Australian Politics 2022-12-07 06:53:00


Courtney spent four years at uni. Two more years before she could teach was asking too much

Absurd. Even a one-year diploma is mostly a waste. Classroom apprenticeship is all that is needed

Two-year master’s teaching degrees should be abandoned in favour of a one-year course to help plug chronic teacher shortages, cut student debt and entice people into the profession, new research has found.

Schools across the country are grappling with unprecedented teacher shortages – especially in maths and science – while confidential data reported last year showed more than 100,000 students in NSW are taught by someone without expertise in their subject.

Courtney Haroon, who has a forensic science and chemistry undergraduate degree, said she would have swapped her two-year master’s teaching qualification for a heavy-loaded, intensive one-year course if that had been an option.

“An accelerated course wasn’t an option, but a one-year degree and then going into paid, supervised work in the classroom is a great solution,” said Haroon, who is in her first year of work at Gilroy Catholic College in Castle Hill and plans to teach year 11 and 12 chemistry.

“I was searching for a lab-technician job, but I realised I needed to be helping other people.”

A policy paper released by conservative think tank the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) argues mandating a two-year requirement for postgraduate teaching is crippling supply and is a major disincentive to aspiring teachers, particularly those wanting a mid-career change.

It means students are hit with double the tuition fees, at roughly $4000-a-year, and are delayed in earning income, which in NSW public schools is $70,652 for the first year of teaching, the paper says.

Figures from October show 2458 vacant full-time teaching positions across more than 1200 NSW schools; and 75 public schools in NSW have five or more full-time teacher vacancies, with 36 of these in Sydney.

Last month Castle Hill High, Alexandria Park Community school, Northbourne Public and Murrumbidgee High had more than 10 vacancies each.

The one-year graduate diploma of education, currently held by about 60,000 teachers nationally, was phased out from 2016, and students now complete a two-year master’s course and pass literacy and numeracy tests, while undergraduate students take on a four-year degree.

The number of people gaining a postgraduate qualification in education has declined by 23 per cent in about a decade.

Glenn Fahey, education research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the two-year master’s is a “regulatory relic”, and the longer course is no guarantee a new teacher is more prepared for the classroom.

“About 60,000 teachers hold a one-year graduate diploma. Are we implying that something’s wrong with their skill set? If we can confidently say that as the evidence suggests that these teachers are as effective and as knowledgeable in the classroom as their peers it waters away the justification for the longer qualification,” Fahey said.

“We need more teachers, but we’ve created more obstacles making it harder to become one.”

Report author Rob Joseph said the assumption that lengthier degrees produce higher standards was unfounded.

“A longer degree is no guarantee a new teacher is more prepared for the classroom. It’s the quality of time in training, not the quantity of time, that leads to teachers being classroom-ready,” he said.

Data from the Universities Admissions Centre, which only captures post-grad students who apply through UAC to some NSW universities, shows a spike in applications in the first year of the pandemic. However, it was at a six-year low for 2022 entry, with 580 applicants.

Teaching standards are set by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, and the institute’s deputy chief executive, Edmund Misson, said one year was not enough time to learn how to teach well.

“Teachers need good preparation, and we don’t think that can be done in 12 months of equivalent full-time study,” Misson said.

Claire Wyatt-Smith, the director of the Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education at ACU, said one-year teaching degrees could be appropriate in some instances.

“If the first degree a student completes covers content knowledge and skills for the curriculum content the person will teach, then a one-year postgraduate teaching degree could be appropriate,” she said, adding that making sure students have adequate experience in classroom is critical.

A spokesperson for the NSW Education Department said the number of permanent vacancies in public schools fluctuates throughout the year for a range of reasons, but most position movement occurs towards the end of the school year.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said it was hard to switch mid-career, especially when you have a mortgage and children, which is why he has asked his teacher education expert panel to consider options such as paid internships.

