Center on International Education Benchmarking

Australia: Teacher and Principal Quality

Overview | Teacher and Principal Quality | Instructional Systems
System and School Organization | Education For All | School-to-Work Transition

Australia was among CIEB’s Top Performing Countries for 2009. This profile has been archived and is no longer being updated.
In Australia, each state and territory has jurisdiction over how its teachers are recruited and trained, with many pathways to teacher certification, though all require a bachelor’s degree. Private schools, which are responsible for the education of more than 30% of Australian students, are not bound by state or territorial practices in selecting their teachers. Teachers’ salaries in Australia are about average; although they are paid more after 15 years of experience than the OECD average – $48,233 vs. $41,701 – their salaries are capped at this point, whereas the top of the pay scale average for OECD teachers rises to $51,317. Australia is currently working on improving the quality of teachers, from new recruits to experienced educators, and on ensuring that the teachers are able to teach the new curriculum and work with the new assessment system.

Recruitment and Compensation

Teacher recruitment in Australia is highly varied; each school system directs its own recruitment, hiring and induction efforts. However, recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers is now a major focus of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) in light of a 2004 Ministerial Council of Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) report that indicated that it was likely that Australia would face severe teacher shortages by 2014. Australia does not provide official statistics on teacher retention, but various broad estimates place the teacher attrition rate in the first five years at between 20 and 25%.  The Department has recently launched an initiative to attract a wider range of people to the profession and to improve retention rates for current public school teachers. DEEWR has identified different stages of the teacher “lifecycle” (“attract, train, place, develop, retain”), and is currently targeting each of these stages with specific programs. Part of the “attract” campaign is recruiting the best graduates into teaching from other pathways, including programs like Teach for Australia and short certification programs following bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in certain subject areas. Other proposed goals include improving the partnership between public schools and university teacher education programs, so that the programs closely match what teachers will need to know in the classroom and developing National Professional Standards for Teachers in order to provide consistency and excellence in teacher quality.

Between 2009-2012, an additional $45.7 million has been set aside to develop career pathways for indigenous teachers and to promote the teaching profession among indigenous groups by providing easier access to qualifications and on-the-job support.

Teachers’ salaries in Australia are based on a nine-point salary range. In 2009, the most recent year for which OECD data is available, an entry-level lower secondary teacher with the minimum education required could expect to make $34,664. The same teacher can ultimately expect a salary of $48,233 at the top of the pay scale; for the first ten years, pay rises are essentially automatic. The Australian GDP per capita for that year was $39,918.

Initial Education and Training

All teachers in Australia must hold a bachelor’s degree. However, there are multiple degree paths into teaching. Teachers may earn a four-year Bachelor of Education; enter a joint-degree program in which one degree is subject-oriented and the other is in teacher education; or pursue an initial three- or four-year degree in a subject area and then complete a one- or two-year postgraduate teacher-training course. Australia has recently developed a national framework for professional teaching standards, which will affect the curriculum of university-level teacher training courses. Similarly, the taskforce charged with developing this framework is also focused on the development of new professional development opportunities for teachers, including leadership training.

New high school graduates constitute only half of the people entering teacher-training programs. Because teachers can now become qualified with a master’s degree or a graduate diploma, many people who already hold bachelor’s degrees elect to pursue the short teacher-training option.

Teachers in all states enter an induction period after completing their formal teacher education. The length of the induction period varies from state to state, but typically entails mentorship through team teaching and observation as well as professional development in the form of conferences and workshops. After satisfactorily completing the induction period, teachers are full members of the profession.

Career Ladders

There are no specific career pathways for Australian teachers, and a large number of Australian teachers actually view teaching as one step in a non-teaching career path. However, teachers who choose to stay in the field and who excel can move into roles of authority while remaining in the classroom as a department head, into leadership roles in the school and in the local school administration, and, in some cases, into educational research careers. Specific promotions and ladders differ between the states and territories, although the pathway described above is typical. Many teachers, however, choose to stay in the classroom after attaining experience and job security. Teachers may also seek professional development to move into related roles such as school counselor or special education instructor.

Ratio of Lower Secondary Education Teachers’ Salary to GDP per Capita 2008

Source: OECD

Professional Development

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) is currently working to develop a set of National Professional Standards for Teachers. Because teachers will need to meet these standards throughout their careers, AITSL is also developing a set of professional development programs that will allow teachers to fully understand the new standards. This new set of national standards for what teachers need to know and be able to do will work hand-in-hand with the new National Assessment Programme (NAP) to increase school and teacher accountability as well as student performance. Each state has its own previously developed set of professional development standards and programs in addition to this new initiative; the new standards will replace these, and ensure rigor and quality across the states and territories.

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