Alan Tudge, Annotated Again

A bit over a month ago, Alan Tudge, gave a major policy speech, Being our best: Returning Australia to the top group of education nations. Tudge’s speech, which we annotated here, was not all bad, a weird mix of goods and stupids and non sequiturs; we graded the speech a C+

The most encouraging part of Tudge’s speech was the promised scrutiny of teacher training and, in particular, of the pointless, ridiculous and actively destructive 2-year Masters that is currently required. Now, about a week ago, Tudge’s office issued a media release, announcing a review into initial teacher education. The media release was accompanied by a Tudge-fed puff piece in the Australian Financial Review (paywalled). What follows is our annotation of Tudge’s media release, followed by a quick discussion of the AFR report.

Initial teacher education review launched

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge has today launched a review of initial teacher education, a key element of the government’s ambition to lift Australian school standards.

A key element? Well, that is depressing.

Last month, the Minister outlined a new target to return Australia to the top group of education nations globally by 2030, noting that our school standards have steadily slipped over the last two decades.

The review of initial teacher education courses is the most critical element towards lifting standards,

No, it is not.

noting that the quality of teaching is the most important in-school factor influencing student achievement.

Yes, it is. Initial teacher training, however, has, and can have, almost no bearing on the quality of teaching. Pretty much all ITE can do is get in the way and screw people up and piss people off. 

The review will address two key questions: how to attract and select high-quality candidates into the teaching profession,

You need a review to tell you to have the job pay more and not be so burdened with government-imposed garbage? 

and how to prepare them to become effective teachers.

You can’t. Give it up. Teachers learn by teaching and reflecting and teaching, and that’s pretty much it. KKK.

Since 2006, the number of top students choosing to study education has declined by a third, and many teachers are still graduating from their courses insufficiently prepared to teach in a classroom.

What does this mean? No one is prepared for their first class.

The review will be conducted by a panel chaired by former Department of Education and Training Secretary Lisa Paul AO PSM, supported by:

    • Malcolm Elliott – President of the Australian Primary Principals Association 
    • Derek Scott – 2019 Australian School Principal of the Year
    • Bill Louden AM – Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Western Australia

We do not know these people, but some form of reverse Groucho applies. Anybody who has risen to prominence in the current educational system is almost certainly unqualified to review the current educational system. 

The first public discussion paper will be released by June, followed by a period of public consultation. The review will be completed in six months.

This is Sirens of Titan. Is there any evidence that at any time, in any place, “public consultation” has had any effect whatsoever? 

Minister Tudge said Australia’s teachers are some of the most dedicated and hard-working in the world and the review would help grow and support the workforce.

One of the main aspects of being an adult is learning to judge people on what they do, rather than on what they say. If only we had more adults.

“Particularly over the last year, we have seen how important our teachers are to Australian kids and we want to provide them with the best platform to produce better student outcomes,” Minister Tudge said.

“We used to consistently be in the top group of education nations and I am confident we can get there again.

If you are, you’re a fool. 

“The recommendations of this review will help ensure we attract high-quality, motivated candidates into teaching and develop them into teachers with the skills our students need.

No it won’t, and no it won’t.

“We want the finest students choosing to be teachers and we also want to make it easier for accomplished mid- and late-career individuals to transition into the profession, bringing their extensive skills and knowledge into our school classrooms.

This seems to be hinting at having at least some prospective teachers avoid the idiot Masters. Of course, all prospective teachers should be permitted to avoid the idiot Masters. 

The review builds on the reforms the government has already made to improve ITE, including assessing and accrediting ITE courses and testing graduates’ literacy and numeracy before they can enter a classroom to teach.

Meaning ACER’s grotesque and pointless literacy and numeracy test? That’s an example of the brilliance to be expected from this review? Lord spare us.


The media release is not great, although it is standard to oversell the importance of such a review, and to avoid declaring the pre-determined conclusions. More forthright is the accompanying puff by AFR education editor, Julie Hare (paywalled). Hare’s Tuff-fed piece, titled Alan Tudge’s 10-year plan to get schools back to basics, is both encouraging and deeply discouraging.

The encouraging aspect of Hare’s piece is Tudge’s explicit questioning of value the 2-years Masters:

“People just used to have to do a nine-month diploma of education. And that was when our education standards were much higher. In the UK, it’s a nine-month diploma and their education standards are going up, not down. So if others can do it, and we have done it in the past, I can’t see why we can’t do it in the future.”

