The answer to the above question in its shortest form is – yes. However, delving into the various factors causing this is a complicated task. Teachers are the life of young Australia, ensuring each generation is provided with a strong education and a desire for learning. Yet, Australian schools are facing the largest teacher supply shortage in many years with the reasoning being listed ongoing impact of covid pandemic, but realistically this is not the only factor involved.
Although covid consistently takes the blame for many aspects of today’s society, in this situation there are a multitude of factors involved in the decline of available educators in Australia. Graduate teachers are decreasing in number along with an ageing population including teachers who are nearing or actively retiring. This means that new educators are harder to come by while the number of students continues to rise. Educators are also starting to speak up more and affirming that their working weeks are not 9am – 3pm like a lot of people seem to believe but can be as long as 7am – 7pm on weekdays and this is not the end, often they are also required to work on weekends. Because of these factors, increasing numbers of educators are experiencing burnout and leaving the industry. Additionally, the administrative requirements of teachers continue to increase with teachers now being required to make their own teaching plans within the specified curriculum. Finally, educators are facing increased casualisation of the workforce, as more roles are being placed onto short-term contracts which means no job security, and this is simply not viable for somebody with a mortgage, family and other assorted financial commitments.
Dealing With the Parents
Not only are the expectations of educators forever increasing, the demand by parents is also consistently on the rise. Parents up until the early 00s were a lot more flexible allowing teachers to do their jobs and educate the next generation. Parents now are dissatisfied with all students being treated the same and want their children to be treated as individuals. This raises problems, as class sizes are also on the rise, meaning that this is not always possible. Educators are left struggling emotionally feeling that they have not done enough for each student and with the added involvement of parents arguing for their child, many teachers cannot deal with the extra pressures anymore.
What is Being Done?
The Australian Government is working with state and territory governments to attract individuals into becoming an educator. Some of these attractions can include teaching scholarships, training supports / allowances, course completion bonuses, placement/job guarantees and additional bonuses for taking hard-to-fill roles such as positions in rural areas. Skilled migration is also being investigated with the Australian Government currently working to clear a huge backlog of nearly one million visa applications.
Around 60,000 of these are permanent visa applications for the skilled workforce to support jobs in high-demand industries including education. Further to this, the Australian Government is also looking into developing its current educator workforce with a commitment of $10.8 million between 2022-26 to support those already in the industry with professional development activities. Each state is charged with coming up with a plan to tackle the increasing issue with Victoria utilising the 2022 Victorian Government Schools Agreement which has approved the reduction of face-to-face teaching by 1 hour each week in 2023 and further reductions in 2024.
What Can an Individual Do for Themselves?
Teaching the next generation should always be considered a noble profession. Even with the challenges outlined above that one must consider, there are still many opportunities to develop a rewarding career and a huge demand for aspiring teachers. To start that journey, undertaking a Master of Education is an excellent starting point. It promotes flexibility through being online, which is where a lot of education opportunities are heading especially tertiary institutions. The person will learn the skills to become an effective educator with the option of choosing a variety of electives to gain a generalist Master of Education degree.
The Australian Government is working on making educating the next generation a priority and has developed the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan. It’s designed to increase the number of individuals choosing to become educators whilst also working to support the existing educators in the industry. As mentioned above, the main areas of focus include increasing the number of individuals choosing teaching as their profession, strengthening the education of educators, keeping the educators already in the profession, raising up the profession and providing a better understanding of the potential future needs of the educator workforce.
It is all well and good for an action plan to be designed but the next question on everybody’s mind is, how? The Australian Government has provided an outline showcasing that the plan is to ensure educators feel more supported by providing the necessary tools to succeed, reducing preventable workload, and providing more time-efficient methods to allow the educator time to focus on the task at hand – educating the next generation of Australia. This will be in conjunction with an aim of community engagement and understanding to promote recognition of the value educators bring not just to the community at large but to their students and the long-term future economy.
Overall, although it is clear that Australia is experiencing a shortage of educators currently, that doesn’t mean it needs to be a permanent situation. With the increased government attention and funding coupled with the current high demand, there is a great opportunity for employment in the industry. So if you are considering becoming an educator, look seriously at your study options as a starting point and think about what your contribution long-term to society and Australia’s future could be, by providing the next generation with the knowledge and skills to succeed.
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