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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING
House of Reps
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING
(House of Representatives-Wednesday, 6 July 2005)
CHAIR (Mr Hartsuyker)
ENGLERT, Ms Lesley
SMITH, Mr Kenneth John
CRANSTON, Ms Jenny Margaret
BARNES, Mr Gary John
SHAW, Mrs Leonie Mary
HALL, Dr Graeme
MANITZKY, Mrs Jill Margaret
REARDON, Mrs Dianne
DICKIE, Mr Paul
ANDERSON, Mrs Mandy
WALLACE, Ms Carmel Elizabeth
EVERETT, Mr Garry Joseph
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON
PATTON, Professor Wendy
BELL, Ms Amanda Anita
McLEAN, Professor Sandra Vianne
MACPHERSON, Dr Ian
BARTLETT, Associate Professor Brendan John
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON
SIM, Dr Cheryl
MIDDLETON, Dr Howard Eric
DEMPSTER, Professor Neil Colin
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON
ASPLAND, Professor Tania
COLE, Ms Marilyn
McFARLANE, Ms Lesley
BROWN, Mr Bill
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON
- Ms Englert
Content WindowSTANDING COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION AND VOCATIONAL TRAINING - 06/07/2005 - Teacher education
CHAIR —Welcome. Do any of you have anything to say about the capacity in which you appear?
Mrs Anderson —I am here as a representative of QCEC but my previous history is as a secondary school principal, so much of my thinking comes from that direction.
Mrs Reardon —I work for the Queensland Catholic Education Commission in the area of research and review. I have also had a long association with the Board of Teacher Registration, representing the commission on various committees there.
CHAIR —Although the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, I advise you that the hearings are legal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect as proceedings of the House itself. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of the parliament. Would you like to make any corrections or amendments to your submission?
Mr Everett —No.
CHAIR —I invite you to make some introductory remarks.
Mr Everett —The Catholic Education Commission in Queensland has approximately 300 schools distributed from the cape right through to the coast and out as far as the far west in Quilpie and Charleville and those areas. There are approximately 200 primary and 100 secondary schools. We have been established in Queensland for more than 150 years and our supply of teachers, with respect to this inquiry, comes largely from the Australian Catholic University, as one might imagine for Catholic schools, but we do take a considerable proportion of students who graduate from other universities not only in Queensland but in other states of Australia.
Mr Dickie —As a representative of Catholic school parents, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before the inquiry. I would like to put the parents’ point of view in relation to the teacher and the changing nature of parents’ roles in schools. I see the role of parents as being in four critical areas. The first is to be seen as the primary educator of their child and what that means for the relationship with schooling. The second is to be seen as a lifelong learner in a community sense. The third is to be seen as a supporter of schools at various levels and, the final one, which is becoming more important, is to be seen as an advocate of the education system. Those are the four areas I would like to concentrate on. When we look at those areas, there is very much a partnership arrangement between schools and the home. The government is looking at that whole partnership area at the present time, but I do not think it is reflected with anywhere near the importance it should be in teacher education and I fear that it is not reflected in school relationships either.
I find it a bit difficult to come to terms with when in a school situation, though teachers are very much supported by the parent community, it may not be the other way round. I think that there is a general perception of negativity towards parents. Teachers probably only remember the bad ones and probably forget the enormous amount of input that parents have into schools. I think that we have to break down that negative situation towards parents and capitalise on that very positive relationship that parents have with teachers in schools.
CHAIR —Do you see that attitude of teachers towards parents as something that should be addressed in teacher training?
Mr Dickie —Certainly. There is absolutely no training given concerning relationships between family and school within teacher education courses. I go to the ACU and I talk to fourth year students for a couple of hours—I am invited to do that and I have done that for a number of years. I think that is the only situation where teachers get the opportunity to listen to what parents are thinking about schools. We very much need to have that input in developing those partnerships. Those partnerships exist on a number of levels. Obviously there is that direct partnership between the parent and the teacher within the classroom, but there is another dimension of the parent in relation to the class and the parent in relation to the school and what contribution they make to the school. Then there is the parent relationship to the whole education community particularly in Catholic education but also the wider education community.
Now, as you know, governments are calling on parents to participate very much in those decision-making processes within education. You cannot pull a parent out of midair who does not know what the education situation is within the school in the wider area and expect them to perform on very important committees or boards or authorities. We apply to get on those authorities and I think that in the last count we were on something like 55. You need an enormous repository of parents who are educated or have particular preferences for certain areas to know what is happening in the school and have a wider perception and to be able to contribute positively in those areas. That is where the development of the partnership in decision-making within schools is critically important for us.
