The Australian education minister Alan Tudge disagreed with calls saying increased education funding would lead to better student results. Instead, Tudge said recruiting quality teachers was more important and pointed to the United Kingdom (UK) as an example where more qualified staff resulted in improved student results.
The UK has cut spending while achieving better results in reading, maths, and science over the last 10 years, and Tudge believes that Australia should look to them as Australia strives to improve the national education standards.
“In the past decade, the UK has cut per-child school funding by 9 percent in real terms, while also giving principals more freedom over management decisions such as setting staff pay,” Tudge told The Age.
Meanwhile, in Australia, Tudge notes the country’s PISA test results have declined despite a 38 percent increase in funding over the last decade.
But the minister added that the government had no plans to cut spending for Australian schools, saying that federal education funding was “locked-in” till the end of the next decade.
Tudge is currently aiming to return Australian education to among the best in the world by the start of the next decade and has said teaching quality is one of the vital areas where improvement is needed to achieve this goal.
An initial teacher education review was launched in April to look into methods to attract high-quality people into the teaching profession and how to prepare them to become effective teachers. The first public discussion paper will be released in June.
“The recommendations of this review will help ensure we attract high-quality, motivated candidates into teaching and develop them into teachers with the skills our students need,” Tudge said.
“We want the finest students choosing to be teachers, and we also want to make it easier for accomplished mid and late-career individuals to transition into the profession, bringing their extensive skills and knowledge into our school classrooms,” he said.
Jenny Gore, director of the University of Newcastle’s Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, wrote in an op-ed to The Financial Review, disagreeing with Tudge’s focus on initial teacher education and graduate standards.
Gore said that ongoing professional development and showing respect for teachers’ work was just as vital to developing quality teachers.
“It is the refinement of teaching practice through professional development, the building of teaching capacity, that is the most important element of reform,” she wrote. “Just as supporting learners in classrooms is often about building their confidence, the same can be said for teachers, even experienced ones.”