Published in The Standard, March 13, 2013
DEAKIN University’s education school expects students in regional areas will benefit from a federal government plan to set national standards for teacher education.
Under the proposal to improve teacher quality, universities would consider a range of new selection criteria before accepting applicants into education courses.
In addition to considering ATAR scores, universities would assess applicants’ drive and emotional intelligence to determine their suitability to become teachers.
Each year Deakin University makes about 700 offers for its undergraduate education courses across four Victorian campuses, with about 50 education students graduating from its Warrnambool campus.
The university’s vice-chancellor of arts and education Brenda Cherednichenko said the approach, which was announced on Monday, focused on key attributes that people needed to become teachers.
“We need quality and intelligent teachers and while ATAR is a big part of that, it’s not the only indicator of intelligence,” she said.
“Teachers need to be empathetic, focused and absolutely committed to the learning of young people.
“It involves understanding the context of the wider community that a child is in so teachers can choose the right strategies to help a child grow.”
She also expected the focus on new selection criteria would be particularly helpful in providing more opportunities for people in regional areas who don’t meet existing ATAR score requirements to study teaching.
A 2009 Charles Sturt University submission to a Senate inquiry into regional and rural access to tertiary education indicated young people were half as likely to attend university compared with students in metropolitan areas.
“For a regional centre like Warrnambool, what the proposal means hopefully is more higher education opportunities for a diverse range of people,” Professor Cherednichenko said.
“It will mean more opportunities for those who aspire to be teachers but may not consider themselves appropriate because they don’t have a traditional academic background.”
In another component of the plan, every education student across the country would need to pass the same tests and meet the same standards to graduate from an education course.
The aim is to boost graduates’ personal literacy and numeracy levels, requiring them to be in the top 30 per cent of the country before they can graduate.
Professor Cherednichenko said implementing a uniform national benchmark would enable education students across Australia to more-easily gain jobs in other states and regions.