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Gillard's teacher training plan meets with re -

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Gillard's teacher training plan meets with resistance

The World Today - Monday, 8 September , 2008 12:42:00

Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government says it wants to improve teaching standards in Australia by
increasing the pool from which teachers can be selected.

The Education Minister Julia Gillard is trying to convince education academics and the states and
territories that they need to make it easier for university graduates without a teaching background
to become teachers.

But the proposal is meeting a fair degree of resistance, as Simon Santow reports

SIMON SANTOW: Julia Gillard says she's not afraid to change the way students become teachers, no
matter who she offends in the process.

JULIA GILLARD: There are a number of ways of becoming a teacher in this country today. Some people
take a four year course to become a teacher. Others get a university qualification say in science
or arts and then do a one year graduate diploma.

We are obviously talking about accelerated models that change the balance from how much is done
sitting in a university lecture theatre as opposed to how much is done learning in front of a
classroom.

SIMON SANTOW: But you do realise though Minister don't you that you are cheapening what is done in
that graduate diploma by offering to scrap it or to shorten it?

JULIA GILLARD: What I realise is if we do nothing, we will end up with people going into teaching
courses who have barely passed year 12. That is the trend that we're on at the moment. With demand
for teacher education falling, the scores to get into teacher education are going down.

And while some very bright young Australians decide to go teaching, it's possible to get into a
teacher education course having done not much better than passing year 12.

SUE WILLIS: That's just simply not true. It's, I mean it's not a matter of what I make of it, it's
just statistically not true.

SIMON SANTOW: But that's the sort of rhetoric that the Minister is using.

SUE WILLIS: Well I don't know. I haven't heard the Minister actually say that and it well may be
that there are some people who are coming through in some courses who are coming through. But I
know, I've analysed the data in Victoria ever since 1998 and the quality of people entering
teaching has increased remarkably over that period of time.

SIMON SANTOW: The other side of the argument is Professor Sue Willis, the Dean of the Faculty of
Education at Monash University and the president of the Australian Council of Deans of Education.

SUE WILLIS: The quality of people entering teaching at the moment is as good as it's ever been and
has been improving.

SIMON SANTOW: Professor Willis says it's a mistake to assume that postgraduate education diplomas
don't teach people how to teach.

SUE WILLIS: Nobody could argue with the notion that we want to attract the brightest and best into
teaching and that we want teaching to become a career of first choice. Everybody would endorse
that.

However even the brightest and best need to be well prepared. We may attract the brightest and best
into law and medicine but we wouldn't let them practice law and we wouldn't let them practice
medicine unless they were very, very well qualified.

So if we want good outcomes for the children in our schools and particularly those children who are
at the present time the most disadvantaged children, who are living in some rural communities which
are having difficulties attracting teachers, children who may have literacy issue and so on, they
need the very best and that means certainly that they need able teachers who are bright but they
need very well-prepared teachers as well.

SIMON SANTOW: The Federal Government says it's concerned that trainee teachers don't spend enough
time in front of the classroom before they embark on their career.

Julia Gillard has been studying other models and she likes what's on offer outside Australia.

JULIA GILLARD: Our whole aim here is to have the best and brightest teaching in those schools that
need quality teachers the most. And when we look at what is being done overseas, we see excellent
results. We see the best and brightest go in teaching. We see them going to schools that need them.

We see those new teachers making a difference to the results of those students. And importantly
after their first two years of teaching, even though they've got other options and potential jobs
with businesses, more than half of these new teachers elect to stay teaching because they love it.

SIMON SANTOW: Somewhere in the middle are school principals.

BARBARA STONE: Well as a product of the era when the brightest and whatever were courted to
actually do and have paid for them a diploma of education, I'd have to feel that that isn't the
case.

SIMON SANTOW: In the independent sector, there's acknowledgement that graduates who haven't
completed extra teaching qualifications find it hard to become teachers.

Barbara Stone is the principal at MLC school in Sydney and speaks for the Association of Heads of
Independent Schools of Australia.

BARBARA STONE: Certainly I know that rather than going to medicine and law, a number of my
contemporaries went into teaching because we saw that as an exciting opportunity to be able to do
something, but also there was some in a sense pay-off in that our fees were reduced in relation to
that.

So I think that's a huge under-estimation of why people go into teaching. I think that teachers go
into teaching because they want to make a difference and the best thing to do is to improve the
standard of the profession, and the reputation of the profession, and the ease of entry to the
profession.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the principal of MLC Sydney and president of the Association of the Heads
of Independent Schools, Barbara Stone. She was speaking to Simon Santow.