behind.

Yeah, as someone who earned fuel and beer money through uni by tutoring VCE maths, rote learning is great for kids learning arithmetic and multiplication tables, but serious maths is more about learning processes and tools, and being able to evaluate a problem and decide which of those mathematical tools are appropriate to solve it. You just can't teach calculus, or stats, or polynomial factorisation, or trig by rote in any meaningful way. They're complex, multi-stage processes and you need to actually understand why you're doing what you're doing to some degree.

Maybe someone here can give some more professional opinions & ideas but if 25 kids facing a blackboard repeating 1+1=2, 2+1=3 etc etc was how maths was being taught in the past (and possibly still OS) what led to the changes in approach & is there any evidence to suggest it achieves better outcomes? It would seem easy to blame teachers but I was confused just spectating, I'm not sure how the kids fare. I'm sure some kids would thrive in this idependent learning environment but I'm not convinced its the best system from what I've seen & results seem to support that.

It's because there is more to Maths than 1+1 =2. Children at that age are kind of like parrots, they can retain that information, and repeat it, but are they understanding why?

That's why teachers are now being taught "mathematical understanding". It's all well and good for a child to know that 1+1=2, but do they in turn now what 9+2 equals? When the time comes to do random sums, and not just the basic repeated ones, many students will have picked it up and understand what to do. Others won't though, and will disguise their lack of understanding with things they can repeat, but as times goes on they fall behind.

Yeah, as someone who earned fuel and beer money through uni by tutoring VCE maths, rote learning is great for kids learning arithmetic and multiplication tables, but serious maths is more about learning processes and tools, and being able to evaluate a problem and decide which of those mathematical tools are appropriate to solve it. You just can't teach calculus, or stats, or polynomial factorisation, or trig by rote in any meaningful way. They're complex, multi-stage processes and you need to actually understand why you're doing what you're doing to some degree.

Wow. When I was at school when we did any complex maths equation, we had to provide not only the answer, but all the steps we took to get there. I guess it's not the same when a calculator does it for you.

I'm starting to think you're as grumpy an old man as Noonan...

My high school expected 3 hours of homework performed each night by each student.

Yeah… right.