By Edwina Seselja
Federal funding is shining the spotlight on teachers but one parenting body says more attention should be given to the role of guardians, to improve Australia’s education standards.
The Federal Government will invest $17 million to improve standards of education graduates to combat Australian kids falling behind the rest of the world.
Australian Parenting Council executive director Ian Dalton says while this funding is positive he is disappointed more funding was not invested into parental engagement.
“We need to recognise education as a shared responsibility between parents and teachers,” he says.
Mr Dalton says if society wants to see improvements in student outcomes there needs be a cultural change.
“The attitude is, education is something that schools do,” he says.
He says home life plays a major role in developing positive habits and attitudes towards learning.
Mr Dalton says greater resources are needed to improve parental engagement, which received $5 million from the budget this year.
Anita Smith is a high school teacher and says often it is teachers who take on the role of parents.
“Education and some facets of the general raising of students can be left to teachers,” she says.
Ms Smith says while she understands many parents work long hours, it is vital they engage with their child’s education.
“Parents need to be enquiring about homework,
organisation techniques, pastoral matters.”
Australian Institution of Teacher and School Leadership is responsible for rolling out the reforms to improve education graduates, introduced after the release of the Action Now Report.
AITSL general manager Edmund Misson says it is hard to say whether graduates standards have fallen but says the community is concerned.
Ms Smith says she does not think the standards of new graduates has fallen but is often concerned about graduates’ motivation to become teachers.
“I often wonder if teaching is a “second profession” choice for some that enter, and often this lack of passion can be evident in the classroom setting.”
The logic behind the reforms is centred on the idea that an improvement to teachers will see an improvement in their students.
“It’s not possible to provide young Australians with a first-rate education without first-rate teachers.”
– Education Minister Christopher Pyne
Australia’s education standards ranked 19th out of 65 OECD countries, according the PISA 2012 report.
Mr Misson says these reforms are just the beginning.
“There is a lot of work we can do to improve to quality and constancies around the county,” he says.
Tomorrow’s teacher: hear from a university student
Education student Carly Razum (pictured), 21, is in her first year of her degree.
“It’s a bit scary to think I will be responsible teaching the next generation but I do believe mums and dads have to do their bit too,” she says.
“Help with homework, talk to their kids about school. That stuff is important.”
Ms Razum says she can understand why people could be concerned about the quality of new graduates
“We’ve all grown up with calculators and spell-check,” she says.
“I think it has really impacted our ability to retain those basic skills we learned in school.”
What can be expected from the reforms?
New tests for university students as well as audits of university courses are among the reforms.
To ensure graduates are ‘classroom ready’, university standard are now under the microscope.
QUT Faculty of Education Executive Dean Kar-Tin Lee says the reforms are welcome news.
She says universities have been forced to take a serious look at the courses they provide.
“There will be a national approach for that and that is a good thing because we will get consistency across the whole country about what our students are graduating with,” Professor Lee says.
She says while it is early days, universities are already making changes to their courses.
“We have accredited all our new programs to meet these much more rigorous standards to ensure our teachers are graduating at a good quality.”
“Additionally students applying for teacher education will have to sit exams, to demonstrate high school level English, math and science.”
Professor Lee says the changes will not happen over night. The impacts of these measures are only expected to be seen around 2023.