BY EMMA DAVIES
BEST performing schools systems internationally attract the best and brightest educators.
Attracting the best school leavers into the teaching profession and encouraging practising teachers to upskill are common methods used by top-performing school systems to improve the status of teachers and consequentially boost student outcomes.
In the 2006 report How the world’s best-performing schools come out on top, Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed asked why some school systems consistently performed well and improved faster than others, using case studies from 25 countries across the world.
Their conclusion; the most effective education systems highlighted the importance of increasing academic entry requirements for teachers and their on-going professional development.
When highly able people are attacted into teaching, that status of the profession goes up, attracting more qualified candidates.
In Singapore and Hong Kong, teachers were drawn from the top 30 per cent of school leavers, while in South Korea and Finland, teachers were drawn from the top 10 per cent, the report found.
In 2010, The secret to Finland’s success: educating teachers report found that only one in 10 applicants is accepted to study to become a primary teacher in Finland with candidates required to have a Masters degree to teach.
“Since it emerged in 2000 as the top-scoring OECD nation on the international PISA assessments, researchers have been pouring into the country to study the ‘Finnish miracle’,” the report states.
“How did a country with an undistinguished education system in the 1980s surge to the head of the global class in just few decades? Research and experience suggest one element trumps all others: excellent teachers.”
In 2017, Finland still holds the unofficial title of world’s best education system. Australia, in contrast, languishes in 39th place out of a possible 41 middle income countries.
To raise the status of teaching as a sought after career choice – retaining and rewarding the best and brightest – Australia needs to use expert teachers to shape initial teacher education programs and promote ongoing post graduate education options.
With research constantly proposing new teaching theories and practices, and rapid policy and technological changes, it’s more important than ever for teachers to actively seek out new knowledge and approaches to learning; both for their students and for themselves.
In 2016, the South Australian State Government abandoned plans for all teachers to have a Masters level degree by 2020, blaming the lack of Commonwealth funding for more postgraduate places and issues with teacher registration between States.
Instead, government schools will give employment preference to graduates with Masters or double degrees that include a teaching qualification.
The State is also encouraging teachers to upskill through its Masters for Teachers scholarship program. More than 50 scholarships – worth up to $20000 each – will be granted in August this year.
More than 100 public educators have been granted scholarships to undertake a Master’s Degree since the program began in 2013, as the Government aims for 240 scholarships worth a total of $ 4.8 million up to 2019.
“We have invested more than $14 million into developing our education workforce over a 6 year period until 2020,” Education and Child Development Minister Susan Close said.
“This includes upskilling our teachers through the Masters for Teachers scholarships, developing great leadership in our schools through the Graduate Diploma in Strategic Leadership, and supporting early career teachers development and mentoring.
“With a growing focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics industries, I encourage teachers to look at strengthening their knowledge in learning areas that will benefit students and prepare them for the future.”
Continuing education remains highly beneficial to teachers, not only because it allows educators to understand and implement contemporary pedagogies, but because it raises the status of teaching for prospective teachers and wider society.
Most post graduate courses can be studied online, which allows for more flexibility for teachers currently employed full time or part time, or for those in regional areas who are unable to attend on campus.
Not only do post graduate qualifications provide opportunities for career progression or a change of career direction for those with non-teaching undergraduate degrees, they also position educators to participate in local, state and national discussions around educational reform.