In China, teachers are as highly regarded as doctors, and it is considered to be an extremely respected and valued profession.
In Australia? Education is not valued in the same way.
Teachers face student and parental abuse daily, work extremely long hours for relatively low pay and endure high stress situations. The issue is not the fault of teachers, the system works against them and a change must be made to remedy this.
Poor support and lack of resources to deal with such high workloads and pressure to perform means high stress levels for teachers, resulting in lower performance, as in any other job.
This problem has the flow on effect of affecting children who do not receive the necessary support and are not being taught to their strengths. As a result, generational gaps in talent and skill occur.
This affects more than employment based skills with financial literacy in Australia lagging behind world standards. While The Australian Securities and Investments Commission does provide classroom resources to help school teachers boost the financial literacy of their students, these measures are not yet widespread and certainly not compulsory in the same way that sport in schools is.
This is supported by the latest evidence from financial experts revealing financial literacy in Australia is at all time lows. They explain “surveys have shown that 46% of people aged between 15 and 74 would struggle to understand simple documents like job applications, maps and payrolls. This type of financial literacy starts with schooling, and if not addressed, lasts a lifetime.”
The best aren’t choosing teaching
Education is currently one of the easiest university courses to get into in Australia, with some universities accepting students with ATAR scores of 50, an extremely low score. In comparison, many universities require an ATAR score of at least 70 to get into business and nursing.
Anyone would agree that smart teachers are more likely to result in successful students. Students who have strong studying skills and know how to make the most of their learning are the ones that we want to be teaching and passing these skills along to our students.
The reality is that most high achieving students don’t even give teaching a consideration, and so we, as a nation, are missing out on this opportunity.
While it is not entirely fair to base our teacher’s abilities to educate on their performance in school, it is important to ensure that they improve their knowledge during university.
Unfortunately, that does not seem to be happening consistently, with figures coming out in May of 2019 that as many as 1 in 10 teaching students are failing year 9 level literacy and numeracy tests.
Are these the kind of students we want to be teaching our children?
Dropout rates are high
Recent statistics have found that up to 40% of education graduates will leave the profession within the first 5 years. A government report in 2014 found that 5.7% of teachers change careers every year. That’s more than one in 20 teachers leaving the profession annually.
A cocktail of stress, high workloads, difficult interactions with parents and average pay are all factors contributing to teachers’ desires to leave their jobs.
Teachers who are under such high pressure and stress are not going to be able to work their best at benefiting our children. Support systems and resources to deal with such situations need to be implemented for our teachers so that they are happy and satisfied in their work life, allowing them the mental and emotional energy required for them to do well in their work.
Jayati Dave, owner of Victoria Wide First Aid, believes poor mental health caused by overworking can not only have an effect on her first aid course teachers, but impacts the students learning. “The most important aspect of my business is the students learning and if the teachers are tired and stressed, they won’t have the energy or patience to make sure the students are understanding,” says Jayati.
What does this all mean for the future?
High levels of stress and fatigue will not only affect the performance of teachers, and in turn their student’s learning, but also can be detrimental for their mental health.
Long term exposure to stress can result in a myriad of mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety, as the stress hormone cortisol can cause chemical imbalances in the brain.
Seller of eco-friendly products, Jayesh Dayal, expresses his concern for the future, “the next generation of educators are aware of the impacts people have on the environment but are not aware of the impact people have on other people. Sustainability is key, in all aspects of life.”
Teachers don’t deserve to experience mental health issues simply for doing their job and trying to create a better future for the next generation. We owe it to them to advocate for their situation and help the government realise that something needs to change, and soon.
But teachers finish at 3pm and get so many holidays?
While this is the perception held by many people, teachers actually work extremely long hours and through the school holidays.
It is not uncommon for teachers to arrive at school at 7am and leave at 6pm, then go home and work some more. Many teachers also work over the weekend, planning for the week’s lessons.
Creative agency owner Daniel Poskitt began his life as a teacher and after experiencing poor mental health caused by the long hours, he decided to search for a job with more flexibility.
Marking, planning and creating learning resources can take up significant amounts of time that many people do not consider. In schools and homes all around Australia, teachers are slaving over the perfect classroom design and making up worksheets and powerpoints for the coming week’s lessons. Come report writing time, these workloads grow even further and can leave teachers chronically fatigued.
Fatigued teachers aren’t going to be able to support their students to a degree as high as a non-fatigued teacher. By identifying the triggers and developing systems and boundaries to reduce fatigue and burnout in Australian teachers, we may be able to see our education system revitalised and reach new heights.
There is a growing awareness about the issues that teachers face daily, but it is important that we make positive changes so that our teachers are not being overworked, have access to the support they need, and are educated to a high level before beginning work.
Wendy Brentnall, owner of Wendy’s Music expresses “we need our teachers to be energised, passionate and equipped with the skills required to teach Australian children“. Teachers are the future of our world, and quality education will help them grow our nation to new heights. The government bodies behind our teachers need to step up and address the issues that the system is placing on teachers.
If nothing is done to reform Australia’s education system, we risk an entire generation receiving an inadequate education.