Literacy & Numeracy Teacher Testing in Australia

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Australia seeks to tackle deficiencies in teacher training and education through a new teacher testing system, IENN’s Fiona Perry tells us more from Australia.

The Australian Government has recently introduced literacy and numeracy testing for graduating teachers. From 2016, all graduating teachers will have to pass an online test composed of 65 literacy and 65 numeracy questions.

The test will be administered by universities at a cost to students. The government believes the new testing system will address public concerns about the variability in the quality of teaching graduates and the effectiveness of existing programs in preparing new teachers. The government claims the new benchmark will “provide universities with a strong incentive to ensure they only accept students capable of being in the top 30% of the population for literacy and numeracy”.

A trial of the test was completed by students in late 2015 where 90% of graduates passed with literacy scores slighter higher than numeracy scores.

Sample questions included:

1) If the sentence below contains a spelling error, correct the error by writing the word as it should appear; if there is no error, write N.

It is no exageration to say that the students’ insights in to historical processes and social conditions were impressive. 

2) The weight of a box of stationary is 3.2 kilograms. What is the weight of 100 such boxes?

However, not everyone is supporting the government’s new testing. The Australian Education Union has criticized the move saying, while they acknowledge that teaching graduates should be in the top 30% of the population, they believe testing is the wrong method to obtain this, stating that “This test is a band-aid solution to the problem that universities have been allowed to set the bar too low to enter a teaching degree…We need minimum entry standards for teaching degrees because as long as universities can enroll unlimited numbers of students in teaching degrees, this issue will remain.”

They also assert that the rising numbers of graduates unable to find teaching work and the lowering of entry standards of universities are the key problems in the education sector needing to be addressed. According to the union, “In 2014 less than 50% of Australian graduating high school students receiving offers to study teaching scored in the top 30% of Australian Tertiary Admission Rank,” referring to the score ranking students relative to their peers high school performance.

It is unclear what the cost of the test will be and what will happen to students who fail, with government sources stating “higher education providers will be responsible to ensure that arrangements are in place to support you to achieve the required standard before you graduate.”

Only time will tell if the new measures help build confidence in the skills of graduating teachers or will they just be a meaningless, bureaucratic headache for all involved.