The Australian Labor Party is promising to introduce measures to increase entry standards for teaching courses in a bid to improve student outcomes across Australia.
The plan is set to cost $146.5 million over four years.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said the government had let Australian children down with a school system that’s falling even further behind countries like the US, the UK, China and Korea.
“This is a serious problem for students, who aren’t being properly prepared for high-skilled, well-paid jobs, and it’s a handbrake on the economy,” he said.
“Our hardworking teachers do a terrific job. They stepped up during COVID to make sure our kids could keep learning. But far fewer high achievers in Australia choose teaching today. That needs to change. ”
He and shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek told a media conference in Sydney on Monday morning that Labor’s policy aims to make undertaking a teaching qualification more attractive to those finishing secondary school with outstanding results.
“Teaching is a vocation. We want our best and brightest going into teaching. We want them to be inspiring a new generation of learners so that young Australian students will get results that will see them set up for a lifetime of achievement,” Plibersek said.
She said highly qualified teachers were leaving the profession but they were not being replaced by teachers of the same quality, and that has led to a drop in the quality of student results.
“Australia is now seeing the worst results since international testing began for reading, writing and maths,” Plibersek said.
“We are also seeing teacher shortages right across Australia. There are too many classes in too many schools that are getting minimal supervision because they can’t find a relief teacher to teach that class that day.”
Labor’s policy seeks to remedy the situation by offering a range of incentives for high achievers to consider a teaching career.
Government funding for 5,000 students that receive an ATAR of 80 or above will be introduced in order to attract students to undertake teaching studies at university.
Each of the 5,000 students would be given up to $12,000 a year as an incentive to focus on teaching studies.
Retraining for professionals from other fields is also being proposed under the Labor plan with additional support being promised for 1,500 qualified professionals as a part of the Higher Achieving Teachers Program in a range of fields such as mathematics and science.
That program provides an opportunity for professionals to retrain as teachers while they receive a part-time wage as they complete an intensive masters-level teaching qualification.
The Labor policy also promises further discussions on teaching employment pathways, with the state and territory governments as a part of the National School Reform Agreement.