There is a companion article in the Australian to the one pointed out by Peter yesterday by Andrew Trounson, entitled “Shortage of specialist maths teachers“. Apparently, the long-running shortage of trained maths teachers in Australia is beginning to have a non-trivial impact on high schools, with some schools forced to cancel advanced maths programs purely due to lack of qualified teachers. So far, core maths teaching at the secondary level is still reasonably strong in Australia, but this may not necessarily be the case in the future (after all, the same could have been said at the tertiary level just two decades ago).
The article cites the report “The preparation of maths teachers in Australia” from June 2006 by the Australian Council of Deans of Science, which reported that over three quarters of high schools are currently having difficulties finding qualified maths teachers for their schools, and that the situation was likely to worsen in the near future due to a wave of retirements of senior teachers.
A transcript of the interview of the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, that was referenced in yesterday’s article has been made available; I’ve placed some key excerpts from it below the fold.
(Thanks to Billy Tao and Jan Thomas for the links.)
Julia, just on the HECS relief for maths and statistics. What assurance can you give the maths and statistics departments that that money will compensate the loss of fees on that will actually go to maths and statistics departments?
The Government, in our Budget, delivers on our promise for HECS relief for those who study maths and science. We have got critical shortages in maths and science study. We have got critical shortage in maths and science teaching. So we’ve said to those who want to study maths and science, we will halve your HECS debt and then if you go an area of need in a profession of need like maths and science teaching, we will halve it again. We have budgeted the compensation for universities for that reduction in HECS. Obviously we will be making the necessary arrangements with universities so that that money ends up compensating, as it should, for the loss of the maths and science revenue that would have otherwise come from HECS.But the policy objective here is clear. If we are going to have a world class education system we have got to have people studying the great enabling disciplines of maths and science. If you compare this nation with the rest of the world, we are falling behind. That’s a legacy of more than a decade of neglect and our special incentives for the study of maths and science are about making up for that decade of neglect and making sure that we are studying the great enabling disciplines and catching up with where we should be and that is to be world class in our education and training.
Just following on from that, all the maths professors I talk to are worried that the money they get from different things actually doesn’t go to the maths and statistics department, it goes into the general expenses of funding a university. Is the government planning to do any sort of strings attached to the compensation funding to where it is needed in terms of boosting these departments?
As we make arrangements with universities for this revenue to flow from the Budget, we will be making it perfectly clear to universities what it’s for and the policy objective there. We obviously want our maths and science faculties to be able to teach quality maths and science. Universities are of course, independent institutions. Government holds universities accountable for the funds that we provide to universities and you should expect to see accountabilities in that area of the Budget and in relation to Budget funding generally. Can I say though, unlike the Liberal Party when in government, we want to work in partnership with those who run our universities. The former government treated them with distrust and criticised university vice chancellors and university councils on all occasions. We believe those who run our universities have the best interests of Australian education at heart and we want to work with them in what should be a collaborative national endeavour to make sure we have a world class university system offering world class education to every student and every researcher within it. Thank you.