Crisis confronting our teachers

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The teaching ‘profession’ has seen a dramatic transformation since I trained as a teacher in the late sixties. When I was at university, our Dip Ed class had about 40% of the students who had been dux of their school, a very high proportion. At that stage teaching was a highly thought of profession and the salary was commensurate with the salary of skilled engineer, accountant, solicitor or a doctor. How times have changed.

Money for teachers has diminished in the same ratio as the decrease in class sizes and the increase of extra ridiculous documentation required to be produced by teachers; (that does nothing to improve the quality of teaching or learning); that exists today. As a teacher who had to cope with class sizes of 40+ in my first year of teaching I did not notice any difference in the quality of my teaching when the class size was reduced to 25. It now requires two extra staff (teacher + ancillary + administrative) to do my previous service, so the amount of money to employ teachers is reduced, hence low wages.

I am a mathematics tutor. Just recently I enrolled a year 8 student. (S) Initial testing showed that she not mastered even the basics of the year 7 course but she was in the top class in her school. After just a term of coaching she came first in her half yearly with a mark of 97%. The very next week two of her friends enrolled in my same group, and their backgrounds were almost identical to S. Interviewing the parents of these latter enrolments identified the problem as being purely that the teacher could not control his class and that no effective teaching was occurring. All three parents had approached the school with no help being offered. These are three gifted students who were well below year 8 standard, after this year they were destined to do at best the lowest level maths for the HSC.

Education is in crises in Australia, it won’t be fixed with more money, but a whole rethink is necessary. In NSW most of the students receiving honours in the HSC have done so because they have received help outside of their school.

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