SUBJECTS: teacher shortages, teacher education and China
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now is the Federal Education Minister, Jason Clare. Thanks so much for your time. As we heard there in Holly's report, a range of issues facing the education sector. Some federal responsibility abilities, I guess, in terms of things like more resources and so on, but at the state level, better paying conditions for the teachers to get them in and keep them there.
JASON CLARE: We're not going to fix it unless we work together. That's what tomorrow is all about. Federal Government and State Governments and Territory Governments working together to tackle this issue. But even more importantly: listening. We're going to have teachers and principals from right across the country talking to us about the challenge that we face here with a teacher shortage. We've got a shortage of teachers right across the country. There aren't many more jobs in the country more important than teachers, and we don't have enough of them.
KIERAN GILBERT: So who have you got coming in to join? So it's not just the Ministers?
JASON CLARE: No, we've got every Minister from across the country, but we've also got teachers from across the country. We've got principals from across the country, we've got representatives from Catholic schools, independent schools, the different unions as well. So unions and employers, teachers and principals, other education experts to talk about what we're already doing to tackle this issue. But what else do we need to do.
KIERAN GILBERT: Well, I mentioned the fed resources. It always comes down to dollars to an extent. But you've also got to look at the university processes, don't you, to get more kids into those, and not just kids, others in the middle stage of their career, anyone who can add value as a teacher.
JASON CLARE: Two things. How do we get more young people to want to be a teacher? Because we've seen a big drop in the number of people going into teaching as a university degree over the last decade, about a 16 per cent drop. How do we make sure that more young people complete that degree? About 70 per cent of people who start a degree finish it, but only 50 per cent of young people who start a teaching degree finish that. If we could get that 50 to 60, then already you would go a long way to addressing part of the supply shortage of teachers.
KIERAN GILBERT: But we're also seeing the numbers rise of those that are burnt out that's right. Who are throwing in the towel that they've had enough. So how do you keep people in there for longer?
JASON CLARE: Well, I think there's a whole bunch of things we need to do. One is how do you encourage more people to want to be a teacher? And that's about building respect and recognition in our community for the incredibly important work that teachers do. The second thing I think we need to focus on is how do we prepare young people to become teachers? They're studying at university, but there are things that we can do while they're at uni to prepare them for being a teacher that we don't do enough of at the moment. That includes better practical experience in first year, more internships, paid internships for final year students, as well as better induction processes, mentoring, classroom behaviour management, support for teachers in their first and second and third year. We see, Kieran, that a lot of teachers leave the profession after a couple of years just because the induction and mentoring supports aren't there at the start. And then how do you keep teachers longer term? Part of that's about pay, and the New South Wales Minister is talking about some innovative ideas on that today. Part of it's about conditions. This idea that teachers start at 9 o’clock and finish at 3 o’clock is rubbish. Many of us who know teachers know that that day starts a long time before nine, it finishes way after three. And teachers will often tell you they don't get enough time to teach because they're focused on the admin side of the job that could potentially be done by somebody else at the school who is not a qualified teacher. That's part of the reason why you see teachers say they're burnt out, worn out, they leave the profession.
KIERAN GILBERT: So it's as you said, the pay end, the conditions, things like even class planning, that sort of thing. How can they make that more efficient as opposed to, as you said, we all know teachers having to stay up late at night finishing the plan to be delivered the following day?
JASON CLARE Yeah, exactly right. Lesson planning is a terrific example. We build a curriculum and then teachers spend a lot of time preparing to teach that curriculum to their students every day. Now, the longer you've been a teacher, the better you get at that. But particularly for first and second year teachers, if they can get a little bit more help with lesson planning, it takes the burden off them. And that's why New South Wales is talking about that idea. ACARA has briefed me on some of the things that could be done here. Anything that can take some of that workload off teachers after school to give them more time to teach and prepare them for the teaching that they do in the classroom, I think is going to help us to keep more of these valuable teachers in our school.
KIERAN GILBERT: Make it more sustainable. One of the other things that we've been looking at and we've got a big focus on in the next month is the Jobs Summit with a lot of international students that study here. They often leave being qualified with Australian qualifications but leave very soon after. Other nations provide more attractive visa work arrangements, don’t they? Would you look at that?
JASON CLARE: One of the things I want to look at as part of the summit, I think only 16 per cent of international students stay after they've finished their degree here in Australia. If we've got a skill shortage, and - boy, do we have one - it makes sense to me that if you've got international students studying in areas where we've got a skill shortage, we want them to stay on and help us to fill that gap. Now, other countries, like Canada and the UK have done some innovative things here to try and attract more international students with the prospect of longer work rights. So it's one of the things I think we should look at at the Jobs Summit.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Chinese Ambassador made some controversial comments yesterday. I'll get your reaction to those in a moment. But on the broader relationship, are those Chinese students coming back to Australia post-COVID? Because that is our largest number of international students.
JASON CLARE: I think about 42 per cent of international university students are Chinese students. About 28 per cent of international students across uni, TAFE and schools are Chinese students, so they represent the biggest proportion of international students by a long way. The interesting thing with Chinese university students is that about half of them are studying with Australian universities in China at the moment. That's different to India and Nepalese students and many others. Partly that's because of China's COVID zero policy…
KIERAN GILBERT: [Interjects] so they can't travel out.
JASON CLARE: That's right. Limited flights, COVID-hesitancy, local lockdowns.
KIERAN GILBERT: So there's still interest in our universities from China, despite the tension.
JASON CLARE: Why wouldn't there be? We've got some of the best universities in the world. Our universities have adapted to provide that online education and that's working effectively at the moment. Part of what universities are looking at, though, is how do we diversify what we offer so that we can provide an attractive university level education to more young people across the world. And part of that is providing that online opportunity in other countries as well as offshore, setting up campuses in other parts of our region and partnerships with universities in other parts of the world.
KIERAN GILBERT: So while we're still getting a lot of Chinese students enrolling in our universities, and the exports in other areas still strong, that's on an even keel. The comments yesterday were concerning when it came to…
JASON CLARE: Just before we get to that Kieran, I think we do need to recognise we need to rebuild international education. COVID smashed it. We had a lot of students leave. They're coming back now. The visa backlog that we're dealing with. But we went from having an industry worth 40 billion to an industry worth about 20 billion.
KIERAN GILBERT: So it's halved.
JASON CLARE: It's coming back. We're talking about an industry here that's the biggest export Australia has that we don't dig out of the ground or drill out of the ground. But we've got to do a lot of work to tell students around the world this is the place to study, speed up visa processing, which the Minister for Home Affairs is doing. And work with other countries about different ways to offer international education in different parts.
KIERAN GILBERT: Are you worried about those comments from the Ambassador yesterday, though, in terms of no compromise when it comes to Taiwan, that you can use your own imagination when it comes to how we'll reunify with it? Essentially his words.
JASON CLARE: I think it's in our mutual interest to stabilise the relationship. It's in all our interest to have peace and stability in our region. And that means no unilateral change to the status quo with regard to Taiwan.And this is sort right across the board, we want calm and consistent language from all people in this area.
KIERAN GILBERT: Minister. I appreciate your time.
JASON CLARE: Good on you. Thanks, Kieran.