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Skills Shortages Maths Science Teaching

Place at university for high school teachers. HIGH school teachers should be encouraged into universities as “expert teachers” to boost student retention and counter a looming shortage of academics. The recommendation comes in a Victorian government report on higher education, which says TAFE teachers could also be included in a move that would see teachers build careers through work in more than one sector.

Fine, but surely universities need access to expertise from wider society, not just from within the formal education system such as high school where there are already shortages of competent (maths, science, IT, English & language) teachers? Seems at best an elongated career structure for (ageing) teachers, or at worst a “public job shop scheme”?

Declining numeracy is shaping our future. AUSTRALIA was heading back to the Lucky Country days when it did not have to innovate and could rely on earnings from the soil, one of the country’s leading statisticians has warned. In the wake of last week’s Group of Eight report on the maths crisis, Australian Research Council Federation fellow Peter Hall said he feared Australia was “going backwards” on maths education and the disciplines it supported. “In 1964 Donald Horne wrote that Australia showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society,” said Professor Hall, an adviser for the maths report.

Would seem the most practical solution is to encourage and source those with maths or science knowledge from outside the education system to teach, but the system itself does not seem to encourage this either formally or informally? Further, related issue is that for Australia now seems more economically,socially and politically palatable to be digging things out of the ground and growing stuff for export income as it is easier, versus more sophisticated economy including services e.g. tourism, education etc. which require interaction with other cultures, e.g. Asians.

Numbers game we can win. AS the Group of Eight’s review of education in mathematics, data science and quantitative disciplines points out, there has been a decline in the quality and quantity of students completing mathematics at the high school and university levels. This isn’t just an academic issue. It has important implications for Australia’s bottom line. At very least this decline will compound existing shortages in disciplines that are heavily maths-focused such as statistics, information and communications technology and engineering. This, in turn, may have a bad effect on important economic sectors such as telecommunications, transport and mining.

Issue for resource challenged universities is why should they be providing remedial maths programs, i.e. making up for gaps from secondary school system etc.? Unless the focus returns to teaching training programs and ongoing development.

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