Home | In The Classroom | The LANTITE: Holding our degrees hostage – opinion

The LANTITE: Holding our degrees hostage – opinion

Imagine you are at least halfway through your degree (93 per cent for me) and your university decides to spring on you that you now have to complete another hurdle before you are allowed to graduate. Not work. Graduate. Well that is exactly what universities, in collaboration with the government, have done to thousands of student teachers across the country.

That ridiculous thinking consists of letting us enter our teaching degrees and then throwing us a large curveball. That large curveball is two tests that involve money and added stress. That large curveball does not take into consideration that we got accepted into these degrees in the first place. That large curveball essentially looks to test what we were taught at school, which has no relevance to how we are as teachers. Does this truly make sense?

In my education course, the emphasis was to focus on the individual learner in the classroom. The emphasis was on how they learn better. Are they a visual learner, a kinaesthetic learner, an auditory learner, etc? Yet, here they are giving us standardised tests. Standardised testing and personalised learning are the antithesis of each other. Hypocritical much?

Shouldn’t the focus be on the actual education system? It should not be on some random, useless tests that, according to my messages with Simon Birmingham, measure my personal numeracy and literacy skills.

In an email from the Victorian Department of Education and Training in February of 2018, I was told I had to sit and pass the LANTITE prior to graduation. Sounds easy enough to pass, right? Pass as in 50 per cent. The halfway mark. The mid-point. In the next paragraph I was told that my personal numeracy and literacy has to be in the top 30 per cent of the population. So, which one is it? Pass or top 30 per cent of adults? As our scores are scaled, how do we know whether our own personal numeracy and literacy is up to standard or not? By scaling our results, doesn’t that then indirectly set us up to continually fail? Since there are no scores on the document of results, how do we know our true results? Therefore, there is no concrete evidence to ascertain whether each of us “failed” or not. Also, I must ask: Since when do standardised tests equate to the implementation of knowledge? At best, a standardised test is synonymous with rote learning. In our education degrees, we were taught to focus on personalised learning, which is the antithesis of rote. So, which one should we, the educators, be focusing on?

In April 2018 I sent Simon Birmingham, the Minister for Education and Training, a Facebook message about my dilemma. He replied: “It is important to note that the test examines an initial teacher education student’s personal literacy and numeracy skills, not their ability to teach these skills to school students.” Huh? OK. Let me get this straight. These tests should measure our personal numeracy and literacy skills, not what we can teach in the classroom. Am I missing something? If they don’t measure anything of value in the classroom, which they do not, why are we wasting approximately $93 for each test? We are all in education programs to work as educators, so if these tests do not measure our ability to teach, what is the point of them? OK, someone help me. I think I am really missing something here. Education degree – educator. Test = how good our teachers taught us. Again, what is the point of testing us on material that does not measure our ability to deduce the way our students learn best and thus plan accordingly? As one student wrote, these tests do not measure our ability to teach students concepts like nouns and verbs. Despite my own personal numeracy not being great – according to these tests – I successfully managed to teach students various multiplication strategies.

On a Facebook page dedicated to the LANTITE, many student teachers are at a loss as to what to do next since many (myself included) will have wasted years of effort and money for a degree they will not receive. One student teacher was kicked out by her university for not meeting whatever requirement needed, despite having only one subject left. Many students felt confused after they completed their third attempt (which used to be the maximum, but now it has changed to five). Many students cannot continue with their placements because they have not “succeeded”. One student wrote: “Ours tacked the LANTITE onto our third year prac from this year. It has become an assessment piece, you don’t get your grade for the whole subject until you pass all assessable components. Therefore, you also can’t proceed to the 4th/5th prac as the others are pre-requisite and of course we [can] not graduate.”