CHAIR —Yesterday we attended Central Queensland University’s Bachelor of Learning Management. Are you familiar with that course and do you have a view on its effectiveness?
Mrs Reardon —I am familiar with the course and I have had a brief look through the draft report that has just been released. I know the evaluation of the course was positive. I certainly like the notion that the course focuses on pedagogy, perhaps more so than other courses in terms of content—it puts the pedagogy first. I have not read the total evaluation but it is certainly looking very positive that that course is a model of teacher training.
Ms CORCORAN —I was interested in your comment about the need in your view that all universities should prepare graduates for teaching religion. You make a comment that, apart from the graduates coming from the Australian Catholic University, other graduates have to go through religious training in addition. Would you like to expand on that for me?
Mr Everett —We could expand on it in a couple of ways, I guess. We are in partnerships with a number of the universities that allow us and our Catholic Education Office staff to teach in the university and to teach religious education as a subject. So in addition to their ordinary curriculum in, say, Central Queensland, they would also have the opportunity to study the Catholic religious education program.
That is a good partnership that works there, but it does not work in every university in Queensland. If you graduate from other universities and you apply to get a job in a Catholic school—and you may be the most suitable candidate—we would say, ‘Yes, we would be happy to employ you; however, you will have to agree to undertake additional studies, because religious education is a core component of the curriculum.’ In primary schools it is taught by every teacher. So, if you were teaching in a primary school it would be an expectation, as part of your role, that you would teach the RE program; therefore, you need some preparation to teach that—some qualification. So it is a kind of an impost on a young graduate who has just been prepared in a secular university, who comes to get employment at our school when we say, ‘Yes, you are a great candidate, we would like to take you, but you would have to do some extra work.’ Much to our delight, it has not proved a large disincentive. But we are conscious that we are asking them to do extra work and they seem to take it on and it has been reasonably successful.
Ms CORCORAN —Are you aware that other religious schools with different religions have the same concerns as you?
Mr Everett —I would not be surprised if they did.
Ms CORCORAN —How would those concerns be addressed? Do you see the university providing subjects in all religions?
Mr Everett —It is interesting that in this state we have a senior year’s course called The Study of Religion, which is not about a particular faith like Catholicism, Anglicanism or Lutheranism, or any of those, but is a broad course that deals with the concepts of religion, what it means to be a religious person and how religion affects one life etc. That is a good foundation course, in a sense. In answer to your question I suspect that, in discussions with universities, it may well be possible to develop a broad base course that would prepare candidates to teach in an Anglican School, as well as in a Catholic school or in any other faith based school. That possibility has never been explored, but I suspect the answer lies somewhere down that track. We would then, in our continual professional development of those teachers, help them to acquire a greater understanding of the Catholic faith.
Mrs Anderson —From a secondary school perspective, frequently we would employ people from universities other than the Australian Catholic University, simply because of the need for skills areas, for discipline areas beyond that which the ACU would provide and, as Garry has said, one of the impost things is that those young teachers must undertake further education in some religious studies. For young teachers who are newly graduated—or sometimes for older but newly graduated teachers—it is a significant impost on them to then undertake appropriate religious studies, as well as their day-to-day teaching load and keeping up with their subject area in all the other new areas that they encounter once they are full time in a school. Garry made the point about them having the opportunity to do that as part of their course and, from our point of view, it would certainly ease the burden and increase their employability skills.
Mr Everett —I add one other dimension which the committee may not be aware of. In the Catholic schools in Queensland we have an accreditation process, which requires all teachers and all teachers of religious education to undertake ongoing professional development. It is a mandatory requirement. So teachers who teach religion must, over four years, undertake 40 hours of professional development in teaching RE. Those who do not teach religion but teach in a Catholic school are required to undertake 20 hours. There is a continual requirement to steep oneself in the ethos of the tradition of the Catholic sector. That is after you graduate. There are still further mandatory requirements on teachers. They have been successfully negotiated with the teachers and most of them have seen that as a positive thing. It is a thing they like to do anyway. They think it is an important professional thing to be well qualified in those areas to teach in a church school.
