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What Australia can learn from academically high-performing neighbours

Australia’s declining academic performance in international tests over recent years has been well publicised. Looking at Australia’s high-performing neighbour countries may give us some clues about how to improve Australia’s academic performance.

ACER Research Director of Education Policy and Practice, Professor Kathryn Moyle, considered various policy settings in countries where students are performing highly on international tests, in a report for the Centre for Strategic Education, Recruiting teachers: Reflecting on global trends in higher education and initial teacher education.

Investing in teachers

Professor Moyle found that high-performing countries invest in education. One of the ways they do so is to place an emphasis on teacher salaries, to make them commensurate with other professions, to attract highly skilled teachers. For example, teachers’ salaries in Singapore and Korea are among the highest in the world.

Further, teaching is promoted as a well-paid and highly attractive profession in Singapore and Chinese Taipei. In both these countries, job security, pensions and other benefits are key public policies.

According to the Recruiting teachers report, salaries and benefits aren’t the only way high-performing countries invest in education. There is also an emphasis placed on teacher education and professional development to increase teachers’ confidence and job satisfaction.

‘The quality of teachers and school principals is influenced by the quality of the teacher education program they complete, and by their ongoing professional learning,’ Professor Moyle said.

In high-performing countries, there is a focus on recruiting academically successful students to be teachers. In these countries, high entrance requirements into initial teacher education makes education a highly valued discipline to study.

Learning to teach

Teacher education programs in high-performing countries employ research and enquiry as central components.

‘These programs are grounded in research, and employ data-driven decision-making processes, so that policies and practices are evidence-based,’ Professor Moyle said.

According to the report, a further characteristic in high-performing countries is that the relationships are strong between teacher education programs and schools in their respective jurisdictions.

‘In these countries, teacher education programs work with specifically designated schools to train teachers,’ Professor Moyle said.

‘Pre-service teachers undertake their practicum in these schools under the supervision of expert mentors and supervising teachers,’ Professor Moyle added.

Challenges facing Australia

The challenge for countries like Australia is to map pathways appropriate to particular circumstances that will lead to improvements in teachers’ and students’ performance.

‘Judging by the policy settings used in high-performing countries, this map may require the simultaneous connection of teaching and learning in schools with teacher education in universities,’ Professor Moyle said.

‘In addition, it will require the establishment of shared understandings about the ways of making judgements about the key performance indicators that should be used for reflection and ongoing development.’ ■

Further information:

Read the Centre for Strategic Education report, Recruiting teachers: Reflecting on global trends in higher education and initial teacher education, by ACER Research Director of Education Policy and Practice, Professor Kathryn Moyle.

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