Teachers had better shape up or ship out.

According to the Queensland Government teachers may have to sit for a basic literacy, numeracy and science test before being appointed to a teaching position in primary schools. Phew! That must be quite a relief for prospective high-school teachers cause they would definitely not want to sit for a competency test.

I speak from experience as a former high-school teacher who went into teaching as an idealistic over-educated pedagogue who was soon disenchanted with the low standard of teaching in the public service.

Coming from a European background in which teaching was a respectable profession, I remember my mother asking me if the schoolgirls had offered to carry my books for me in my new job. Apparently, that’s the way it was in the good old days in Europe. I just smiled at her question and replied that nobody brings an apple for the teacher any more. Not in Australia, anyhow.

The reason for this is that teaching is not a respected profession. And why should it be when anybody can get into teaching? Most high achievers want to go into the valued professions, such as medicine, law and engineering. They go into teaching if they fail to get into anything else or if they are misguided as my family was about the status of Australian teachers. My parents thought that my honours degree would be appreciated in teaching. Well, it was wasted. I was surrounded by teachers who had been to college for only two years and were struggling to prepare lessons.

Nevertheless, numeracy and literacy were not such a problem because they had been taught grammar and maths more than they are now. If I thought the standard was low then, I am stunned by the lack of skills that today’s teachers possess. They really can’t write properly and they were brought up on calculators. And as for spell check, that certainly should not be encouraged in schools.

I would like to see teaching become a respectable profession, but this won’t happen until teachers pull up their socks and decide to do something. They will only do this, however, if the entrance score for teacher training is set at a higher level. Teaching has to be more exclusive than it is.

This can only be achieved if teachers are paid higher salaries. Yes, it is about money as well because a profession that is paid well is valued much more than one that isn’t. What is it they say about paying peanuts and getting monkeys? And it will also attract some of the graduates who might have otherwise gone into other higher paid professions.

At last we are seeing some progress in the field of teacher preparation, but quite frankly, isn’t it embarrassing that it should come to this?

As for me, I became very disillusioned with teaching and felt much prouder when I was asked to be a TV and Film critic for a newspaper. At least, my knowledge of cinema and my writing ability would be put to good use there.

It’s a pity that the Education Department is such a big public service affair in which pupils and teachers are a bit of a nuisance. Reminds me of good old Sir Humphrey Appleby in “Yes Minister” who said that hospitals would function much better without patients. They do get in the way…


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