Is teaching Australia's most underappreciated profession?
In A Different Lens Snapshot: Education, we look at the value of teaching in Australia from the viewpoint of those in the education industry, exploring why teachers feel undervalued, and what’s being done to tackle the challenges they face.
Teachers play a vital role in every community, a fact widely acknowledged by the public. Yet recent research shows a looming shortage, especially in rural areas, with many teachers leaving – or at least considering leaving – the profession. Why is this happening?
A new study, Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching in Australia, by Monash University’s Faculty of Education has found that while more than half of teachers are satisfied in their role, more than a third aren’t, and while the public believe teachers are well-respected, teachers themselves feel undervalued.
“I think there is a lack of appreciation on the whole, in terms of teachers and what they achieve and what they do at a systemic level,” says McKinnon Secondary College principal Pitsa Binnion. “But I think at the local level, teachers are loved. Most students are so appreciative of their teachers, and build really wonderful relationships with their teachers, but I think as a system and nation, I don’t think teachers are appreciated for the difference that they make to the level that they should be.”
Of the 2444 teachers surveyed, three-quarters cited unmanageable workloads as a reason to exit the profession – a point acknowledged by the members of the public also questioned for the survey – and also why more than half wouldn’t recommend a career in teaching.
“The work of educators should be acknowledged and celebrated. Behind every medical professional, accountant, human rights ambassador and climate scientist is a teacher that was committed to educating young minds for the future.”
Professor Lucas Walsh
“You often hear this myth, I think, about teachers working short hours and for half a year,” says Monash Education’s Acting Dean, Professor Lucas Walsh. “I don’t ever think that was necessarily the case. Teachers I’ve met across time are dedicated to their students, and their work has always gone well beyond the school hours. We have, over time, seen those school hours actually extend, in addition to the work and preparation, the thinking, the teachers do outside of work hours.”
Pressure to perform
As one teacher commented: “Workload is unsustainable, and work-life balance is non-existent. The government continues to cut funding, and our workload continues to increase, while teaching quality decreases because of the sheer amount of non-teaching-related admin that is required.”
Another said: “The workload and pressure to perform to standardised testing is unbearable. The pressures from management and the government in accountability and all the administrative jobs that we are required to do every day take away from the core of what we are meant to do – teach children.”
According to the research, paying more attention to the workload and wellbeing factors will go some way to improving teacher retention, and attraction.
For more information about Monash University’s #ThankYourTeacher campaign, and to download a copy of the report, please visit monash.edu/thank-your-teacher.
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