Shadow federal education minister Alan Tudge welcomed the CIS report which backs the Coalition’s position on initial teacher education.

“Understandably, not many professionals can afford to take two years off work mid-career to retrain as a teacher. Shorter pathways are required if we are to make this an attractive choice for the best and the brightest,” Tudge said.


Peta Credlin: Voice to Parliament threatening to be most divisive referendum in 70 years

Anthony Albanese wants us to believe the Voice to Parliament will be a benign body, but it will be a dramatic change in the way we see ourselves as Australians, writes Peta Credlin.

Last Thursday, our country moved a big step closer to dramatic change in the way we see ourselves as Australians, and ultimately how we’re governed, with the introduction to the parliament of enabling legislation for an Indigenous Voice referendum to be held later next year.

Not only will we be asked to change the constitution, but – for the first time in our history, if this bill is passed – we’ll be asked to vote in a referendum without the benefit of an official “yes” and “no” case, sent by the Australian Electoral Commission to every household to inform voters’ decisions. The government insists that this is no big deal because advocates on both sides can send out whatever they like online.

In fact, the government’s failure to fund both a “yes” and “no” case is blatantly one sided and unfair because also passing the parliament last week was a change to the law to give tax deductibility for donations to organisations campaigning for a Voice but no such support to any organisation opposed to it.

On top of that, there’s $235 million set aside to fund the referendum and out of that, we learnt last week, will be a massive “educational” campaign to “counter misinformation” about what the Voice means.

The legislation doesn’t specify what “misinformation” means and the government is strangely silent too, but the experienced adviser in me says this will be taxpayer money used to shut down any arguments against the Voice lest voters work out it isn’t the benign, symbolic-only change the PM claims it is.

In a sign of the ugliness to come, we saw an illustration of what Voice advocates regard as the “misinformation” that the government wants to re-educate us about. In response to the federal National Party’s decision formally to oppose the Voice, on the grounds that it’s wrong to divide Australians by race in our founding document; and that the Voice is more likely to foster a “them and us” grievance than practical improvements in Aboriginal people’s lives, Indigenous leader and activist Noel Pearson unleashed a spray at fellow Indigenous leader Senator Jacinta Price, which seemed designed to intimidate her into silence.

Pearson, who supports the Voice, said that Price – who describes herself as a proud Celtic, Warlpiri Australian woman – was only against the Voice because she’d been manipulated in a “redneck celebrity vortex” and was being used to “punch down on other black fellas”. He couldn’t accept that she’d made up her own mind, and argue against her on the merits, but had to play the “Uncle Tom” card accusing her of being brainwashed into hurting her own people.

With the Prime Minister declaring that support for the Voice is just being “polite” and implying opponents of the Voice are disrespectful of Aboriginal people if not actually racist, this is threatening to be an even more divisive referendum than the bid to ban the Communist Party 70 years back.

Will government-funded education include formal denunciations – Pearson-style – of any Indigenous person, like Price and like the former ALP national president, then Liberal candidate Warren Mundine, brave enough to stand against the mob on this issue?

This sense of unfairness associated with a bid to make some Australians more equal than others based on whether some of their ancestors were here before 1788 will only be inflamed if the government looks like it’s giving a leg up to just one side, and doesn’t play fair on something as important as constitutional change.

Unlike normal legislation, that can readily be changed by an incoming government, any change to the constitution is for keeps. Short of further change, backed by another referendum, once something is in the constitution, what it means is determined by the unelected and unaccountable High Court rather than by the elected and accountable government of the day.

So, if this referendum is carried, there will be an Indigenous Voice to advise the parliament and the government on anything that affects Indigenous Australians; it would take a “brave” government, in the PM’s words, to ignore its advice; it can’t be abolished; and exactly what it all means will have to be sorted out from time to time by the judges of the day.

As confirmed in recent days by Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney too, the Voice will be the body that gets to work and negotiates a treaty between Aboriginal Australians and the rest of us, and likely financial reparations too.

