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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 696


Ms MacTIERNAN (Perth) (13:03): In this general education debate I think it is important to say—and I have been on the record saying—it is not just about money, that one does have to get the pedagogy right. You can continue to throw money at a bad program and it will not help, but we definitely do need the money to ensure that particularly those people in lower SEI groups who are not achieving their potential are given the opportunity to do it. I have always argued we have to get the pedagogy right, but then we have to fund the delivery of that so that we can make up the difference.

What I really want to talk about today is the most lamentable backtracking on the part of the Minister for Education on a principle that he espoused when he was in opposition and now seems to have reneged on. It is the importance of lifting the standards of people who are going into our education system. The Minister for Education said that we need to lift the ATAR standards of people being admitted to education. Indeed, that was consistent with the COAG reforms that from around 2011. Since appointing the vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University to chair this review of teaching standards, he has totally backtracked. That is most unfortunate.

We often talk about Finland. It has been most successful in turning around educational outcomes. In the late 1960s Finland shut down its existing teacher-training colleges and it only allowed education to be attached to its most prestigious and elite universities. To have any chance of being a teacher one had to be very well-educated and a relatively high achiever. This is an important principle that we need to bring into place here. In Australia we have continued to lower the standards for admission to teacher-training programs. Across Australia last year, for example, 7.3 per cent of people admitted to education degrees had an ATAR of less than 50 per cent. We had 16.6 per cent of people with ATARs of less than 60 per cent and 27 per cent of people with ATARs of less than 70.

I accept that ATAR is not the only judgement of a person's intellectual capacity, but adopting the principle that had been supported through COAG, of requiring people to be in the top 30 per cent in literacy and general intellectual achievement, is not unreasonable. Unfortunately, Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven, overseeing this investigation into teacher standards, said that all we need is a 'lick of paint'. We do not just need a lick of paint. We need something much more profound. I will give you the example of a test done at ECU. A document was sent to me in around 2010, so perhaps the test was done in 2009. They gave the year 9 literacy test to first-year education students. Ninety-three per cent of those students failed, first up. It was three weeks, intensive. They got the number down to about 86 per cent failing, after another three-week intensive, and then they got the score down to 81 per cent failing the year 9 literacy test.

This is not good enough. The fact that we are now saying 'Look it's quite good; we're now getting universities that have got their ATAR standard for education at around 65—that's a real achievement' shows a demeaning of education. We are discouraging smart, bright, hardworking young students going into education by allowing such low scores. We know that the Australian Catholic University— (Time expired)