Sunday, February 24, 2013

Teacher quality: quick fix solutions not the answer

Vanguard March 2013 p. 3
Nick G.

A series of so-called “consultations” was held around the country during February on a government discussion paper advocating alternative pathways into teaching.

The traditional pathway has been that of school leavers going straight into tertiary studies, gaining the appropriate qualifications, and then getting a position as a beginning teacher.

Most of the options for alternative pathways remove the requirement for educational qualifications.

The two schemes currently supported by the government are Teach for Australia (a clone of the US-based Teach for America), and Teach Next.

The latter aims to recruit people with “relevant industry experience” who are put into classrooms after an 8-week training session.

The former recruits graduates with good academic records (but not an educational qualification) and puts them into a school after a 6-week training session.

This is a bit like appointing dentists because they have good teeth.

Teach for Australia appointees are only required to stay in the classroom for two years.  After that they are offered positions in big corporations which believe that they will have developed good communication skills and resilience in the face of challenges while in the schooling sector.

There is nothing wrong with training academically gifted graduates or field professionals from areas like engineering or accountancy to become teachers, but they must be trained, and not put through Mickey Mouse courses and then told to learn the craft on the job at the expense of other people’s children.

 Alternative pathways for unqualified staff will be facilitated by giving principals power to hire and fire teachers from a school-based budget.  Putting on new and unqualified teachers in the place of qualified and experienced staff on higher salary steps will go hand in hand with “empowering principals” to make such decisions.

 Alternative pathways appeal to right-wing ideologists who are at the forefront of the media’s frequent teacher bashing forays.  They are quite consciously the spokespeople for big multinational corporations who want education to simply churn out a productive workforce.

The giant multinational Pearson publishing group has a near-monopoly on the new Australian Curriculum and the national testing program NAPLAN.  Rupert Murdoch has his eyes on the market for educational resources, declaring education to be the “last frontier” for investors.

Teach for Australia has the support of the big end of town through formal links to Ernst and Young, big law firms serving corporate interests such as Allens Linklaters, and Corr Chambers Hogarth, the multinational Boston Consulting Group, and a WA-based private foundation that channels corporate donations into selected schools.

The real agenda here is not a concern to improve teacher quality through such inappropriate alternative pathways into teaching.  It is to marginalise the teacher unions, employ business-compliant but otherwise unqualified teachers and force public education to open itself to commercial market forces.  It is part of imperialism’s neo-liberal assault on all public sector institutions.

If you are a parent of kids at school help teachers maintain a qualified workforce in our schools.

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