AUSTRALIA. Applications for teacher-training courses have reached record levels this year, but schools still face massive staff shortages.
Students are being attracted by higher pay in the state of Victoria where the annual salary for new teachers will soon hit pound;16,000. Universities experienced a startling 25 per cent increase in demand for teacher courses beginning in March, the new academic year.
However, the action has been seen as too little, too late. Deans of education have been warning state governments of huge teaching shortages for the past five years. Research commissioned by the deans shows that by 2005, the supply of new teachers will meet only 80 per cent of demand in primaries and 66 per cent in secondaries.
Despit these warnings government funding declined during the 1990s and universities were forced to slash student numbers. Some states also eliminated thousands of teaching jobs to save money, arguing this was justified by a decline in the school population.
But, with pupil numbers again on the rise, and the four-year training lead time, states are facing a crisis of their own making and have resorted to trying to recruit teachers abroad.
And the shortfall will be made worse by improving alternative employment opportunities for new graduates and teachers wanting to quit over-crowded classrooms.
Complicating the issue is the fact that states have responsibility for schools but funding for teacher training is a federal matter.