Mr Dickie —Perhaps on a wider perspective of the whole values situation, it is interesting that a couple of years ago, education was supposed to be values free. Now, it has mandated values. I wonder why or how those values are inculcated into the system. We are fortunate in a Catholic system, because we come out of a faith tradition. If we are saying that these are the values that we teach, I wonder from where do we get those values? Whose values are they and should they be very much a part of the whole curriculum within all schools? If you look now in state schools you will see there are a large number of chaplains—there is that whole yearning of young people for some sort of spirituality and some depthing of their nature. Perhaps we should be looking at that.
Mr SAWFORD —That is a dangerous game, isn’t it?
Mr Dickie —Yes, indeed.
Mr SAWFORD —That is a very dangerous game because the Catholic Church does not come from a democratic tradition in the sense that we understand it, in some ways. By saying what you are saying, you can open up a can of worms that goes much further than you would want it to go. You would reject that and I think we would all reject that as well. You need to be very careful in terms of what you are asking for there.
Mr Dickie —I am just saying that the situation seems a bit interesting at the present time.
Mr SAWFORD —I think you are right.
Ms BIRD —You made the point—which is common, I think, to the Catholic school system and the public school system experience—about the difficulty of taking on board practicum placements. This is a common message we are hearing from ‘employing bodies’, if you like: that staff feel that they get very little out of it. You made the point that that is not just monetary; it is also about the pressures. I would be interested to hear you, if you could, pinpoint what exactly the issues are for schools and staff in managing practicum placements and examples you may have seen where it actually works much more effectively. If we are going to push an agenda that says there needs to be more practical components to all training, then we need to make sure we are not creating an unachievable position, because schools will then say, ‘Well, don’t send them to us!’
Mrs Anderson —From my experience—and I am speaking about a metropolitan school; obviously there are far higher demands to place students in a school in a metropolitan area, and the fact that we are a girls’ school also makes it very attractive to many young teachers or older teachers in training in education—often we have large volumes of students, as well as the universities, contacting us and seeking to place students. On occasions, there have been interstate students who seek to do their practicum. Where you have the experience of wonderful associate teachers, the teaching staff who oversee, work with and mentor them are highly encouraged to take on further associate teachers down the track. You only need one experience of really hard work with a difficult associate teacher to make teachers wary.
Teachers are aware, particularly in the senior sections of school, that if a group of students miss two or three periods of lessons it takes a long time to catch up. Teachers are protective of their classes and ensuring that they get through the work that they must get through, so they are a little bit reserved about that. They are conscious of the time load of having associate teachers. They are also conscious of the great boon that can come from a wonderful associate teacher. So there is a balance. When I have asked teachers, they have frequently been unaware of the remuneration they receive after it has been through the multiple channels. The time factor is frequently the most significant to them. Having said that, if you try to amend a teacher’s timetable in some way to allow recognition of that extra time you jeopardise the students in their classes unless that is done way back at the beginning. There is a real catch-22 situation in facilitating both the needs of the students in the school, who are your core business and your first priority, and facilitating the needs of associate teachers, who very genuinely need exposure to practicum placements.
Ms BIRD —We are also trying to find things that work to address problems.
Mrs Reardon —Just following up on the BLM, where you obviously looked at a model of teacher education, Bond University also has a model that you might like to look at, called ‘Master of Teaching’, where they are in partnership with a set number of schools—most of them independent. The university and the schools actually work very closely together, and the teachers in those schools who work in the education of these young teachers are part of the university. It is mutually arranged.
I have forgotten the actual term the university gives to them, but it might be associate lecturers—they have a definite term. They spend a lot of time at the university before they take the teachers on and, working through the course, they play a part in the assessment. These are all graduates; they are not as a rule young people. They have often had other careers and they certainly have other degrees. So they are of a different profile from students of most other universities.
The number of students is very small. It is down to 10 or 12 in some years—it is about 20-something this year. But it is a model you might like to look at; it definitely is a new model and it almost makes practicum obsolete, because the students are so much in the schools.
Mr Everett —And so much part of the university. Dianne is right; part of their success is due to their small numbers. For example the students are mostly assessed orally in a roundtable situation like this. The assessors are both the university staff and the practicum teachers. So, when they are assessing an academic aspect of the students’ work, the prac teachers from the schools can say, ‘Well, that’s not demonstrated very strongly when you come out into the classroom.’ There is a dialogue between the practitioners and the theoreticians and the students are the beneficiaries of that; they get some really good feedback. It is an unusual and exciting model, but I believe its success—
Ms BIRD —With 200 students?
Mr Everett —With 200 students, there is just no way. You could not do it.