Wake up Australia, is this really want you want?


Liberty is a conservative value

Recently-elected Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly demonstrated a deep understanding of conservative values. By way of example, in January 2021 Meloni penned an opinion piece for the daily il Giornale in commemoration of the first anniversary of the death of the English philosopher and writer Sir Roger Scruton in which she declared that it would be her intention to promote his figure as one of the pillars of European conservatism. Among other things, Scruton was instrumental in forming underground networks of dissident academics in the old eastern Bloc, including Vàclav Havel.

In the piece, Meloni wrote of his ‘extraordinary ability to describe and explain the profound reasons for his love of both the small and the big, that according to him are both worth conserving’. To this end, Meloni cited Scruton’s belief in ‘the protection of the traditions of small communities and the struggle for the highest social and political conquests, such as the liberty of people subjugated by the yoke of the Soviet Union, were of equal importance’. She took aim at the many European Union leaders and parliamentarians who rather than defend the liberty of their fellow citizens, pass innumerable laws and regulations that oppress them.

In other words, conservatives believe in individual liberty. History has proven that.

In America, let’s not forget it was the Republican Party that freed the slaves, and fought a civil war to ensure they stayed free. It was a Democrat President, Woodrow Wilson who, upon assuming office in 1913, mandated that the federal workforce be segregated by race, leading to the reduction of black civil service workers’ income, thereby increasing the significant income gap between black and white workers.

In this country, it was the Liberals that created the modern university system. It was the Liberals that brought an end to the White Australia Policy (created by the ALP and the unions), put forward the 1967 Referendum, and signed the ANZUS Treaty.

The conservative belief in liberty also extends to the belief in small government. As Dennis Prager wrote recently, the defining characteristic of the Left is bigger and therefore more powerful government. This extends to a critical aspect of liberty: free speech, which has never been a left-wing value. Everywhere the Left is dominant – government, media, universities – it stifles dissent. The reason is simple: no left-wing movement can survive an open exchange of ideas, therefore it suppresses it. Why else would China put on trial a 90-year-old cardinal, Joseph Zen, in Hong Kong for ‘endangering national security’ by supporting pro-democracy protesters?

Should any further evidence be required as to why liberty cannot be a left-wing value, witness how the Left conveniently ignores events in Iran, where mullahs are beating to death quietly defiant young women.

Sir Robert Menzies understood better than most the centrality of liberty in conservative values. He knew that the more liberty individuals have, the less power the government has.

The Liberal Party today would do well to recall the following words of Menzies’ Forgotten People speech of May 22, 1942:

We say that the greatest element in a strong people is a fierce independence of spirit. This is the only real freedom, and it has as its corollary a brave acceptance of unclouded individual responsibility. The moment a man seeks moral and intellectual refuge in the emotions of a crowd, he ceases to be a human being and becomes a cipher.

To discourage ambition, to envy success, to have achieved superiority, to distrust independent thought, to sneer at and impute false motives to public service – these are the maladies of modern democracy, and of Australian democracy in particular.

How relevant those words are today! Elected politicians, public servants, and the corporate managerial class, thanks to, as Chilton Williamson Jr highlights, their economic incompetence, historical illiteracy, cultural confusion, and ideological delusions, have shirked their proper responsibilities and decided ‘for the common good’ to stake out a regulatory claim by meddling needlessly in every nook and cranny of, thus wreaking division and stifling individual thought. As this country’s 28th Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, stated so presciently in his maiden speech to Parliament in 1994:

In the quest to solve social problems, government reaches into our schools, our workplaces, and even our bedrooms. Government tells us what we should think, whom we should like and how we should feel […] (which is) guaranteed to tear Australians apart rather than bring us together.