One discouraging aspect is Tudge’s genuflecting to “technology”, pretending that Khan Academy or some such nonsense is going to help. That “quality of teaching” thing sure lasted a long time. And, much more discouraging, it is pretty clear that Tudge, and Hare, have absolutely no clue what “basics” means.

Hare’s report goes on and on and on and on about Australia’s PISA scores. It is a theorem, if someone rabbits on about “basics” and PISA (and/or NAPLAN) then they have no clue about the meaning of either “basics” or PISA, or both.

Overall, we’ll give Tudge another C+ for this one. Tudge tries, but he is just a C kind of student.


UPDATE (27/04/21)

Tudge is about to give a speech at The Age Schools Summit, whatever the Hell that is, and has given early access to his speech, at least to The Age. It seems clear that Tudge thinks it’s all about “the quality of teachers”, nothing about funding and, incredibly, nothing about Australia’s education system being intrinsically and fundamentally fucked. If Tudge clearly doesn’t realise the idiocy is entrenched in ACARA and State authorities, administered by the high-profile clowns that he’s about to pal around with, then fuck him. He’s useless.


UPDATE (27/04/21)

Below is Tudge’s press conference from April 15, announcing the ITE review. The discussion is more wide-ranging than the media release, and is more encouraging. Tudge says some of the same dumb things, but he also says some smart things, starting around 6:00. (Lisa Paul, who will head the review, says some really dumb things, starting around 10:30).

46 Replies to “Alan Tudge, Annotated Again”

  1. Re: “We do not know these people …. almost certainly unqualified to review the current educational system.”

    I do. You are right.

    We don’t need self-serving, attention-seeking, suit-wearing corporates on panels like this. We need working teachers from the trenches.

      1. It would work better. The least bad option.

        At the very least, working teachers from the trenches should be included on the panel. Not self-serving, attention-seeking, suit-wearing corporate wanker CEO’s who think that the business they front is superior to everyone else.

        1. I take your point. There is the immediate question of how to fix ITE, and I agree that a random teacher is likely to be much better than any big shot. But the bigger question is how to fix teaching, and the real question is how to fix education. For these questions, teachers are useless.

          1. It shouldn’t be a random teacher. You would appoint a panel to find the teacher (ah ha ha, I’m only kidding. But that’s what these clods would probably do!)

            Finding a teacher for the panel would be trickier than it seems, and the most appropriate teacher probably wouldn’t want to be involved. I wonder how members of the current panel were chosen. Most likely by self-promotion and networking.

  2. 2 years is crazy. Calling the degree a Masters degree is also crazy.

    Thinking that somehow calling a Dip Ed a Masters degree is suddenly going to improve teaching standards is more like lunacy.

    It is the age-old cycle: everyone wants quality health, education, policing, defence but doesn’t feel the need to pay for it through money not being spent elsewhere… like subsidising coal mines (although, to be fair, “subsidy” is a difficult word to define when the rules are unclear to begin with)

    “top group” is easy to achieve, just redefine the size of the group.

    1. RF, I agree with all that, but I don’t think the main thing is a lack of money. I think the main thing is a lack of meaning.

      1. Except, the more appropriate method would be to assume the opposite.

        You can find confirmation for any theory if you look hard enough.

        Or just use qualitative data.

  3. So if I wanted to become a teacher should I wait and see what happens or just bite the bullet and grind out the two year masters now?

    1. It’s more a missile than a bullet.

      I totally agree with:

      “People just used to have to do a nine-month diploma of education. And that was when our education standards were much higher. In the UK, it’s a nine-month diploma and their education standards are going up, not down. So if others can do it, and we have done it in the past, I can’t see why we can’t do it in the future.”

      Then again, this was also back in the day when the undergraduate degree that the Diploma was piggy-backing onto was probably worth more than it is now.

      I would also add a paraphrase:
      Teachers used to not have the VIT. And that was when our education standards were much higher.

      Teachers need the VIT like Custer needed more indians.

      1. There is a tendency for many professional courses to be post-graduate courses e.g. medicine and law. Some Australian universities are now awarding medical graduates with M.D. Many years ago, the M.D. degree was a higher doctorate (i.e. above Ph.D.) along with LL.D, D.Sc., D. Litt., and D. Div.

        And if you go back far enough, surgeons did not have to go to university at all. They trained with barbers – hence the red and while pillars outside barber shops. This is the origin of referring to a male surgeon as “Mr” to distinguish them from physicians who did go to university. But these days, surgeons go to university.

