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Monday, August 11, 2014

Is it time for specialist maths and science teachers in the primary classroom?

This article is drawn from a paper to be delivered at an Australian College of Educators national conference in September. Stephen Dinham is President of ACE and Professor of Teacher Education at Melbourne Graduate School of Education and University of Melbourne.

Every time there is a problem in society there is someone advocating that it should be addressed within the primary curriculum. Rarely is anything taken away to balance what is imposed.

If it is considered important that these issues are addressed, primary teachers and schools need the input and support of trained professionals to provide the specialised knowledge needed to fulfil these ‘social welfare’ expectations. The usual response is that there needs to be greater integration of these issues with the curriculum, but something has to give; compromises and watering down are inevitable.

As it stands, the academic and social welfare expectations on the generalist primary teacher have made the role increasingly untenable, particularly in the context of greater external testing. There is a further layer impacting on teachers’ workloads and this concerns the increasing mandatory reporting and administrative burdens placed on teachers and schools.

A point has been reached where a degree of specialisation needs to be introduced to primary teaching.

Volume 10 Number 8 August 11 - September 7 2014 (PDF)

Numeracy has also been highlighted as problematic, with some primary teachers lacking a year 12 qualification in mathematics as well as confidence and competence in teaching the subject. Time devoted to preparation in maths and science content and pedagogy in primary initial teacher education is limited because of the need to cover all aspects of the primary curriculum, something compounded by the trend from four-year undergraduate pre-service programs to two-year graduate-entry programs.

It is time the introduction of specialist maths and science primary teachers in government schools was seriously considered, especially given the chronic shortages of secondary maths and science teachers.

As maths and science specialist teachers enter primary teaching this will enable other generalist teachers to specialise more through being released from some of their present, subject-based responsibilities.


Source: VOICE Volume 10 Number 8 August 11 - September 7 2014