Mrs Reardon —I want to follow up what Mandy said about some of the problems in the classroom. One of the problems is that teachers feel some pressure when it comes to assessing those students—you have worked with a student for perhaps six weeks and all of a sudden you become an assessor. And the Bond University model takes that pressure off the classroom teacher or the person in the school, because they are then working very closely with the lecturers. The teacher becomes a team member in the assessing and it gets rid of that problem.
Mr Everett —In this state, which is very geographically diverse, placing teachers for practicums in rural and remote areas is quite problematic. Not that there are not teachers out there—although sometimes you have only a one- or two-teacher school, so that kind of unique experience presents a bit of a problem. But sometimes there are just sheer practicalities like accommodation. Where does a young graduate stay out in a rural area? There is no teachers’ flat; there is no accommodation. Unless somebody billets them they are stuck for a place, so you cut off the opportunity to have a practicum in rural areas. I think that is sad, because we need as many teachers as we can get to staff our rural schools.
Mrs Reardon —The profile of people going into teacher education courses has changed dramatically. Many are now mature age students. They have family commitments and most of them have jobs, so to send them away from their jobs for a practicum is not practical; they cannot do it. They are virtually relying on that income to survive. This is another issue with practicum and we really have to come to terms with it. Also, in terms of funding, the teachers are paid a very small amount. I would agree with Mandy that most of them do not even know what it is by the time it gets to them. So to them is not a big issue. But through my commitment to the board, where I work with the Professional Education Committee where the universities are all represented, I constantly hear about the universities’ problems in funding a practicum. I do not know the details of that but it seems that funding is—
Ms BIRD —We are hearing them!
Mrs Reardon —You are hearing them; good.
Mr Everett —Have you heard that it is now an industrial issue, or looming as an industrial issue?
Ms BIRD —In some places.
Mr Everett —In Queensland it certainly will be.
Mr Dickie —Can I take up the rural and remote issues and the area of teacher education and bringing people to the city. Surely we must be looking at people who are residing in the country, because it is very difficult to attract people to rural and remote areas—as soon as they get there they want to get out of the place, basically. There are repositories of permanent residents there, I think, who are very experienced people and we should be able to mobilise those people to do things by distance education and to be actually in the schools. And there you have a permanent group of people—
Ms BIRD —Who are more likely to stay there.
Mr Dickie —who are integral to that community. Whereas some people fly in and fly out, and are not really integral to the community. As you know, in some communities in the west you have to live there for 45 years before you are accepted. I think we have not done enough to look at the flexibility of getting people there. I also find it interesting that we talk to our secondary students about becoming a teacher virtually for life yet we also give them the advice that they are going to change their job four or five times in their careers. How are we accommodating the situation where we might have a teacher for six to 10 years and give them the training and ability to enter and exit flexibly?
Ms BIRD —Good point.
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON —I am very interested in the remarks in your submission regarding the status of teaching and the attractiveness of teaching as a profession. I just have a couple of questions. Could you let me know what is, in your view, the situation in the Catholic sector? Does it have any peculiarities? Is it seen as more or less attractive than some other sectors, and what does that say about your retention and recruitment?
Mr Everett —I will invite Carmel to say a few words as a representative of the major employer. However, in the Brisbane area, for example, we have long waiting lists of teachers wanting to teach in Catholic schools, so there is not an undersupply in the metropolitan area. Once you go to the provincial and rural areas the supply starts to diminish and finding the right people for rural schools can be difficult. I think it is true to say that Catholic schools in Queensland are generally held in high regard by the public. They see the schools as reputable, with long histories of tradition, success and contributing to the community. I suspect that most people would say that it would be a good thing to teach at a Catholic school. The salaries are no different from those in the public sector and the industrial conditions are all fairly similar. They are all governed by enterprise bargaining arrangements and so on.
In general, the image of teaching in Catholic schools is attractive and healthy. I think it also has to do with a possible myth—I am not sure if it is a myth—that somehow Catholic schools are free of problems such as drugs, lack of discipline and all of those kinds of things. There is a kind of myth that that is true, and that tends to create a drift from the public sector into the private sector. I assume that you know the statistics that around nine per cent of teachers in this state go from the public sector to the private. Part of it is to do with all those notions of better behaved students in those schools because they have better discipline and are free of drugs. I think that it is a pretty good image that the teaching profession has in Catholic schools but it has not solved all of our problems either.