    2. Craig, I completed the 2-year Master of Teaching (Secondary) through Deakin in 2019 and enjoyed almost every bit of it. Sometimes I would get an assignment that did not appeal; “I don’t really want to do this”. But once I knuckled down and got into it, the assignment was interesting. As part of one assignment, we had to make a short video and upload it onto youtube. I had absolutely no idea how to do this and I was not particularly interested. But I started from scratch on Saturday about 9am; by 9pm, with help from my wife, I had planned the video, written the script, rehearsed it several times, and posted it. I felt good.

  4. Isn’t there some research that says teachers get better with experience?
    If they want better teachers, I think they need to keep them working as teachers longer.

      1. You mean like the Teach for Australia..?

        That was fun to watch unfold…

        We also had the Australian Baccalaureate floated as a serious idea under the last federal Labor government (well, technically the one before that, if you count Rudd-Gillard-Rudd as three Labor governments)

        Lots of headlines, minimal useable substance. We’ve all seen this movie before and I can’t see this sequel having a different ending.

  5. “Since 2006, the number of top students choosing to study education has declined by a third, …”

    I assume that this is judged by the ATAR of students who choose to study education. Now, the normal route these days for a secondary teacher is degree + MTeach. No ATAR is involved.

    I’d say that this comment reflects the minimum ATAR of students who leave school and go into 4 year undergraduate teaching courses which prepare them to be primary teachers.

    1. Thanks, Terry. So you’re suggesting the decline in, say, primary candidates’ ATAR is illusory, or at least less than suggested by the quote?

      1. I’m saying that if the declining entry ATAR is the basis for this statement (which is often made) then it reflects on the entry point for students embarking on careers in primary teaching.

        BTW, there is something wrong with judging a cohort by the lowest ATAR. Australia is a very poor country because I know a bloke who is poor.

    1. Meaning the data didn’t indicate teachers were quitting earlier, or that there was no data? Where did you look? How could VIT not have such data?

          1. No. I was looking for publicly available data. I assumed that such data would be the basis of comments on this matter.

            I had a discussion with someone who wrote that 50% of teachers leave the profession within the first 5 years. When I asked for a source of this statistic, I was told that an MP had stated this in the House of Commons.

            All this was 2-3 years ago and I have not chased it lately.

            The out-of-field teaching is another issue where there is very little data. Yet statistics continue to be bandied around.

          2. Aha ha ha ha! That’s very funny, Marty.

            I’m sure Terry has better things to do than wait on hold for 50 minutes and then either be hung up on or told that the data is not available.

            The VIT do nothing except create problems and make existing problems worse. It is less than worthless, it is dangerous. The sooner it is abolished, the sooner things will start to improve.

            (This is something that a dickhead on a review panel would not understand. These panels would probably recommend more Institutes).

            1. Believe it or not, I was serious. VIT is, of course, loathsome. But VIT’s view of themselves is that they are respectful and helpful, and they have a lot of data. I would be surprised if they didn’t try to help answer such a question.

              1. Good luck contacting them …. They’re too busy doing nothing. Oh, my mistake. Apparently they’re too busy (so they claim) processing the record number of new teacher registrations …

              2. VIT would be a good starting point. But it never ceases to surprise me that places that should have data, don’t.

                Once I offered to help the local police department with statistical analysis of crime data in Bendigo. They did not have any. They send it to Melbourne.

                Another time I had this idea of using an algorithm for optimising the journeys in meals-on-wheels. I offered to help the local council and met with the woman in charge. She told me that they already had a computer program that would do this, and she showed it to me. (The council had paid for this program by the way.) It was an Excel spreadsheet. You type in the names and addresses of the recipients. If a new customer comes on board, or drops off the perch, shes simply amends the spreadsheet. How does the program know where to put the customer? She told me “Oh, I do that manually because I know the area.”

                I worked for a major hospital for many years as a statistician and was constantly amazed that so much was unknown, or unrecorded, or recorded badly, or recorded only in hard copy.

                I worked for a research organisation that used to publish an annual report. They did never record the amount of grant money they had generated in a year (which was considerable and impressive). When I suggested it to them, they were surprised. Who would be interested in this? Anyway, they took up my suggestion.

                A few months ago, I applied on-line for a job at a university and one of the questions was “Have you ever participated in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme?” I asked why is this question being asked. The answer was “Dunno – will get back to you.” Anyway, the question has now gone and the world is a better place.

      1. Thank you JF.

        Let me get another of my pet gripes off my chest. This is an article about teaching in Australia. Surely the photos are not from Australian classrooms. You would have to search far and wide to find a chalk board in an Australian school. The second photo does not look like the typical situation in a mathematics class in a school in any country. This is sheer laziness on the part of journalists. That feels better.

