You may have seen some press reports on minimum ATARs of ITE programs over the weekend. I found the Herald Sun coverage particularly disappointing. The front page article was titled “SCHOOL OF DUNCES: Unis let dumbest students become teachers”, followed by a title on p.4 “Teachers of little talent”. I draw some comfort from the fact the journalist responsible, Ashley Argoon, was not trained at RMIT.
The article focused on the Bachelor of Education Studies at VU, but several other universities, RMIT included, were listed as having low minimum ATARs. The universities were accused of providing ‘backdoor’ entry to students with low academic ability, with Victoria apparently having the lowest ATARs across the country. Victorian Education Minister James Merlino is quoted as saying “I will not stand for universities attempting to undercut or bypass our reforms and minimum ATAR standards”. Minister Birmingham and the AEU agreed.
The Deans across Victoria met yesterday. We are puzzled by the numbers that were published; the figures bear no resemblance to the minimum ATARs for ITE programs at our institutions. It is thought they may relate to offers for pathway programs, but even this data does not align.
Across many programs students with ATARs below clearly-in scores are offered places. Students may have been selected because:
- They gained further experience and qualifications that superseded their ATAR
- They were given special consideration due to significant personal circumstances that impacted their study during Year 12
- They were granted access to a pathway course during which they would have to prove they were capable of undertaking teacher education
In addition the rigorous requirements of ITE programs ensure all graduates are classroom-ready. LANTITE, for example, which must be passed to graduate, ensures that all beginning teachers have literacy and numeracy skills in the top 30% of the population.
Reports like this can be demoralising both for us and our students. I hope our pathway and ITE students are reassured of the quality of our admissions processes and the right they have earned to be in the program. The Australian Council of Deans of Education has responded and the Victorian Deans are also preparing a response.