Why are teachers so surprised about getting low pay?
As parents across the state ready themselves for what the Australian Education Union has promised will be unprecedented industrial action, one can’t help wondering if teachers will ever be satisfied with their lot.
Why, one wonders, do presumably intelligent people study for four years to enter a profession where they find the pay so unacceptable?
It’s akin to buying a house near an airport then complaining about aircraft noise.
If money is what motivates you then teaching is probably not the job for you.
Higher pay comes with greater scrutiny but teachers have fought hard against attempts to link their wages to their performance.
Under the current system, which the Australian Education Union desperately wants to retain, almost all teachers automatically move up the pay scale every year regardless of their ability, effort or suitability for the job.
This absurdity helps to explain a 2009 survey of teachers which found that nine out of 10 of them don’t believe their school would acknowledge improvements in the quality of their work, while seven out of 10 believed their consistently underperforming colleagues were in no danger of losing their jobs.
Actually, despite the persistent whingeing we’ve grown used to from teachers, they are hardly surviving on the breadline.
A first year teacher can expect to earn around $57,000, which is more than graduate paramedics, accountants and substantially more than nurses. This can rise to more than $90,000 at leading teacher level.
Not bad for a job with enviable hours and holidays of which most of us can only dream.
The AEU is at pains to point out how much work teachers do outside the classroom but less keen to reveal that they are allocated some relief hours away from teaching to complete such work.
And while wages have steadily increased, teaching times in Victorian schools have fallen to just 16.3 hours per week according to reports.
Victorian teachers claim they’re among the lowest paid in Australia despite earning more than colleagues in South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. Yet interestingly Victoria and the ACT consistently top the NAPLAN results for numeracy and literacy.
Indeed, Victoria scores above the national average in every measurable category for every age group.
It goes to show there is no relationship between teacher pay and children’s results.
Indeed there may be a reverse relationship: according to the OECD between 2000 and 2009 Australia was only one of four countries whose reading results deteriorated significantly at the same as our spending increased by 44 per cent in real terms.
And that’s not all. Julia Gillard looks set to announce further big increases in education spending.
One reason for slipping standards is the quality of candidates attracted to teaching.
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank, or enter score, for teaching courses around the country is frightfully low.
In fact in the past year teaching attracted the highest proportion of university offers for school leavers nationally with an ATAR of less than 50.
In Victoria an ATAR of 59 will get you into a teaching course. Compare that 80 plus needed to get into a Bachelor of Social Work or 91.9 needed for Bachelor of Nursing and Emergency Health to become a paramedic.
Both courses offer graduates lower pay than teachers yet attract higher quality candidates. It’s not all about the money.
The profession shouldn’t be the dumping ground for the dim, lazy and incompetent
For too long teachers have talked down their own profession, denigrating a role that should be held in high esteem.
Last month Federal School Education Minister Peter Garrett said that you don’t need to be smart to be a teacher.
I don’t think I’m alone in finding that a thoroughly depressing statement.
Teachers should be academically gifted and rewarded for excellence and effort.
The profession shouldn’t be the dumping ground for the dim, lazy and incompetent.
Perhaps we’d attract better quality candidates if existing teachers didn’t carry on like a pack of insufferable moaners who seem perpetually unhappy about all aspects of their chosen profession.
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