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Primary school teachers to become maths, science ‘specialists’

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The Educator | 19 Jan 2015, 09:11 AM Agree 0
Do you think that making all primary school teachers specialists will help improve Australia’s maths and science rankings?
  • JoeCitizen | 19 Jan 2015, 10:05 AM Agree 0
    Absolutely! Our students are falling behind in these areas compared with our regional neighbours. This will not only promote a bit of healthy competition, it will help our students excel in these areas when they reach high school.
  • | 19 Jan 2015, 11:21 AM Agree 0
    Primary school teachers are experts across all areas of the curriculum. If you were in the classroom you would know this. The problem with Australia's standing across the world lies solely with the desperate need for our governments to follow broken trends and systems from the US and UK and ignore the top of the PISA ladder countries and their educational reforms. The over crowded curriculum doesn't help. We need to give back some of the teaching responsibility to the parents. School's have 25 hours a week teaching time. Look at the recommended times for teaching each KLA and then do the math. It just doesn't add up!
  • | 19 Jan 2015, 12:12 PM Agree 0
    I am a teacher and supervise staff, I know that many new teachers are not strong in maths and science, specialist help is needed a what is taught and how well it is taught can differ vastly from classroom to classroom. It is impossible to be an expert at all KLAs no matter what anyone says.
    • fishgosquish | 04 Nov 2016, 01:51 PM Agree 0
      I beg to differ...it is part of a Primary school teacher's job to make sure he or she is an expert in all KLA's. If you're not, then you're not doing your job. If I don't understand something in enough depth to teach it then I need to make sure that I do through research, planning and further training. It's part of the job, and if you can't or won't do it, maybe you need to be looking elsewhere for a career
  • Sal | 19 Jan 2015, 02:18 PM Agree 0
    I personally think that there are three main contributing factors to diminished maths performance. Firstly, timetabling constraints - a busy curriculum and a very dense maths curriculum. It is really difficult to give students the "practice" necessary to become fluent in new skills and depth of understanding for each concept. Secondly, I would suggest that teachers are very time poor due to so many competing demands that having proper time to prepare the best lessons, to source the best resources and to create the best games is a real challenge. Finally, I think that large class sizes means that it is difficult to differentiate the lessons in a way that truly meets each child at their optimal level. My solution would be to have each class teacher, as per usual teaching the class, with an additional maths specialist in each school joining each grade or class for at least 3 lessons per week to take either a top or lower group in the grade/class. This would be great for literacy too!
  • | 19 Jan 2015, 09:50 PM Agree 0
    I agree. Having a maths specialist in the school to mentor/train the other teachers is invaluable and can really lift the results of the students. I think forcing teachers to specialise across the board though will leave our primary schools looking like high schools, and could cause huge amounts of anxiety, particularly for the younger children, who are not emotionally ready to be constantly changing from one person to another. They need a consistent person to build their school relationships around.
  • Kim | 21 Jan 2015, 09:08 AM Agree 0
    The mechanics and cost of having separate teachers for maths only will be prohibitive- governments won't front the money, I can't see this being a practical solution....but we must lift our game in teaching mathematics first and foremost. In my recent thesis proposal I analysed our trends compared to other countries and I know we have a way to fall yet internationally! We are simply not teaching math rigorously and consistently enough, especially in Years 1, 2 & 3. Most kids are so far behind in their mental computation and general understandings in number that it makes progress near impossible. A massive focus on training existing teachers and compulsory math in year 11 and 12, with a high standard pass for ANY primary teacher (no letting people in without HSC's etc unless they have a prior degree). We need to get math right before we worry too much about science - most students can't work with decimals/convert between units of measure etc.
  • | 23 Jan 2015, 01:31 AM Agree 0
    I have been teaching in primary schools for many years now. it is very apparent to me that most of primary teachers lack confidence in teaching mathematics. Most of the same teachers have dropped maths in years 11 and 12.The point I am trying to make is that VCE mathematics should be a prerequisite to apply for a Bachelor of Education degree or any conversion degree to teach in Primary schools across Australia.
    • Damien | 29 Jan 2015, 01:31 PM Agree 0
      I agree, particularly with the the low standard of new grads; nothing personal towards them and their ability but they are simply not graduating to the standard required due to the low expectations placed upon potential candidates who wish to enter the profession. The fact that HSC maths isn't/ wasn't compulsory for students entering a teaching degree (at any level) is absolutely abhorrent!
  • K-6 specialist | 23 Jan 2015, 10:47 AM Agree 0
    I am a K-6 Specialist and proud of it. When I did my training you had to have matriculated which meant doing science and maths to HSC level even of you hated it! I have teachers on my staff who have done the most basic of these subjects up to Year 10 (and then probably not well) which gives plenty of time to forget even basic knowledge. I agree K-6 have a crowded curriculum but I also think that teachers do not have a deep understanding of how to teach these subjects. I don't think subject specialist teachers are the answer. I think the key is to get the best candidates and then teach them how to teach these subjects as part of a general K-6 course. When I did my teacher training I did have to choose an area to specialise in and I chose one that I felt weakest in to build my skills. The reason I am a K-6 teacher is because I love the variety and why I didn't become a maths teacher. I became a mentor for other staff in this area so they can hopefully become more skilled. Technology is difficult for me but if I had handed that off to the experts I wouldn't be able to teach that to my class either. Let's not go down that path. Not everyone can be an expert at everything or enjoy all subjects equally but teachers are intelligent beings and they can learn to do better.
  • kerrie | 13 Aug 2015, 12:21 PM Agree 0
    I am a science teacher at secondary level. I have noticed that Science and Maths are not given the time and development they require in primary school from the experience of my own primary school aged children.
    The primary curriculum is so broad, primary teachers cannot be expected to be trained in all subject areas of primary education.