Ms Wallace —We have an overabundance in the number of primary teachers who are coming out of universities in the south-east corner of Queensland and who, for various reasons, would like to stay in the metropolitan area. There are far more than we can actually employ. Going back to the issue of whether they have taken religious education subjects and so on, there would still be an overabundance of the people we can employ. We are one of the highest growth areas in Queensland, so there are also experienced teachers coming to the area. We have various databases with data that can support that. In the country areas we have more difficulty placing teachers. We know that people like to stay in those central capital city areas. The movement that occurs is often related to spousal employment.
We still have some of the issues that all schools have, particularly secondary schools, with certain subject areas. We are still looking at maths and science. We have a number of people applying for our positions but we always look at the issue of quality. With ICT we often lose teachers to other industries. Some males in secondary schools particularly, because of pay levels, may often go into other industry related areas with the experience they have gained through working in education. So the choices are out there for people. We do not have the same employment issues as some schools do; we are more of an employer of choice.
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON —What you have just said leads quite well into my next question. Your submission highlights your view that the status of the teaching profession is not as high as it could or should be. Now you have highlighted the issues of attracting male teachers and attracting the right specialist teachers. What are you doing about that in your sector here in Queensland? More broadly, what do you think are some points that we could take on board in helping to address that?
Mrs Reardon —I will link that back to remuneration—not to how much teachers are paid but to the pattern in which they are paid. They reach a plateau very early in a career. Perhaps we should look at another way of organising the pattern of remuneration. We could look at other countries. In Singapore, for instance, they continue their pay rises well into the 10th, 12th and even 14th year of experience in teaching. We need to look at that in terms of remuneration.
Sometimes teachers are their own worst PR people. You will hear many teachers say, ‘No child of mine is going to teach.’ It is a very hard job with long hours. Anybody who has been a teacher or lived with a teacher—and many people have, because they say every teacher breeds a teacher who goes on to breed a teacher—knows those sorts of hours.
As we said in our submission, it is true that this supply and demand thing is a bit of a problem in taking people into teacher education. Reading the OPs going into some of the regional universities—when you, as a teacher, understand what that OP actually means—it is sometimes quite frightening to think that those people are going on to do teaching. I heard in the last session a gentleman make a comment about people dropping out of teacher education. I would not have a problem with it, either, because many of the people who go into it should definitely drop out of it, and I hope the system helps that along. We need to look at remuneration in terms of the pattern of remuneration for those teachers. With regard to status, perhaps we need to do something very positive in the PR area to raise that. There was a whole inquiry into the status of teaching. I have a big file on it at work but I really do not know what happened about it.
Mr Everett —I will add a brief comment. We are in partnership with the University of Central Queensland in a research project called ‘the mates project’. That involves male teachers mentoring younger people considering teaching as a profession or starting out in the university course. These experienced teachers work with them to encourage these males to select and stay in teaching. We have those kinds of partnerships on research projects. We are trying to find ways to get more male teachers into our system. We share that problem.
Ann, I wanted to come back to your first question, which is related to Michael’s. The Australian Catholic University here is in partnership with the Lutheran church. Their students going into teaching are taught at the Catholic University with some of the program being provided exclusively by the Lutheran church. They have their own staff members there. They do the history of the Lutheran church and the important aspects of that. The rest of the education is Christian and Catholic. That has been quite successful in turning out Lutheran teachers for Lutheran schools and Catholic teachers for Catholic schools. That helps to enhance the status of teaching as well, because people see one university preparing good quality people for different places.
Mr Dickie —The public perception of the teaching profession—and I have given examples before where parents are generally very supportive of teachers—is that it is very much an industrialised profession and that within it there is a concentration on that whole industrial relations exercise.
Mr MICHAEL FERGUSON —A public service image?
Mr Dickie —No: that it is an employer versus employee situation and that that tends to dominate. There is a lot of publicity about strike action and things like that. Parents get very upset. The perception is that teachers go on strike. They do not. But the perception is there that they are very militant, and the vast majority are not. Going back to the point of getting a partnership going between the teaching profession and the parents, most of the problems that we have with parents and teachers is out of ignorance. They do not know what the situation is. Once a situation is explained, or if they take part in a decision, then they accept responsibility for it. So I think we should concentrate on those positives. You have got a very supportive group of parents out there.
Mrs Reardon —Could I add, on remuneration, that in Queensland—I cannot speak for other states, because I do not know—there is no reward now for going on and getting a higher degree. Once you are in there, after your four-year training, you are in there. We now have the situation where there is virtually a barrier to proceeding to any higher pay—in terms of both qualification and experience. Everybody reaches the eight-year mark and that is it.