Again, what a complete waste of time. One student commented their efforts were now “useless”. If they are now deemed useless, can we get HECS refunds please as we did not graduate and are not able to work? I was of the opinion that the government wanted a better education system. An article in The Australian from 2016 notes that the LANTITE was the brainchild of the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group (TEMAG), which was founded in 2014. According to website education.gov.au, TEMAG issued a 2015 report that highlighted the need for a difficult selection process for education courses. I am assuming the LANTITE falls into this category. Sadly, what TEMAG fails to comprehend is that teaching is more than a test. TEMAG and thus the government is equating the standard of who I am as an educator with whether or not I can meet an apparent standard on a test, thus encapsulating the entire teaching profession to marks on a piece of paper.

In a 2015 paper, University of Southern Queensland Senior Lecturer Stewart Riddlle noted that the demonstration of basic grammar skills on a test and the ability to teach literacy within the classroom do not have any relationship with each other. If, as Simon Birmingham states, it is about personal literacy and numeracy, how in the world does that relate to being inside a classroom? Riddle (2015) states that “reducing the complex work of teaching to performance on a test… only works for those wanting a fast headline and political advances”. Boy, is he right!

A 2018 article by Melissa Barnes, a Monash University lecturer in Education, and Russell Cross, a Melbourne University Associate Professor in Education, states that there is no evidence to suggest a correlation between the tests and excellent teachers. They also note that, as a policy initiative, the LANTITE suggests that the selection of students into educational programs is the first step to ensure a higher teacher quality. In that case, why were we all accepted into the programs by universities? Shouldn’t the LANTITE, if there is substantial proof that it creates better teachers (so far there is not), be administered to incoming teaching students, not those of us who have spent years working towards being able to teach only to be told that there is another hurdle? This hurdle essentially means that many universities around the country are holding many of our deserved degrees hostage. To be fairly blunt, ensuring a higher quality of teachers will not come from a test or two. Teaching is apparently a highly valuable profession and yet many are overworked and unbelievably underpaid. How about start there?

What I do not understand is how meeting some benchmark on two standardised tests automatically proves that a person is qualified to teach. Meeting marks on tests does not take into consideration any of the 37 professional teaching standards of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL).

The 7 Main Standards, which are further categorised into a total of 37, are as follows: 1. Know students and how they learn, 2. Know the content and how to teach it, 3. Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning, 4. create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments, 5. Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning, 6. Engage in professional learning and finally, 7. Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community. How are any of these standards depicted in the standardised tests, which apparently prove an individual is ready to teach?

A quote that is attributed to Albert Einstein is “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is.” Along with this quote is the cartoon image of a monkey, a penguin, an elephant, a fish, a seal and a dog all standing in a line. In front of them is a teacher sitting at a desk telling them to take the same test, in this case, climbing the tree behind them. This exquisite image is, in a nutshell, the education system in this country. Standardised testing works apparently, above all else, despite the fact that in our degrees we are told to cater to the individual learner in the classroom. Again, which one is it? Standardised testing or personalised learning? The government can’t have both. Having your cake and eating it too just does not work. Trust me, I have tried. The double standards here actually prove one thing: that the government and the universities are absolutely clueless in that they have no idea what they are doing. As far as I am concerned, this is purely a money-making exercise by the government. It never was about producing better teachers. It is a facade.

Mihad Ali is a Master of Teaching student who lives in Victoria. She is currently a teacher’s aide at an aftercare school program. She hopes to graduate soon and fulfil her dream of becoming a teacher.

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14 comments

  1. Agree, I finished my degree in 2018 but cannot graduate as I have not passed the numeracy component. These tests are designed to make you fail with the tricky wording and 65 questions that have two or three component to each question and in a 2 hour time frame is horrible. I have completed the numeracy test 4 times and have not completed the test in the set time. These tests have caused so much anxiety for me. Then to the tutor that are in it for the money grab, it is disgusting, they are on all lantite social media poaching student, some of these tutors are not qualified to be teaching students.

  2. The idea of putting this test at the start is meritorious. It will save people from getting to the end of their courses and being unable to graduate. Sadly, in the past, I have seen teachers who struggle with their own literacy and numeracy so much that they cannot adequately teach in their own subject area as well as they should be able to.

