Tasmanian teacher equation doesn’t equal out

The quality of teachers cannot be underplayed.

When the future direction of an individual’s life can be altered in anyway by a term, a year, or several years under the helm of a teacher, we need to ensure we are putting the best into schools.

The best extends past their personal expertise; it must be ensured that they are the right teachers for that particular classroom’s wants and needs.

The Examiner this week wrote of the state’s declining numbers of specialised mathematics teachers.

The situation was described as a shortage, and one that experts predict will worsen as more teachers move into retirement.

We know that STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are key subjects that will help unlock future job potential and innovation for students. It is then clear that we need to act on addressing this shortage.

Fairfax Tasmania earlier this month reported that the Tasmanian Education Department did not keep records on how many specialist teachers it requires to staff specialist subjects.

The report hung on the fact that many teachers were teaching classes “outside their area”.

Former maths teacher Tich Ferencz was quoted succinctly as saying: “I would be operating as a severely under-performing teacher of rhythmic gymnastics and would be demanding professional learning of the highest order if asked to consider teaching it.” 

As we continue to develop education in Tasmania – be it extending high schools, or installing deeper specialist subjects in our colleges – we must ensure that the teachers are available to lead the curriculum.

There is no sense in having the funding, the classroom and the students, if the teacher is not part of the equation. So what can the state do to attract these specialist teachers?

Some have suggested mirroring trials of other remote states, where attractive salary and living packages are shopped out in hopes to attract the best of the best.

Another was to equip professionals in those specialist fields with teaching skills, bringing real-life expertise into the classroom.

Solutions should not be discounted on the basis of size or difficulty. We owe it to the future generations to try and make the figures add up.