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Australia lowers standards for teachers because too many were failing basic literacy and numeracy test

Aspiring teachers in Australia can now fail a basic literacy and numeracy test an unlimited number of times, because too many were unable to pass and the country faces a looming educator shortage.

The Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Education (LANTITE) was introduced in 2016 to raise public confidence in teaching graduates, but since then about one in 10 university students have failed on first attempt.

Previously they were given two more chances to pass before being prevented from sitting again for two years, and a pass was required to be awarded an education degree, but now a trial overhaul will give failed students an “amnesty” and allow as many attempts as needed to pass, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The test includes simple multiple questions like “A teacher wants to make 80 ‘First’ ribbons for a school sports day. Each ribbon is 12 centimetres long. Which of the following is the shortest roll of ribbon that the teacher requires? 1-metre roll, 7-metre roll, 10-metre roll, 100-metre roll.”

The trial is part of the National Teacher Workforce Action Plan, an initiative which aims to make up an estimated staff shortage of 4000 by 2025, due to a fall in enrolments.

But UTS professor Rachel Wilson warned there was an underlying problem with the tests.

“Changing the timing and opportunity to learn and meet the standards helps, but does not fix the fact that the standards are relatively low,” she said.

“Most countries expect teachers to come from the top 30% of high school graduates, while the LANTITEs are pegged to the top 30% of the total population – and this is a significant difference.”

90.3% of students passed the literacy test on their first attempt in 2022, and 93% passed within their first year of registering.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare claimed standards had not been lowered, and said requiring candidates to sit the test at the beginning of their degree means they reduce their “chance of failing the test after completing a degree and accumulating student debt”.

The move follows a similar government response to would-be Australians who fail their citizenship test. Just 65% pass, and the remainder are allowed to stay in the country and reapply three more times.

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