Ms BIRD —Could I follow up briefly on that. There is an issue which we raised with the previous panel that concerns me. I am increasingly coming to the view that I have very little concern about new graduates. What we are seeing is that by and large they are enthusiastic, full of new ideas and dying to get out there in the classroom. I live in what is a high attraction area for teaching staff, which means that most of the teachers at the local high school where my sons go were there when I was there; there has not been much rejuvenation at all. Exactly as you say, the teachers reach the top of their pay scale and they can go into the classroom, shut the door and do the same thing day after day, year after year. The outcome of that is that I battle with two sons to keep them going to school. So I am interested to hear what you are saying about mechanisms to keep ongoing professional development—the last criterion in our inquiry. It is partly about remuneration, but have you given some thought to other ways to stop that ossification happening?
Ms Wallace —Certainly ongoing professional learning is really important for our teachers. I think it needs to have significance and be able to be translated into the realities of a classroom. Most of the professional learning that is available covers the particular areas of priorities. Schools need to make decisions in regard to that. Some of the wonderful programs that we have done, and through the Quality Teacher Program funding, look at those teachers who need rejuvenation. Some of the feedback that has come through has been very positive. It is not specifically curriculum based. It goes to what we are actually on about and breathing new life into those people and recognising those who have moved into middle management areas and may not choose to go into senior management for family or other reasons—giving them that breath of life back into what they are doing.
Ms BIRD —Would you be able to provide some information on the ongoing development so that we could have a more in-depth look at it?
Mr Everett —One feature of some of the programs that Carmel mentioned is that they take the ossified teachers out for a period of time—not a day or a half-day but a week or two weeks or something. The teachers see it as a kind of recognition and a reward. They get two weeks away from school and they get to stay at the place for the residential program. They see it as recognition in some way, and it enhances their own status. Then through the program, as Carmel said, they begin to realise that this is a very reflective time. It is not about acquiring new IT skills or something else but it is about really reflecting on what it means to be a teacher and those kinds of things. The feedback has been very good. Carmel could give you plenty of information.
Ms BIRD —We would love some information on that.
Mr SAWFORD —Do employing authorities like the Catholic Education Commission, the Queensland government and the teacher registration board contribute unwittingly to the low status of teachers? There is this silly argument about teacher training. If you ask a medical doctor, they will say they were trained. They never say that they went to Adelaide, Melbourne or whatever. In a lot of the submissions there is a big fuss made of teacher training. It is as if teachers are under attack all the time and you have got to defend them. What is the difference between teacher training and teacher education?
Mrs Reardon —One thing I am going to do is go back and check with my GP, just like you did.
Mr SAWFORD —The answer will be that he or she was trained.
Mrs Reardon —I will see.
Mr SAWFORD —I assure you they do.
Mr Everett —We have not made a big issue of it here. We mentioned the fact that we would prefer not to talk about teacher training but rather to talk about teacher professional learning or teacher professional development. It is something that we have been encouraging in the profession for a number of years, trying to use a less mechanistic kind of notion that might be associated with training as opposed to continuing professional learning. It is not a big thing. We certainly encourage the teachers in our system to use the latter kind of language—continuing professional learning—rather than training. It is part of the language which is part of the culture of understanding of what it means to be a teacher. It puts some emphasis on things that might enhance the status of teaching rather than keeping it held back somewhere else. We have not made a big deal of it.
Ms BIRD —Given that tradespeople earn twice what teachers earn, we might be going the wrong way.
Mr Everett —I understand that, and that is part of the public perception of what a teacher is worth. They are not worth what a plumber is worth because a plumber can unplug the pipe straightaway but a teacher cannot teach my kid to read straightaway. All those things operate on this notion of status. We are using a kind of linguistic and cultural approach that tries to keep raising the profession’s vision to a different level.
Mr SAWFORD —Does Catholic Education encourage a diversity of educational philosophies and, if so, what are they?
Mr Everett —You would have read in our submission that we are conscious of the fact that staff will come from different philosophies of education. There is an anthropology element in the Catholic philosophy of education that is critical, but we also expect our students to be aware of other philosophies of education, such as Paolo Freire’s stuff on liberation and all those kinds of things. Why did Paolo Freire develop that kind of philosophy of education? What does it mean to be critical of society and its norms and so on? That kind of broad understanding of philosophies of education is part and parcel of our course. There are core elements like the anthropological one: why was a person created and what is the purpose of life? We have some specific answers in our philosophy of education that you might not find in other universities.
Mr SAWFORD —What is the gender balance like in Catholic primary and secondary schools?