    As for AITSL standards, I look to 2 and 5 in particular.

    2. Know the content and how to teach it,

    Every subject has its own specialised language and genres. That is part of content. With poor literacy skills, graduates will be unable to teach this aspect of content well. I teach Maths and Chemistry, but as well as the numeracy aspects to these subjects, I focus o the literacy of them too. Funnily enough, some of my Maths students have asked me if I am an English teacher? Nope. We should al be teachers of language.

    5. Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning

    Assessing and providing feedback do encompass assessing and providing feedback on literacy skills of our students.

    If we ourselves do not know correct grammar, punctuation and spelling, we cannot do this.

    You may be able to be a doctor or an engineer without passing this standardised test, but having seen what happens without it, I fully support the test. But I’ve always thought it should be an entry requirement for the reasons you cite.

  3. I am sorry, but I believe no student should be permitted to enrol in Education at University until they have passed basic literacy and numeracy tests. I had to do this in Western Australia when I enrolled. After all, don’t we expect our teachers to be the best of the best – an example to our students and someone we want them to emulate.

  4. Interesting read. But I disagree with your position. The LANTITE examinations are an examination of the teacher’s personal literacy and numeracy skills – a cross curriculum priority in the Australian curriculum. I am a first year teacher, and I completed both tests. Whilst a clear ‘knee jerk’ reaction to fears concerning literacy and numeracy standards, they are not exceptionally difficult tests. They cover simple comprehension and problem solving. To be blunt, if you cannot at least pass both tests you probably do not have the literacy and numeracy skills to appropriately assist students in the classroom. These you will need when creating work and marking/giving feedback. A better target for argument is the atrocious integration of the tests into qualifications, and the overall poor quality of Australian universities’ education degrees.

  5. What a well written article.
    I agree and it definitely is a very contradictory system.
    I have worked hard over the past 6 years an completed a Masters degree at the end of 2018(with HIgh Distinctions), butt am unable to graduate due to not completing the LANTINE tests. It’s ridiculous.

    Passing 2 test does not make a great teacher..I have worked in the education sector for many years and I cannot see how the tests determine a good teacher. All they seem to be doing is causing unwanted stress and loss of money to University students.
    As far as University’s go, they definitely should not have expected students if they thought they were incompetent of passing a degree. Holding degrees at ransom is disgusting. As far as I am concerned, I completed the degree and should be entitled to graduating or they should give me some sort of compensation for all my time and money lost.

    So disappointed with the education system and I really cannot see it getting any better over the next 5 or so years. If anything there will be a teacher shortage, which will result in over worked teachers and, over crowed classrooms.Which will definitely impact on students learning and the future of educating students with individual needs.

    • Nada,
      The Lantite tests were put in place as a response to the outcry against the poor standards of graduate teachers’ personal literacy and numeracy skills.
      Despite achieving High Distinctions, you did not know the Year 3 spelling rule to apply to pluralise the word ‘university’- change the y to i and add -es. Instead you demonstrated the same error that proves why this test is legitimate- you put an ownership apostrophe.
      As an executive leader of a large school, I cannot begin to express the frustrations felt by students, parents, other teachers, and leadership when a teacher cannot adequately satisfy basic personal literacy and numeracy. It is an embarrassment to the profession when the person who is meant to be teaching the students consistently has poor spelling and grammar use, or poor literacy skills. It affects every class, every assessment, every piece of feedback given, and every report written.
      I agree with both TG and Gavin’s comments above- Literacy and Numeracy are basic skills, cross-curriculum priorites and a necessity for all who would be teachers.
      I will not interview a teacher who has mistakes in a resume and I will not give ongoing employment if a teacher’s literacy and numeracy skills are not up to scratch.
      Thus, I agree with the original point that the Lantite tests should be sat and passed before acceptance of entry to a teaching degree.
      I appreciate the frustration of those who are nearly finished their degrees to have this imposed- but if your literacy and numeracy were adequate, you would not be frustrated at all.

