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Australian schools are experiencing a teacher shortage crisis. One that will reach unprecedented levels by 2025 if not addressed, according to government reports. Last month, the Australian government released the ‘National Teacher Workforce Action Plan’ to try to combat the issue.  

A significant part of the problem seems to lie with student retention in initial teacher education (ITE).

Reports show that less than half of all teaching students will complete their education degree within six years.  

Student Retention in ITE 

Two government reports released last year, a review of the quality of ITE and a paper on the teacher workforce issue, outline the abysmal state of ITE course completion rates.   

Completion rates for Initial Teacher Education for some Higher Education providers are as low as 34%, indicating there are significant numbers of student teachers dropping out. ITE student surveys indicate Higher Education providers are not properly supporting students, particularly on placement or teacher training rounds. Many students find the financial strain while on placement due to travel, materials and working without pay, too much.   

An ITE review from Science and Technology Australia (STA) in 2021 recommended targeted support for students who are a higher risk of dropping out of their teaching training course. Previous research found that a lack of support for students in need was the single greatest predictor of a student dropping out.

The Road to Recovery 

Part of the government’s ‘Action Plan’ will include an expert panel to review ITE and make recommendations for improvement. However, Higher Education providers need to take responsibility for rising student dropout rates on ITE courses and supporting students while on placements.   

Student teacher working closely with kindergarten students.

Student teachers, particularly those from at-risk cohorts, need consistent support throughout their course. Higher Education providers should focus on maintaining better oversight of student teachers, especially while on placement. This will allow for effective intervention strategies. Investment in a placement management system that can monitor student engagement and provide an easy platform for supporting students will go a long way in improving student retention and course completion rates.  

For more, check out our blog on improving student retention and completion rates in Higher Ed here.