Mrs Anderson —It is very poor.
Mr Everett —It is probably the same as everywhere else. It is a very feminised profession at the primary level.
Mrs Anderson —We struggle to get male teachers.
Mr SAWFORD —You mentioned in your submission—and Michael has canvassed some of the reasons as well—that males are not attracted because of career prospects. Maybe that will change in the foreseeable future because of the age profile—you would think that there will be enormous career prospects down the track. The salaries are not attractive, and I take the point that Dianne mentioned about their plateauing out. In your submission you mentioned child safety regulations, which I think are a real fear for young men.
Mr Everett —That is a problem, yes.
Mr SAWFORD —There are also a couple of other problems. In a previous inquiry young men actually told us, point-blank, that the profession is too feminised and too old.
Mrs Anderson —Both are true.
Mr Everett —Yes, both of those statements are true. We know young men who say, ‘I don’t want to be a teacher because it’s a woman’s job.’ There is largely a feminised view of the teaching profession. Some say, ‘I don’t want to go into teaching because—
Mr SAWFORD —Which is very sad.
Mr Everett —Yes, it is very sad. We have to work really hard to try to get male teachers.
Mr SAWFORD —What sorts of things do you do to try to change that?
Mrs Reardon —As Garry mentioned, a part of the problem with the ‘mates program’ that is being implemented is to match up not only young teachers who are already in university but also those who are first or second year out with an experienced male teacher as a mentor. You are quite right: frequently they will find themselves the only male in the staffroom, with perhaps 20 women on staff. Part of that program—it is not the whole of the program—is a mentoring program that is deliberately trying to put males with males so that they get a perspective from a male teacher’s point of view. Because there are not that many male mentors out there, I am not sure how that will work yet. But it is an attempt to try to overcome some of that isolation that male teachers feel in a very feminised situation.
Mrs Anderson —Within individual schools, many principals would work on the theory, ‘If I employ one young male, I will appoint a second young male at the same time, if I possibly can,’ because, as you said, who wants to dump them into a group of middle-aged women, which is often the make-up of the staffroom. You can do things at the school level on occasions to address that. It is not a large-scale response.
Ms Wallace —I believe we are not being proactive enough at a much earlier stage. As Dianne was saying before, we are our own worst enemy. We need, particularly in secondary schools and in primary schools, to be promoting it as a profession and saying that it is a career path that students can follow. I know even just from personal experience that when some of our single-sex secondary schools have their vocations week, or whatever you want to call it, education is not featured. They do not have someone visiting from that area. I have done that with some of the secondary schools, but I think we need to go out there. That is what makes people look at enrolling in teaching. There are an increasing number of males in their late twenties who went into other areas and then with a little bit of maturity made a distinct decision to go into primary teaching. I think that is a very positive change. That is purely anecdotal.
Mr SAWFORD —When you mention feminisation and the age profile of the profession, some people interpret that as an attack on female teachers and older teachers. It is not, and should not be. It is understanding that there is a problem in the gender balance in our schools and the teaching styles that are available to our children. Often the profession gets into a catch-22—they make an observation and then the observation gets turned around on top of them, so people start to withdraw from the debate. How do you overcome that?
Mr Dickie —I think it is teachers who talk about feminisation. The critical thing for parents is who is in the front of the class and who can best teach their child. It does not matter whether it is a female or a male. I do not know whether it is a self-perception of teachers. I do not hear many parents complaining. What they want is good teachers; that is the important thing. As Carm was saying, we might be looking much more at that flexibility of encouraging those people who are mature age to come in. A large number of teachers are now coming up to retirement age. We might encourage people who have retired to be more involved in schools—to come back into schools to mentor and relate to kids better so there is more of a balance.
Mr SAWFORD —I think that ignores the proven fact that men and women teach differently—one gender is more analytical and the other is more synthesised. One is not necessarily superior to the other, but they give a balance. In this country 25 years ago we had 100,000 tertiary students—our future thinkers, engineers and builders—doing pure mathematics, philosophy and logic. That figure has plummeted to less than 16,000. That is a huge national problem that we have not addressed. How people teach does have implications. Women teach in a more synthetic way. I do not mean an artificial way; they teach by synthesis in the main because that is the way many women learn. Harvard University have proven that this is how their brains work, and that men teach more analytically. One is not superior to the other, but together they give children a broader education.
