Forty years of teacher education in Australia: 1974–2014

Nov. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 5, 461–473, 2014. 
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors analyses the history of teacher education in Australia from 1974 to the current policy moment.
Teacher education is, and has been, a highly scrutinised domain in Australia.
Since the 1970s, teacher educators have seen more than 100 reviews of teacher education in Australia, with another one recently announced in 2014.

The author discusses three phases in the growth and development of teacher education in the past 40 years by considering the ways in which teacher education (and teaching) has been thought about at various points in time and analysing the related policies for funding governance and regulation.

Teacher training: developing the craft of teaching
The first half of the twentieth century in Australia saw the establishment of State teacher training institutions, as the new State departments of education developed the public schooling system and required more teachers.
The State-controlled supply and demand by admitting into their teacher training institutions only the number of teachers they needed and then managed their employment, induction and career progression.
However, the population boom after the Second World War led to significant expansion of public schooling and thus increased greater demand for teachers.

In the 1960s and 1970s, teaching was increasingly seen as a ‘craft’ and teacher preparation involved ‘training’ to develop one’s craft.
In classes, student teachers observed and then practised discrete instructional skills such as explaining, questioning, variability and reinforcement.
In the 1970s, State governments established and funded Colleges of Advanced Education (CAEs), which were designed to prepare graduates for jobs of a more vocational nature than those from universities, usually in sub-degree qualifications and their staff were not required to undertake research.
A binary system was formed with CAEs meant to complement universities.

Teacher education: developing decision-making and reflective practice
While micro-teaching and developing the craft of teaching dominated in teacher preparation programmes into the 1980s, a gradual change was occurring.
At this time, attention turned to the preparation of a professional teaching workforce and the research sought was to illuminate a knowledge base for teaching and then teacher learning. Gradually, terms like ‘teacher training’ were rejected in favour of ‘teacher education’ and ‘learning to teach’, and ‘reflective practice’ became a major focus in the teacher education programmes.
During this time, teacher education was largely self-governed by the institution responsible for the delivery of the teacher preparation programme.
Teacher educators had programmatic control over the way they prepared teachers and to some extent, they also influenced the political agendas related to professional learning and professional practice of in-service teachers.

Teacher education in universities: a unified system of higher education
In 1988, the previous binary system of tertiary education was replaced by a unified national system of higher education resulting in many higher education amalgamations and the granting of university status to institutions formerly known as CAEs.
The move to the unified system after 1988 resulted in funding and related policies for teacher education being in the jurisdiction of the Australian Government, while the funding and related policies for the schooling system within which the graduates work as teachers, were in the jurisdiction of the state, creating supply-demand tensions.


Procedures for regulating the teaching profession and teacher education have developed in varying ways over the past 40 years.
As early as 1971, the Board of Teacher Education was established in Queensland to regulate those who teach, and from 1975 registration was mandatory for all teachers working in Queensland schools.
Throughout its life, it has accredited teacher education programmes and regulated entry to the profession, as well as facilitating ongoing registration of teachers.
Other states followed much later.
Even though teacher education is now funded by the Australian Government through grants to universities, states have controlled and regulated schooling and the requirements for entry into teaching and continued practice.

Periodically, the federal government has made moves to gain more control.
In 2005, Teaching Australia was established, funded by the Australian Government, under the direction of the federal Minister for Education, Science and Training.
Australia has experienced the development, and now implementation, of national standards for teachers and national accreditation of teacher education.

The author argues that the current national professional standards for teachers tighten national regulation while at the same time enabling pathways which bypass the completion of an accredited teacher preparation programme as a requirement for entry into the profession.
However, programme accreditation continues to be undertaken by the relevant state and territory authorities although they now do this using national standards and the endorsed national accreditation processes.
Furthermore, the new regulation includes some significant changes for teacher education providers.
One of the most significant is the increased emphasis on outcomes and the need for teacher educators to provide evidence that graduates can demonstrate the professional knowledge, practice and engagement as outlined in the standards.
However, entry to the teaching profession in Australia is regulated by state agencies that still largely use input models to make decisions about teacher registration and readiness to teach.


At the moment, we are experiencing a ‘national solution’ with policy and resources directed to initiatives that bypass traditional teacher education, tighter regulation of entry into teacher education and more control over the content and site of delivery of teacher preparation.
It is important that teacher educators engage with the current and future agendas in order to sustain the professionalism of teacher education and shape the teacher education system in the twenty-first century.

Updated: Dec. 23, 2015