Daily Bulletin


Daily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Peter Goss, School Education Program Director, Grattan Institute
The government claims teaching is a national priority, but cheaper degrees won't improve the profession

Education Minister Dan Tehan recently announced changes to Commonwealth contributions for university courses. As part of the government’s “Job-ready graduates” package, many humanities subjects would become more expensive but students would pay less for courses where the government believes the jobs of the future will be. They include science, languages and teaching.

Read more: Fee cuts for nursing and teaching but big hikes for law and humanities in package expanding university places

These proposed changes, still to be considered by the Senate, caused much outrage and criticism across the university sector. But the response from the school teaching community has been more muted. Maybe this is because education is flagged as a national priority – undergraduates who study teaching will have their HECS fees slashed by 45%.

Surely school teachers should be popping the champagne?

Not so fast

Teachers have never been more appreciated than during COVID-19. But neither expressions of support during a crisis, nor cheaper degrees, will overcome four deep structural challenges facing the profession:

  1. teaching needs to attract more high achievers to counteract a four-decade slide in the academic capability of teachers

  2. domains with acute shortages including maths, science and languages need more specialist teachers

  3. disadvantaged schools, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas, struggle to attract and retain great teachers

  4. Australia needs an expert teacher career path so top teachers don’t have to move away from teaching to keep developing, and can get paid what they are worth.

No policy can solve all of these problems. But the minister’s new policy solves none of them.

Where the reforms fall short

High achievers won’t suddenly decide to go into teaching because their HECS debt drops by a few thousand dollars. As we showed in a Grattan Institute 2019 report, high achievers are turned off teaching by the lack of career progression and the poor mid-career pay.

By their 40s and 50s, teachers earn about A$50,000 less than high-achieving peers who graduated with a maths degree, and A$100,000 less than those who took an economics, commerce or engineering degree.

Tehan argues financial incentives will encourage people into teaching, but no rational analysis could conclude decreasing HECS debt by $9,300 will compensate for forgoing $50,000 or more every year during your prime earnings years.

The proposed changes in financial incentives won’t overcome the shortage of science, maths or language teachers either. That’s because HECS fees are also slashed in those fields of study.

Some additional students might choose these subjects as a first degree, then move into teaching via a graduate degree. But if this is the plan, it’s pretty obscure, and runs headlong into the salary and career progression challenges already discussed.

Would-be humanities students, now facing $43,000 degrees, have the strongest incentives to choose the cheaper teaching degree instead. Many would be wonderful teachers.

But pushing these students towards an undergraduate education degree may exacerbate the historical imbalance between primary teachers (where supply exceeds demand) and secondary school teachers (demand exceeds supply).

That’s because students who do undergraduate education degrees are 50% more likely to choose primary school teaching than secondary teaching. By contrast, postgraduate teaching students are twice as likely to choose secondary teaching than primary.

Read more: The government is making ‘job-ready’ degrees cheaper for students – but cutting funding to the same courses

At worst, the minister’s financial incentives risk attracting average or below-average students who want a cheap degree, even if they don’t really care that much about teaching.

Zero for two so far. What about disadvantaged and regional schools, and career progression?

What the government should do

Rather than pitching teaching as a cheap way to go to university, the government should set a target to double the number of high achievers choosing teaching.

Step one is to offer $10,000-a-year scholarships to high achievers. Cash-in-hand is dramatically more valuable to a young person than a drop in HECS fees which is on the never-never anyway.

Some of these scholarships could be used to encourage high performers to work in regional schools – complementing the extra support for regional students and universities in Tehan’s new package.

Scholarships would also give governments a finely targeted tool to match supply and demand to help get more specialist teachers in areas of need. The UK boosts scholarships for chemistry teachers when they need more chemistry teachers, and so on. And students respond, with 3% more applications for every £1,000 increase.

Step two is to create an expert teacher career path to lead teacher professional learning.

In this system, Instructional Specialists, located in every school and with up to 50% non-teaching time to support colleagues, would set the standard for good teaching and build teaching capacity in their school. And Master Teachers, working across schools, would be dedicated full-time to improving teaching and connecting schools to research.

Creating this clearly-defined career progression would remove some of the top reasons high achievers give for not choosing teaching – such lack of intellectual challenge and low earnings.

These proposals don’t require new federal money. Our 2020 report on top teachers showed existing Gonski 2.0 funding increases can fund the scholarships and the expert teacher career path.

Read more: Making better use of Australia's top teachers will improve student outcomes: here's how to do it

Instead, the government has proposed an inflexible and centrally-planned change to funding university places, and dressed it up in the language of incentives.

They identify education as a national priority, but the cheaper fees plan won’t solve the challenges facing the profession, so what’s the point?

Authors: Peter Goss, School Education Program Director, Grattan Institute

Read more https://theconversation.com/the-government-claims-teaching-is-a-national-priority-but-cheaper-degrees-wont-improve-the-profession-141524

Writers Wanted

$7.6 billion and 11% of researchers: our estimate of how much Australian university research stands to lose by 2024

arrow_forward

Trump's TikTok deal explained: who is Oracle? Why Walmart? And what does it mean for our data?

arrow_forward

What Australian Casinos Can Learn from Online Casinos in New Zealand

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

How To Remove Rubbish More Effectively

It can be a big task to remove household rubbish. The hardest part is finding the best way to get rid of your junk. It can be very overwhelming to know exactly where to start with so many option...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Tips To Pass Skills Certifications Tests

Developing the right set of skills is valuable not only to your career, but for life in general. You can get certified in these skills through obtaining a license. Without a certified license, y...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Secure Home-Based Entrepreneurs from Cyber Threats

Small businesses are becoming a trend nowadays. The people with entrepreneurial skills and minds are adopting home-based businesses because of their advantage and ease of working from home. But...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion