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Clamping down on teachers' literacy and numeracy skills

Clamping down on teachers' literacy and numeracy skills

Aspiring teachers and current educators will be well acquainted with the Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education, more commonly known as the LANTITE, which is the primary skills and knowledge assessment for graduating Australian teachers. The LANTITE, which is equivalent to a Year 9 NAPLAN test, assesses whether students can read, write and perform basic equations to a standard that puts them in the top 30 per cent of the adult population for literacy and numeracy ability. This test was recently thrust into the spotlight after Labor announced that teachers who fail to pass or sit the LANTITE will be banned from working in Victorian classrooms. 

While other state and territories are yet to follow in the Education State’s footsteps, this initiative will be implemented across Australia by 2020 as part of a federal crackdown on teaching standards. This came after the release of statistics that showed one in 20 teachers working in Victorian schools had failed or not yet sat the compulsory literacy and numeracy assessment, and the publication of a secret report that found students with ATAR scores below 30 were being admitted into teaching courses. Education policy changes, such as raising the minimum ATAR score for teaching courses to 70, are part of the government’s wider plan to attract the country’s best and brightest students to the profession and establish teaching as a first-choice career rather than a fall-back option. 

This initiative has been met with varying feedback; while many have expressed support for this tough new approach, others have highlighted that assessments of potential teachers should go beyond academic ability. Let’s take a look at both sides of the story in the latest debate about the teaching profession

No to the crackdown

Those who oppose the government’s latest measures do so due to the sentiment that teaching requires more than pure academic ability. Baseline literacy and numeracy skills are no more important than personal attributes such as interpersonal skills, communication ability, resilience and a genuine passion for teaching when assessing which traits are essential to the profession. This stance argues that personality and temperament, rather than academic standing, will dictate what makes or breaks a teacher when it comes to understanding and coping with the demands of the job.  

Yes to passing the test

On the other side of the argument is a strong wave of support for the proposed overhaul of teaching standards. They believe that teachers should possess an academic foundation that is strong enough for them to synthesise, comprehend and express complex material to their students in understandable terms. Parents expect the best possible education for their children, and the ability of teachers to transfer knowledge accurately and effectively plays a part in this. It all boils down to the main point underpinning this stance – teachers who are yet to demonstrate the required standard of literacy and numeracy ability should not be allowed to educate the next generation of students.