SOS for foreign teachers to lift education standards
A LEADING private school body is urging the federal government to reform visa rules and import more foreign teachers in a bid to reverse Australia's decline in international education rankings.
The Saturday Telegraph can reveal the number of foreigners applying to work in education in Australia dropped 20 per cent in the past financial year and is on track to crash to a 15-year low of fewer than 1400 applicants in 2018/19.
The Association of Heads of Independent Schools says the abolition of the 457 visa in March 2018 is to blame for the sudden decline because overseas educators can only stay in Australia for two years - not long enough to attract top-end talent.
It is urging the government to add teachers and other leadership positions within schools to the "medium and long term strategic skills list" so imports can stay for four years.
It comes as NSW faces a male teacher shortage and Australian student performance is "stagnating in parts and going backwards in others", AHISA says.
In a submission to a Senate inquiry, AHISA warns that the change was also exacerbating shortages in specialist subject areas which had been created through generational change and early career teachers leaving the profession in droves.
Home Affairs data shows just two years ago 900 foreigners applied for a visa to work in the NSW education sector, with teachers from the UK, China and US topping the list, but in 2018/19 applications had dropped to 669.
AHISA chief executive Beth Blackwood said while Australia was locked in a debate about how to raise student performance and improve the standard of the profession, the idea of a "global exchange of professional expertise" needed to be on the agenda.
"I think does help lift the expectation and standards of the teaching profession when you bring expert teachers into Australia," she said.
"It's an invaluable experience that instigates change, energy and innovation … creating and sustaining world class education in Australia."
Latest results from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment revealed 15 year olds in Singapore top the three areas tested - reading, maths and science.
In 2000 Australian students ranked 4th in reading and science but have slipped to 16 and 14, respectively, with Canadian, Irish and Japanese students now topping the list.
Home Affairs data shows between July and December just 31 teachers from Canada, Ireland and Japan applied to move to NSW compared with a total of 58 in 2016/17.
AHISA wants the government to put principals, primary and middle school teachers, residential care officers, education managers, counsellors and ministers for religion on the medium and long term strategic skills list and allow them to stay for four years.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan conceded that despite record education spending student performance was "stagnating in parts and going backwards in others".
NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes said overseas teachers should only work in NSW schools if they were able to demonstrate the same rigorous experience requirements and academic standards as locally trained teachers.