7 Jan 2019

Australian Labor to introduce tougher teaching requirements if elected to government

2:19 pm on 7 January 2019

The Australian Labor Party says if elected to power, it would bar low-scoring school students from becoming teachers, in a bid to improve results in the classrorom.

A file photo shows university students studying for an exam

Australian universities have been criticised for letting low-scoring students into education courses over recent years. Photo: 123RF

Universities have been criticised for letting low-scoring students - some with Australian Tertiary Admission Rankings (ATAR) below 20 - into education courses over recent years.

Labor has vowed to restrict entry to the top 30 percent of students if the sector does not take action sooner.

"Labor wants the best and brightest Australians studying teaching," education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said.

"If universities don't do the right thing and fix this themselves, a Labor government will make them."

Universities have increasingly supplemented ATARs with bonus points, such as those awarded to students from certain geographic areas, helping some with very low ATARs meet the published cut-off for teaching degrees.

Students who scored in the bottom 50 percent of school leavers made up half of all those offered places in teaching degrees in New South Wales and Canberra in 2015.

There were 28 offers made to students scoring an ATAR of 0-19, 29 offers to those scoring 20-29, and 73 offers to students with an ATAR of 30-39.

"We want young Australians with a track record of achievement, motivation and capability to teach the next generation," Ms Plibersek said.

"We want a career in teaching to be a first choice, not a fall-back."

Unless universities "quickly" lifted entry requirements towards an ATAR of about 80, a Labor government would cap places in teaching degrees - a move that would effectively increase the minimum entry score.

Students would still be able to access bonus point schemes and alternative entry pathways under the plan.

Universities Australia's chief executive Catriona Jackson urged caution, suggesting the policy could have unintended consequences.

"We would urge the Opposition to consider a range of policy approaches to encouraging young Australians into the teaching profession," Ms Jackson said.

"Decision makers should be careful not to see the ATAR as the only way to measure the capability of prospective students.

"Universities use a number of diverse ways to assess a student's ability to succeed."

New South Wales and Victoria have already taken steps to improve the quality of students entering teaching degrees and entering the classroom.


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