The Department of Education is withholding data on the literacy and numeracy skills of the nation’s trainee teachers in a bid to protect universities from scrutiny over declining academic standards.
Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi has long called out chronic deficiencies in our education system and rejects opposition calls to throw more money at the problem, saying that simply won’t work.
As The Australian revealed last week, about 10 per cent of teaching students nationwide failed the Year 9-equivalent Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) last year, with figures obtained under freedom-of-information laws showing pass rates had slipped for a third year running.
However, the department has declined to provide a breakdown of state and territory results, as well as pass and fail rates for each university, as it has done in previous years. In an email to The Australian, a representative said “the release of these results would present issues in some jurisdictions, specifically where individual providers will likely be unfairly identifiable in the data set”.
“This would be contrary to data access protocols agreed by test stakeholders,” the representative said.
The department declined to respond to questions about when the protocols were introduced, at whose request, and if they were in force in April last year, when LANTITE results from each state and territory as well as 50 universities were publicised. Education Minister Dan Tehan indicated he would push for greater disclosure.
“I’ve asked the department for advice on what requirements are necessary for the data to be published in full,” he said.
LANTITE results from 2017 showed several universities had more than 10 per cent of education students fail one or both components, sparking calls for providers to lift course entry requirements.
Victoria University in Melbourne had more than 20 per cent of students fail the numeracy test and more than 25 per cent fail literacy, while 20 per cent of students at the Australian College of Physical Education in Sydney failed.
At Southern Cross University in Queensland about 15 per cent of students failed to meet the proficiency standards for both categories, which aims to ensure prospective teachers display personal literacy and numeracy skills in the top 30 per cent of the Australian adult population.
Southern Cross dean of education Nan Bahr said she did not wish to see individual universities’ LANTITE results publicised as they were “nowhere near relevant to the question of (a student teacher’s) capabilities”.
“All this … would do, would be to further denigrate the reputation of the profession … an exercise from which nobody gains,” Professor Bahr said.
But Centre for Independent Studies education research fellow Blaise Joseph said full disclosure of the results was an “issue of transparency” and in the “clear public interest”.
“Given over $50 billion of taxpayer money is spent annually on schools – not to mention all the government funding received by universities – it’s perfectly reasonable to ensure universities are accountable regarding the quality of their teacher education degrees,.” Mr Joseph said.
More than a year ago, Senator Bernardi argued for a better approach to education with then Education Minister Simon Birmingham.