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Literacy standards of aspiring teachers

Posted by Garry Collins, AATE President on 5 January 2015

The following letter was submitted in response to an item in The Courier-Mail but it was not selected for publication. The same item appeared in Melbourne's Herald-Sun on 1 January under the headline "Lament over standards as aspiring teachers flop literacy". So what we had was The Courier-Mail copying an item from a Melbourne paper about research almost certainly conducted with a cohort of students in a university in Perth. It must have been a slow news day.

Literacy standards of aspiring teachers

You report poor literacy standards of some education degree undergraduates tested in a research project conducted by an academic at a Western Australian university ("Cannot spell, will teach", C-M Jan 2).

While inadequate literacy skills in any intending teachers is a matter of concern, readers should be careful about generalising too readily from this instance.

The sort of weakness reported is not what I have observed amongst the prospective secondary English teachers with whom I have worked as a sessional tutor at The University of Queensland over the last two years. About two thirds of these students have been in the fourth and final year of a double degree program combining a Bachelor of Arts or equivalent with a Bachelor of Education. The remaining third were working towards a Graduate Diploma in Education after having already completed at least a relevant bachelor degree. A few had masters degrees and one had a PhD.

In the several decades that I was the English Subject Master/Head of Department in two state high schools I would have been very pleased to have had almost any of these people as beginning teachers. I was initially going to write "young people" but some were mature age students who brought varied valuable experiences in other occupations.

Garry Collins
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE

Garry Collins, AATE PresidentAuthor: Garry Collins, AATE President
About: Garry Collins is the Immediate Past President of ETAQ and began a 2 year term as AATE President on 1 January 2014. A retired high school English teacher, he now works in the School of Education at the University of Queensland as a sessional tutor in English curriculum courses.
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