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.
President, Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE
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