Let's Talk: Should we sacrifice Aussie jobs to fix our schools?

You would have heard about the recent results where Australian school kids today are falling behind other countries — such as New Zealand, Estonia and Slovenia — when it comes to maths, science and reading.

It has been particularly disturbing given the intense focus being placed on the education of ‘tomorrow’s leaders’ and any teacher in today’s system can tell you about the number of curriculum changes that have rolled out, or the increased testing and assessment conditions being placed on Aussie students.

Now education minister Simon Birmingham thinks recruiting specialist teachers from outside of Australia is the key to reversing the decline of students’ performance in class.

He told the ABC, “The things we are doing are not working. More money in and of itself is not the answer” before admitting that he would be open to issue special visas to overseas teachers to increase the number of specialists in fields such as maths and science.

“Ultimately if we do need to get more specialist maths and science teachers into the classroom that’s a discussion I’m very open to having,” Birmingham says.

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The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report revealed that Australian was significantly outperformed by nine countries, and while Birmingham acknowledges previous efforts made by the Government to improve student performance had been unsuccessful the priority now is to ensure teacher performance is lifted.

“The single greatest in-school factor in terms of student accomplishment is absolutely the teacher,” he told the ABC.

He says the Government is committed to ensuring “hardworking teachers” are given the skills through training and ongoing professional development to “be the best”.

However, opposition education minister Tanya Plibersek said more equitably school funding was required and blamed in part the Government’s cut of $30 billion from schools in 2014 for the poor results.

“The central problem here is underfunded schools, particularly in remote and regional areas, particularly in poorer neighbourhoods, and everything this Government has done takes money away from those schools and undermines the reform agenda,” Plibersek told the ABC.

It’s worth noting that the neither Birmingham nor Plibersek have a background in education.

How do you think Australian education needs to adapt to resolve this issue? Are you a teacher or former teacher? Tell us about your professional experience.