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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Initial teacher education in Australia


The article is based on extracts from the report Initial Teacher Education: Data Report © 2013 Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, used with permission.

Quality teaching is vital for student learning, and high-quality initial teacher education is vital to the creation of a high-quality teaching workforce.

The Initial Teacher Education: Data Report was the first data report released by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and it provides a collation of 2011 data on initial teacher education. AITSL is currently developing the next report, covering data from 2012; this is due for release later in 2014.

The report presents data at key intersections in the journey to becoming a teacher, including entry to initial teacher education, completion of initial teacher education, satisfaction with initial teacher education programs, and employment after graduation.

Data in the report has been sourced from the Higher Education Student Data Collection, Graduate Careers Australia and the Staff in Australia’s Schools Survey. See the full report for further information.

Key findings

The initial teacher education landscape

Prospective students of initial teacher education have over 400 accredited programs from which to choose, covering all aspects of the teaching profession in Australia. Initial teacher education is offered by 48 providers across a wide range of locations, and in a number of delivery modes, making it geographically accessible for many students.

The diversity of entrants to initial teacher education programs is a feature of the initial teacher education landscape, providing schools with qualified teachers from a range of backgrounds and histories.

When compared with all fields of higher education, students commencing initial teacher education programs in 2011 are more likely to come from a lower socio-economic status (16% and 21% respectively) and/or from regional areas (18% and 26% respectively).

Initial teacher education programs also have a slightly higher proportion (2%) of Indigenous students when compared with the percentage across all fields of higher education (1%). However the representation of Indigenous students in initial teacher education does not yet match the proportion of Indigenous school students (4.9%).

Entry into initial teacher education programs

There is a range of options for entry into initial teacher education programs, and providers of initial teacher education use a range of mechanisms to assess and admit applicants.

The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) is currently the primary source of nationally comparable data on entry standards to tertiary education. Twenty-seven per cent of all students in 2011 commenced initial teacher education programs with an ATAR determined on the basis of their senior secondary results. The data indicate that for those students who do enter initial teacher education with an ATAR, the majority have an ATAR of between 61 and 80, and 28% have an ATAR 81 and above. Students commencing initial teacher education are more likely to have ATAR 80 or below than is the case for students commencing tertiary courses in general. While ATAR can be a useful indicator of a student’s senior secondary achievement, ATAR cut-off levels for particular programs are affected by demand and supply for the program.

In 2011, over 70% of students commenced without a recorded ATAR. The range of mechanisms used to admit non-ATAR applicants can take the form of interviews, additional testing, previous qualifications and work history.

Levels of satisfaction with initial teacher education programs

Data collected through surveys of graduate teachers, existing teachers and principals provide information on satisfaction with initial teacher education programs. Overall, students indicate high levels of satisfaction across a range of areas within their initial teacher education program. The level of satisfaction indicated by students is comparable to the aggregate level expressed across all fields of higher education.

Responses from principals on the capabilities of graduates exiting initial teacher education programs are mixed. Graduates are seen as well prepared to handle activities such as collaboration with colleagues and engagement with students, but principals have reported graduates to be less well prepared in skills such as managing classroom activities and understanding differences among students.

Employment rates

Graduate teachers’ responses to the graduate destination survey indicated the following rates:

For 2011 primary teaching graduates, 14% were not working, 55% were working full-time and 31% part-time. For 2011 secondary teaching graduates, 16% were not working, 56% were working full-time and 28% part-time.

For primary teaching graduates, 14% of those employed in either a part- or full-time capacity were not working in a school. For secondary graduates, 13% of those employed in either a part- or full-time capacity were not working in a school.

Of the percentages of primary and secondary teaching graduates who were working full-time, 93% and 92% respectively, were working in schools.

Generally, teacher education graduates seeking full-time employment have been as successful as bachelor graduates from other fields of education.

Future reports

The Initial Teacher Education: Data Report is the first of what will be an annual report produced by AITSL on initial teacher education. The reports will contribute to the evidence base of information relating to initial teacher education, building a dataset that, over time, will provide a starting point for consideration of the context and outcomes of initial teacher education.


Subject Headings

Teacher training
Teaching profession
Educational evaluation