The Australian government is rolling out plans to require prospective teachers to pass basic tests of numeracy and literacy. The aim is to ensure that educators are in the top 30% of the population in these areas. A recent pilot found that around one in ten teaching students failed the tests which include questions such as:
All students have been given explicit instruction about how to record their findings during the excursion.
Which of the following is closest in meaning to explicit?
A. extensive B. simple C. hands-on D. clearly-stated
Interestingly, the Australian Education Union expressed concerns about the results and said they showed the need for minimum entry requirements to teaching courses. The government prefer instead to rely on these kinds of tests to weed-out poor candidates.
I would be happy with a minimum entry standard but the tests also seem like a reasonable approach. Such exams exist in other countries. I would certainly not want qualified teachers who don’t even know what the word ‘explicit’ means.
Predictably, some in the education establishment don’t like these tests at all. They point to a lack of evidence to link them to the performance of students (how could there be any?). This is in line with a broader anti-testing ideology. The case is made that other things are important too; how can we measure enthusiasm or the ability to plan excursions? This is a fallacious argument. It’s a bit like saying we shouldn’t ask people to sit a driving test because we don’t also measure how they might react in an accident or whether they know where to find the cheapest petrol. Nobody is claiming that passing a test of basic literacy and numeracy is sufficient to be a great teacher (See this piece for example – the simple answer to the headline is, “No. So what?”).
Tests like this only show us whether teachers can add-up and spell. Which most people would reckon is pretty important.