In February this year, Grattan Institute released a report once again blaming teachers for educational outcomes in Australia. The ABC promoted this report, which described the situation as a “preventable tragedy”. 

This is misleading, and a product of questionable public policy which is unlikely to result in improved educational outcomes if acted on. It's well known amongst educational staff and leaders that teaching is the most politicised profession, where teachers, who are usually themselves the ones engaging in pedagogy research, seem to be the last ones consulted on how to improve the classroom.

The Institute's report makes a strong argument that the current poor literacy outcomes (as measured by NAPLAN) are the result of poor or inconsistent pedagogy, which could be improved by "science backed" methods of teaching. Specifically, the report recommends the structured literacy approach over the whole of language approach. 

While there might be evidence supporting this as an effective form of teaching literacy, this argument is a perfect rebuttal to Education Minister Jason Clare’s statement that “the reading wars are over, we know what works.” Rather than declaring the war is over, this is clearly just the latest battle as the federal government is seeking to implement it as a mandated teaching style in the upcoming funding agreement. 

Interestingly, Clare almost accidentally sees the bigger problem by stating that “The new Agreement we strike this year needs to properly fund schools [...]”. Yes, yes it does. Except that the current government’s policy is to tinker with styles of teachings with diminishing benefits, without considering other factors that are directly impacting teacher performance, chiefly among which is lack of in-classroom support (such as teacher aides or behavioural management specialists) and the growing teacher shortage crisis

The government’s solution to falling educational metrics is to mandate more teacher PD (professional development) while tweaking the content of university degrees, and their solution to the teacher shortage is to simply get more students starting a bachelor or masters of teaching. This means pushing more young people through the grinder of a two to four year degree before entering a politicised, often disrespected profession where they can work for decades with an uncompetitive salary? These are elaborate and dubiously effective approaches to an intertwined but less appealing problem: teachers are overworked and (for their job duties) underpaid. 

It’s not exciting to simply pay teachers more or give schools more money to hire more staff. But it’s necessary for the future of our country. 

Read the full report from Grattan Institute here

The content of this opinion piece is that of the authors, and does not represent official Fusion policy.