I do not take your point; I do hear parents saying, ‘My child has never had a male teacher,’ and they are worrying. They shift their children to where male teachers are. I have schools in my electorate, both public and private, that have a gender balance, through some freakish organisation. They have waiting lists. Do not tell me parents do not know what they are looking for; they know exactly what they are looking for. They see a balanced education as desirable. I think one of the great strengths of Catholic education is balance. They see that there is a more balanced education within that sphere. Sometimes there is a balance in public education, and you market it very well. But I think men and women have a different way of teaching and I think kids need the benefit of both. I put that to you.
Ms LIVERMORE —I have a question, and I am not sure how specific this should be. I am putting together your answers to terms of reference Nos 5 and 7. You talk about the diversity of education philosophies that are taught, coupled with the breadth of specialised areas that are also trying to be incorporated into teacher education programs. As employers, do you still think there is coherence in education programs? When graduates come into your schools, what do you see? Are they arriving at your schools with a clear idea of what it means to be a teacher, what their role is, what they should be doing in front of a class and what they are bringing to their students? Is there that coherence and clarity as to their role?
Mrs Anderson —In my experience, new teachers, as with all teachers, are as varied as students. Some excellent young teachers arrive. They have a very clear vision of who they are and what they want to be. Sometimes it has been moulded and affected by those who have most influenced them, whether they be their own teachers, their parents or the associate teachers who worked with them in their courses and so on. I do not think you could classify teachers as all being clear minded about what they are doing. I think we would find as many varieties as we would find in any other walk of life. Sometimes that variety is a beauty. If teachers do have very different ways of teaching, whether they are men or women, their personalities come so much into the teaching faculty that there are going to be myriad ways of doing things and getting to the same end. I do not know that there is one answer from my point of view to that question.
Mrs Reardon —Can I answer that from a different point of view. I chair the standards and guidelines committee of the board of teacher registration. We are constantly getting requests to add things into the curriculum of teacher education. It is absolutely constant. We never get a request to take anything out. So I really do think we have to be careful about what we say we can put into teacher education when they come out of four years of training. In Queensland we are now going to one-year postgraduate training, and we may do that for primary teachers. There are eight KLAs alone. If you try to do in one year eight KLAs plus put in practicum in what really comes down too little more than 26 weeks by the time you look at a university—
Ms BIRD —Are you talking about a DipEd. type of course?
Mrs Reardon —Yes. It is just like with our school curriculum. We really do have to be careful as to what we keep pushing in at the edges of the teacher education curriculum as well.
Mr Everett —The view of the majority of employers in Catholic education with whom I work would be that they are very happy with the quality of most graduates that they take into their schools. At the same time they notice diversity of strengths and weaknesses, so some are extra good at curriculum planning and all that sort of thing, some are very good at behavioural management and some are not so good at this, that or whatever. It tends to reflect a little bit the emphasis given in the universities who provide the graduates. The general impression that I have gained over many years is that our employers find the quality of graduates of a reasonably good standard. Yes, there is some coherence about how they approach that, then they go through the induction program and the continuing professional development program, which build upon those strengths. There are checks and balances.
Mrs Anderson —We are in the privileged position of being able to choose our staff. We do not simply have teachers land on our doorstep because ours was the school that the education department sent them to. We have the opportunity to employ according to our needs and our backgrounds, which is a great advantage to us.
Mr HENRY —In your submission you mention that some Asian countries have succeeded in improving the status and cultural value of teaching. Do you know how they may have addressed in their programs the issue of practical teacher training?
Mr Everett —We probably do not have a close enough working knowledge of the actual university education programs. A lot of the impressions I have on this were gained from working with Barry McGaw from OECD, who has done an analysis of some of these Asian countries—and we made reference to that in our submission. Part of it is cultural. Teachers are highly regarded in some Asian countries, and people show great deference to teachers as authority figures. So it is a cultural thing in one sense. In this country teachers are not always seen with the same regard.
Mr HENRY —Did we use to?
Mr Everett —I suspect in some sort of mythical golden age there may have been a time when teachers were looked up to and highly respected, speaking as an old teacher myself. However, I think it is largely a cultural factor, and I am not sure to what extent the training or academic institutions there actually provide that image and so on.
CHAIR —Thank you for appearing before the committee today. We may contact you in the future if we need further information. We have asked you to get back to us with some material. Please do so as quickly as possible. The secretariat will send you a proof copy of today’s transcript of your evidence, and a copy of the transcript will be placed upon the web site.
Mr Everett —Thank you for the opportunity to be here. We wish you well with the outcome of your inquiry and the changes that we look forward to seeing.