Colleen Harkin Discussing Teacher Shortages On The Rita Panahi Show – 11 June 2024

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11 June 2024
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The Institute of Public Affairs’ Colleen Harkin was on The Rita Panahi Show to discuss the IPA’s research into the teacher shortages across the nation.

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Below is a transcript of the interview.


Rita Panahi:

Joining me now is the national manager of the IPA’s Class Action Programme, Colleen Harkin. Colleen, we’ve got more than 1,500 teaching positions vacant in Victoria with some schools having to split classes or shut early because they can’t find any educators to fill the spots. The Herald Sun reports 771 jobs were posted in the past week. Last year, you might remember Dan Andrews government announced teaching degrees would be free, graduate teachers even being offered bonuses to subsidise the start of their careers in government schools or help them move to regional areas. Why is none of this working?

Colleen Harkin:

Well, Rita, that programme that was announced last year actually doesn’t start until this year. And it takes four years for those students to get through the system. But the real question is, will they ever be qualified to lead a classroom? Because our research shows that of that four years that they’re about to spend at the university, only 10 weeks of it is dedicated to the learning the skills to teach, reading, writing, science, history. So they’ll spend-

Rita Panahi:

Only 10 weeks?

Colleen Harkin:

Only 10 weeks out of their full four-year university degree. So the priorities of the universities are really warped and undermining their ability to become competent and happy teachers. So that programme, to be fair to them, will take a while for it to work through the system, but it still doesn’t mean we’re going to have capable and competent teachers at the end of the four years.

Rita Panahi:

So what are they spending their time on, if so much of it isn’t on what you would expect them to be spending it on, what’s the priority?

Colleen Harkin:

Well, the priority is like the national curriculum. It’s woke content. University courses that are called things like is skin colour a pigment of your imagination, for example. So the priorities in the university curriculum are as warped as the national curriculum. They’re not prioritising the skill set that’s required to do the job, which of course then means that the people who are coming at the other end are not skilled in the job they have to do to manage a classroom. Our classrooms are some of the worst in the world. We are 71st out of 80 in the OECD in terms of classroom disciplinary requirement. And if you’ve spent four years of your university degree learning how to be a global warrior instead of how to be a great teacher, that’s not going to be very satisfying at the end of the day.

Rita Panahi:

Absolutely. And if we’re basically telling anyone who’s got a conservative ideology, you’re not welcome in this profession because you’re going to just have to be indoctrinating kids relentlessly in leftist group think, that’s a large chunk of the potential teacher pool that’s gone. And we’ve also really not encouraging men to enter this profession. It seems to be dominated by women. And again, so you’ve got another 50 per cent of the population gone. That can’t be helping with the teacher shortage.

Colleen Harkin:

Well, statistically that’s clearly true, but the real issue is that teaching as a profession is not really appealing to most people at the moment because of the conditions of the curriculum, of having the cross-curriculum priorities of prioritising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders history and cultures and sustainability ahead of actually the skill set that the children require to be-

Rita Panahi:

The way they inject that into every subject from music to maths is astonishing, sustainability and what they call First Nations-

Colleen Harkin:

Correct. Yeah, that’s stated priority in the national curriculum, so it doesn’t state our priorities to make sure that kids can read and write, to become critical thinkers in their own right. It actually states the priority that sustainability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is what they should be learning at every opportunity.

Rita Panahi:

And I do also worry about the state of our universities because the hostile environment that’s been fostered there, the far-left activism that is scaring off some Jewish students. Some of them are deferring, declining to attend classes. And then we’ve got people from all sorts of backgrounds, not just Jewish students who are self-censoring, who really scared to say what they think because they are worried about an attack from academics and their fellow students. It’s not a healthy culture we’ve built in academia.

Colleen Harkin:

Not at all. And that the universities have rolled over to a small minority with a very specific activist agenda is a terrible precedent that has been set. Universities are supposed to be places of the big contest of ideas and the freedom of speech to take your position on a point and argue it out. And that’s not happening at all. On that first day of those protests at Melbourne University, 6,000 students were declined the opportunity to go to their own classrooms and learn and enjoy the subjects that they’re paying to study and the universities are capitulating to this is a terrible problem.

Rita Panahi:

I do worry about the learning outcomes because we’ve already gone through the COVID era where we had so much remote learning and now some people are opting for remote because the campuses have got encampments happening and all sorts of protests and hostility. And the university heads don’t seem to be too concerned. They’re more concerned about the overseas numbers coming in, which prop up the balance [inaudible 00:05:43]. Colleen Harkin, we could talk about this all day. Thank you so much for your time this evening. Really appreciate it.

Colleen Harkin:

Any time.

This transcript from The Rita Panahi Show on 11 June 2024 has been edited for clarity.

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