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Home > News > Professional Issues > Professional Issues Volume 5 > Timing of teacher literacy and numeracy tests questioned

Timing of teacher literacy and numeracy tests questioned


Our union continues to question the logic behind the federal government’s plan for graduating teachers to sit a compulsory literacy and numeracy test at the end of their studies.   

Although sitting the test in 2015 was only voluntary, the government has ruled that all teacher education students in Australia must take the test from 1 July 2016. 

The new measures also require students to pay for the test, which will cost $185 for both components.  

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said our union believes teaching should be viewed as a prestigious profession that attracts the best and brightest students.

“Our union continues to ask why successive state and federal governments have failed to understand that scrutinising teachers in such a manner does nothing to improve neither the morale of practising teachers nor public perceptions of the profession,” Mr Burke said. 

He said our union supports early testing with an emphasis on follow-up examination for at-risk students.

“Testing students’ language and literacy skills is not unusual in other professions and all educators should have high literacy and numeracy skills. However, the timing of these tests is critical,” he said. 

“If the test is to occur it is common sense that this test be given in the first semester of initial teacher training - not at the end of their course. 

“This approach is consistent with practices in other degrees such as medicine that eliminate the possibility of a student teacher graduating before being ruled ineligible to work because they failed the test.” 

In the lead-up to its introduction last August, our union cautioned that post-graduation testing would have a negative impact on public perceptions of teachers and the profession.  

“Against the persistent advice of teachers and their unions, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) continue a plan of action that degrades public perceptions of the teaching profession.” 

Mr Burke said post-graduation testing was incompatible with programs and policies aimed at attracting and retaining a high quality teaching workforce because they erode public confidence in teachers and the profession. 

“It is important to note that government and media rhetoric implying that those currently working in teaching are deficient in skills and knowledge fails to acknowledge the professionalism of practising teachers,” he said.

He said media reports focusing on the percentage of teachers failing the test place the blame on individuals, and by association, those currently practising teaching.

Mr Burke said studies of teachers who leave the profession indicate that negative perceptions are reinforced by a lack of legitimate career pathways and employers’ tendency to employ them on casual and short-term contracts.  

“It is desirable that students entering education courses have a record of high academic achievement, but this in itself does not guarantee the student will be a good teacher.”  

For more information, visit the Department of Education and Training website at www.studentsfirst.gov.au/teacher-quality 

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.