Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta
Only around a quarter of Australian high school students are being taught by a qualified maths teacher. Schools face a similar situation when it comes to teaching science. The shortage of specialised maths and science teachers is likely to take many years, if not decades, to address.
The solution to this problem requires us to do the maths. Old school thinking says if there are no expert teachers or not enough students to form a class, then the subject isn’t offered. When this happens, students miss out on the opportunity to develop an interest, talent or career pathway.
New thinking calls on us to use the technology and the teaching talent to deliver multiple pathways for learning. We recently introduced into senior secondary schools a ‘virtual’ or ‘online’ learning environment. Here a qualified teacher in physics or advanced maths, who is based at one school, teaches other students online. These classes are held after school with the teacher and student(s) meeting in person once a term. We are also currently sponsoring 44 of our teachers to upskill in Advanced Mathematics in a partnership with the University of Notre Dame.
Good teachers are good teachers, whether teaching face-to-face or in a virtual space. We also know that using technology in creative ways helps to personalise learning by allowing students to take greater control over what they want to learn, how and when they learn and the pace at which they learn. It leads us into a more practical understanding of how we can add to (or even multiply) opportunities to learn in a digital world.
Complex problems require new thinking. When we are prepared to do that, we give our young people the very best opportunities. I think we would all agree that we owe them that.
Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta