Subject: Improving school standards.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Now, I mentioned this earlier, that Education Minister, Alan Tudge, is unveiling a 10-year plan to reverse Australia’s slide in certain subjects, calling for a greater focus on reading, maths and civics, and shorter pathways for those wanting to change careers and become a teacher. Alan Tudge, the Federal Education Minister, joins us now. Minister, great to have you on the program this morning. You there, Minister? Hello? What am I doing wrong? Sorry, there he is, wrong channel. My apologies, Alan.
ALAN TUDGE: That’s okay.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Yeah, look, this is a very concerning situation. But, I wonder how much influence you can have on this on a federal level, given that education really is the purview of the states?
ALAN TUDGE: Yeah. G’day, Stephen and sorry, we were just breaking up there and I didn’t quite hear the whole lot. But we are setting today a new target for 2030, to try to be back into the top group of nations educationally. We used to always be there, up until about 15 or so years ago, but our actual standards have declined over that time, both in absolute terms, as well as relative to other countries. So first up, we need to set that aspiration, but second, from the federal perspective, we do have several levers at our disposal. First, we have some control over the initial teacher education courses and that's where we do need to do further work on that. We need to continue to attract the best people into those courses and for those courses to be teaching the best practises there. Second, we need to improve the curriculum, such that it does match the world's best. I mean, maths, for example, Singapore is now three years above us for 15-year-olds. It's incredible. So, we should be looking at those international benchmarks and getting ourselves to there. And thirdly, just in relation to assessments as well, that's also where the Federal Government can support and empower teachers, so that they can better understand where their kids are at, provide that feedback and put them on a better trajectory.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: I want to focus on two things in particular. Firstly, funding, because funding’s increased exponentially over the last 20 years, but our rankings have fallen. The - you always see from the unions and various teacher’s groups, you know, more money, more money. But, it's never been the answer, has it?
ALAN TUDGE: No, it hasn’t and I mean, thankfully, the funding wars are largely over now that we have this national resource standard agreement. There’s been a massive increase in funding over the last decade and we're locked in for a further 40 per cent increase over the next few years, down to 2029. So, largely the funding decisions are now set, and that means we can focus, Stephen, on actually what we do with that money and focus on getting better outcomes, rather just focusing on the funding wars, which we have been for so long.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: Which has to be the answer. But, I want to talk about the comment you made about getting the best people into teaching and I’ve often said that our university sector took a massive hit under the Dawkins regime, where we effectively made every college a university and devalued university educations. Do we need to look at raising the ATAR scores for teaching courses? How do we get the best people into teaching?
ALAN TUDGE: Yeah, it’s a very good question. New South Wales has done that. They've set a minimum benchmark for ATARs, what we've done at the federal level, is introduced a literacy and numeracy test that the teacher students have to pass in order to graduate. And I think that's starting to be quite effective. The risk, of course, is if you just set a minimum ATAR, all of a sudden you might not have enough people going into the courses and then we end up with teacher shortages at the other end. So my odd view, where I want to pursue actually, Stephen, is to make it easier for mid-careered people to get into teaching and have shorter, more focused courses for them. At the moment, the minimum course length is two years. Now, a midcareer person who’s got great skills in maths and brings other skills to the table is not going to take two years out. But, they might if it's a one-year course or a shorter course, like it used to be 15 or 20 years ago.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: There was a comment from one education expert this morning in one of the papers that I read, talking about the mechanics of teaching, how we teach teachers to educate. Is that something we need to look at in a more global level?
ALAN TUDGE: Absolutely. That's a very important part. I mean, the most important part of that occurs in the universities themselves. And I've been a critic in the past of how the teacher education faculties have been teaching our student teachers. They haven't always been using the most up to date evidence-based practises and then, of course, we've got to have ongoing professional development for our teachers as well. And that's where the Federal Government also has a place to provide some additional resources there.
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO: I can talk to you about this for hours. Minister, really appreciate your time this morning.
ALAN TUDGE: Thanks very much, Stephen.