        The article reports on surveys rather than official statistics. It is not surprising that if someone conducts a survey of a group of workers and asks them if they feel overworked, stressed, and underpaid, and contemplate leaving the profession sooner rather than later, you will get predictable responses.

        What I would like to see is a report of official data that shows the percentage of teachers who leave the profession within the first 5 years. Once the definitions of the terms are clarified, you would think that such data could be found somewhere in officialdom.

        To be modern, I should write “the amount of teachers who leave the profession…”. Another gripe!

        1. Another example to illustrate the above point. Some years ago, when I worked in the local hospital, I was interested in the number of people coming to the emergency room. I started to gather data – publicly available in annual reports. Even though the surrounding population was increasing, the number of ED presentations (the technical term) had been decreasing over a 10 year period. I shared my findings with colleagues as I asked more questions.

          A nurse from ED came to my desk and said that she had heard about what I was doing and she assured me that the number of presentations was increasing. “Things are getting worse and worse in ED” she told me based on her experience over many years. I showed her the data and she was amazed. She replied “But the cases are becoming more complex.” That, I said, is a different matter.

          The question about why the number of presentations in ED had been decreasing was never answered. Soon after, they started to increase substantially.

          Good data, well collected, can be the basis of decision making.

            1. Official data are more useful than opinions of people at the coalface.

              Such opinions may be correct or incorrect. But they are not a sound basis for action.

              I’d rather see official statistics on teachers leaving the profession than media reports of surveys of teachers.

              1. I would be surprised if you could get this sort of data from VIT:
                1) I doubt it would be readily available (it would be straightforward to collate but VIT would be far too busy doing SFA to have the time),
                2) It would be an embarrassment (attrition rates increase since the existence of the VIT – correlation and causation),
                3) VIT would say it’s role is ensuring professional standards, not providing data (the mealy-mouthed excuse of any organisation caught up in its own self-importance).

                Assuming you even got a reply.

                But it is very happy to take your 100 dollars for doing nothing. Except for releasing a beautiful new Code of Conduct. My goodness, without the VIT I would never know how to behave in a professional manner (of course teacher training says nothing about any of this). Another VIT exercise in trying to justify its existence and be seen to be relevant.

  6. “Minister Tudge” … leads me to one of my pet issues. “Minister” is not a title – it’s a job. We would not write “Bus driver Jones” or “School teacher Smith”. If you want to give Mr Tudge a title, it is “Hon. Mr Tudge”. The same goes for prime minister: instead of “Prime Minister Morrison”, one should write “the prime minister, Mr Morrison”.

        1. Yes, it’s funnier and very accurate. But sometimes swearing captures the mood. And Morrison is a real fucker.

  7. Tudge & Pyne b4 him used the claim that the teacher is the most important factor in student achievement, often based on Hattie’s dodgy 30% figure, that no-one can find a reference for.
    But, Sahlberg (2015) You can do more with less, make a very different claim,
    “Research on what explains students’ measured performance in school remains mixed. However, researchers generally agree that up to two-thirds of the variation in student achievement is explainable by individual student characteristics like family background and such variables. The American Statistical Association concluded recently that teachers account for about 1-14% of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in system-level conditions. In other words, most of what explains student achievement is beyond the control of teachers or even schools, and therefore arguing that teachers are the most important factor in improving the quality of education is simply wrong.

    1. Thanks, George. I’m not attempting a sleight of hand here, but I think one has to distinguish between “the quality of teaching” and “the quality of teachers”. The former is what matters, and the latter is one, but only one, determiner of the former.

      But also, and although I appreciate that Hattie is a clown, *all* these variation arguments leave me cold. Do I care, for example, about teacher-based variation in VCE scores? Of course not. I care that VCE is a fucking crime. NAPLAN? Same thing. I simply don’t give a shit if Joe Wonderful is a great Methods teacher. And over and over.

      Genuine teachers can make a difference even when the education is screwed, but it’s deckchairs to argue how much. No one wants to pay attention to icebergs, present or future.

      1. Some schools have a vested interest in deckchairs. They set the deckchair benchmark with their leading education model, the best teachers, small class sizes, unmatched individual attention etc. etc. And then they get asked about teacher training, an ideal way for them to further promote their deckchairs.

  8. Thanks Marty for the update. It was useful to know that the call for ideas will be made soon. My submission is ready to go.

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