    There is a definite need for Science and Maths specialist teachers in primary education, this too could also provide respite for primary teachers in terms of face to face relief time. Perhaps specialist teachers could also provide training/education for primary teachers in particular subject areas.
  • Brien | 25 Aug 2015, 11:02 AM Agree 0
    A more proper salary might bring the specialists into the education industry. Most specialists in the sciences receive a great deal more salary for less time.
    I was a geologist, did a Grad Dip Ed, but will not suffer the hours and overtime work required by the system.
    I would love to teach the sciences to students.
  • Hopeful | 09 Nov 2015, 04:20 PM Agree 0
    I've been a Primary Teacher and school leader for 30 years now and 'specialist' teachers is definately not the answer. I've seen too many 'specialists' with high level maths degrees or degrees in science and yet they cannot fundamentally 'teach' or communicate to others in a way which either imparts knowledge or inspires others to seek it.

    Teaching is a highly skilled profession. It is not about knowing facts, but rather knowing how to share knowledge, instill a love of learning and communicate effectively. One of my own son's maths teachers possessed a higher degree in mathematics and yet was the worst teacher he ever had.

    Many of the Grad Dip students, former specialists in their fields, make very average teachers.

    What needs to happen is to attract intelligent young people into the profession. Give them the generalist Primary Teaching preparation course, but with enough rigour to fully understand the curriculum and the skills and knowledge it contains.
  • Hopeful | 09 Nov 2015, 04:25 PM Agree 0
    oops - definitely! And let me add - more time is needed to attend to the many tasks (including rushing a post about teaching during a busy teaching day!) Or maybe English specialists :)
  • Concerned | 07 Feb 2016, 02:42 AM Agree 0
    Much is said about teachers and their teaching - most are dedicated and bust their guts for their students! Teachers are always the ones we all tend to blame. Now specialist Maths and English teachers??? What is that telling the current teachers we have across the schools -"You are not good enough?" That would be enough to scare young people away from the classroom and get a job that pays more and is a 9 - 5 job. We all know that teaching is definitely not that! We look at the students' results and we blame the teachers. What about looking at the society in which we live. What effect is that having on student outcomes? We have students who come from homes where they have to fend for themselves cause mum and dad/mum/dad are spaced out on drugs -hard and soft. Who is there for them. We have kids who have been removed from their homes and are anxious and scared, kids who jig school on a regular basis for one reason or another, homeless and live in cars with their mum/dad, kids who bring themselves up, badly behaved students - kids who are screwed up that is no fault of their own. Teachers deal with this every day and step in to be mum, carer, nurse, counsellor and the list goes on! Why are we not looking at this and then analysing our data on the socio-economic status of the students and give the teachers a break. School is the only place where some kids feel safe and loved. I would like to give a HIGH 5 for all those teachers out there that are not just teachers but have a string of other things that they are to their students when they are at school. Let's fix the broken down home before we get ahead of ourselves. The best and brightest math and science specialist will do little to change society and the way children are today. They need love and support and somewhere that they have security. Let's lay off the teachers and look at the root of the problem - society today/homes/government regulations that give students the rights over the teacher and I could go on . . . thanks for reading!
  • Ann Magiris | 08 Feb 2016, 05:10 PM Agree 0
    If you create specialist teachers for most subjects that would result in your child having up to 10 different teachers. With so many teachers involved in your child's education it would make it difficult to keep track. To have parent teacher interviews would be challenging. In particular if your child has for specific learning needs, coordinating his/her education plan would be a nightmare. I think we need to keeps specialist teachers for things like LOTE, music, art and PE. School Psychologist
  • | 10 May 2016, 12:44 PM Agree 0
    I think there is general confusion about being a specialist, in that having a high degree of specialist knowledge about a subject, and being an effective teacher.

    I have worked in schools P-12 for 30 years and some of the worst teachers I have ever come across have been secondary school 'specialists' who have a great depth of knowledge of the content, but a shameful lack of capacity to 'teach' it. The Government's answer will be to find people with a maths or science degree and put them in classrooms based on their subject knowledge and when they turn out not to be able to teach - another scapegoat will be sought.

    The real answer is restructuring Education degrees so that all teachers - both primary and secondary receive a strong subject specific knowledge base but also must be experts in lesson planning and delivery.

    And remember - there are a lot of teachers in secondary schools teaching maths and science when these are not their 'specialist' subjects. They know no more about these things (and often less) than a generalist primary school teacher. The Secondary v Primary teacher argument is a waste of time. Regardless of the age of the student they all need the same thing - good quality teaching of good quality information.
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