Former Prime Minister John Howard in A Sense of Balance wrote that the philosophical base of the Liberal Party means valuing the individual ahead of the collective, embracing free enterprise, and supporting freedom of speech, worship, and association. Howard goes on to observe that timidity on these issues by the Liberal Party alienated many of its traditional supporters, who found ‘somewhere else to go’, thus aiding in the defeat of the Morrison government in May.

In the words of Hamlet, ‘Aye, there’s the rub!’ There are many who would argue that the demise of Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister means that conservatives need to learn to live with big government and try to make it work a bit better.

That view seemingly ignores the point Howard made: that when conservatives abandon their values, the voters will abandon them.

The fact is that Liz Truss’s departure from Number 10 is a symptom, not a cause, of what is wrong with centre-right politics across the Anglosphere.

In Britain, the Conservative party long ago decided it didn’t want to be a conservative, centre-right party.

Truss’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, other than on Brexit, governed as a left-of-centre, zeitgeist-observing Labour leader might.

The two Conservative leaders before Johnson, Theresa May, and David Cameron, had accepted all of Labour’s social agenda, with Cameron’s only conservative feature being an attempt to control spending and bring the budget into balance, plus some modest tax cutting.

Now, under a Conservative government, Britain’s tax take is the highest since the sixties, soon to become the highest since the fifties.

We have been here before. Advocates for economic freedom are back where they were in the seventies as policy dissidents. Yet, they won the argument then and they can win it again. To do requires conviction.

Nick Cater stated recently that the Coalition cannot assume that the votes it lost to minor parties and independents on the centre-right will automatically come back. The bulk of the 660,000 Coalition votes that disappeared between 2019 and May this year were lost in suburban and regional Australia – the new ‘forgotten people’.

As Greg Sheridan wrote in the Australian, ‘To win in politics, you have to be willing to lose everything. You have to believe in the nation, care about the culture, believe in your own values.’ This is the reason why Howard won four elections, and in two elections Tony Abbott won 25 seats from the ALP. They believed in: lower taxes, smaller government, respect for the individual, the family as the greatest stabilising force in our society, national sovereignty, and the rule of law.

The sooner the Liberals remember that liberty is a conservative value, the sooner they might taste electoral success.


Back to basics for NSW schools

Ailing literacy skills across Australia has triggered a major overhaul of one state's education system with grammar and punctuation the areas most in need of improvement.

The English syllabus has been redesigned in a bid to improve the literacy skills of NSW students in Years 3 to 10 following a 10 year decline.

Grammar, punctuation and sentence structure will be at the heart of the new curriculum to help students better express complex ideas and clear sentences.

A new mathematics curriculum is also due to be released this week and will focus on improving students' sequencing and reasoning skills.

The NSW syllabus refresh follows dismal NAPLAN results this year, which saw the literacy skills of teenage boys plummet to record lows.

One in six boys failed to meet the minimum standard in grammar and punctuation while 12 per cent could barely read at a basic level.

This year's NAPLAN results revealed girls performed better than their male counterparts, especially when it came to writing.

According to the results, 81.6 per cent of boys reach the minimum standard for writing, compared with 90.8 per cent of girls.

Parents who want to improve their child's writing have been urged by their teachers to encourage them to read more, and widely.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said the new English and mathematics syllabuses were significant milestones in the curriculum overhaul.

'If our NAPLAN results have shown us anything, it's that we need to focus on the explicit teaching of grammar, sentence structure and punctuation in high school. Focusing on those foundational skills is key to success,' he said.

'It is vital that NSW students are developing strong skills in both literacy and numeracy so they can succeed in school and beyond.'

NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the new mathematics syllabus would encourage students to form a deeper understanding of the concepts.

'In other words, students will need to not only know Pythagoras' theorem; they will need to be able to explain how it works in practice and why,' she said.

A new core-paths structure will replace the current three-tiered approach to better prepare students for HSC maths - which will be mandatory from 2025.

The new curriculum will be available to teachers during 2023 so they can prepare classes for students and will in implemented in all NSW schools in 2024.