    • ‘As far as University’s go’

      A case in point. People who write like this should not teach children.

  6. I agree the Lantite is not the answer to improving the quality of teaching graduates.

    However, as a parent I don’t want someone with a subpar knowledge of numeracy and literacy teaching my children. These are the foundations of learning and while it may not affect how well someone teaches, it is detrimental to a student if the teacher can’t identify and correct grammar and numeracy mistakes.

    It’s bad enough so many ITE graduates gain a degree with absolutely NO knowledge of phonics and how to teach reading. It’s a national disgrace.

  7. Let’s be clear on one thing – Universities did not introduce the LANTITE tests.

  8. I have thought about this a lot, as the numeracy test was my achilles heel. I aced my literacy component with incredible marks and then was timed out for the first numeracy test, because my maths anxiety peaked in exam conditions.
    Does this make me unsuitable to teach? I have run a farm business, excelled in retail operations, passed VCE maths in 1993 with good marks and have used statistical operations to gain a Post Grad Dip in Psychology. I passed the second sitting of the test, with quite a few changes to how I took the test (the first was remotely conducted). I passed it well, in fact. I paid for extra help and had extra help on top of that, to coach me through operations I can do under natural conditions, but not under test conditions so well.
    My thoughts are these: I like the idea of LANTITE tests for Bachelor degrees in Education, particularly if coming straight from school or a gap year. I see so many kids get through VCE with a false sense of their own literacy. I see many adults with poor literacy.
    The author here speaks from the perspective of a Masters graduate. I completed a Masters and was told in February that I would not be able to graduate from my course until I passed the numeracy test. My graduation was scheduled to be paid for before the numeracy test was released. I was livid. I passed those units, fair and bloody square! I was passed on my placement and I could accept not having registration until passing, but GRADUATION from units I passed with HDs and Ds? That is immoral. When I enrolled, this was not a condition of graduation, only registration.
    A strongly worded letter to the Dean was met with an explanation of a timely meeting between universities and VIT to put a temporary stay on that ruling, and I was given reprieve to apply for graduation before the results were released.
    Masters students have relevant academic and industry experience. That makes us vocationally literate and actually literate, some of us numerate and highly so. Denying graduation to candidates who have been meritorious in other fields, rather than spending that money to provide support to those candidates is a complete waste of good teaching resources.
    My methods are English and Hums. I could teach Psych or a LOTE if I chose to qualify further. Ironically, I am teaching Maths and Numeracy, as well as English and it is so perfect. My experiences provide me with the necessary empathy for students struggling with Maths.
    And do you know what the LANTITE tests can’t screen for? Emotional Intelligence. Empathy. You want to connect with students to make a difference to their education? They don’t care if you can organise your own banking and algebraic needs within 2 hours under test conditions. They want to know that you CARE about HOW they learn. LANTITE doesn’t teach or screen for it, and neither does any teaching course.
    VIT has this one all wrong. Wasting good teachers instead of providing them in-course support. It is immoral and sells our students short.

    • I don’t wish to teach with people who are illiterate and Inumerate. I don’t want such people causing the profession to be held in contempt.

      I don’t want my children taught by people who are ignorant but arrogant enough to think they should be allowed to have power over children’s futures just because they call themselves ‘teacher’.

      Being caring and nice might make for a pleasant classroom but it does not guarantee kids will learn anything. People can’t impart knowledge they don’t have.

  9. I am a teacher and was perfectly happy to sit the LANTITE tests at university.
    I would not want someone who does not have good literacy and numeracy skills teaching my children. It is my understanding that the tests are at a high school level of Maths and English. The tests are not rocket science and they help to raise the bar for the standard of teachers we have here in Australia. The only thing I would change about the LANTITE tests is to hold them at the beginning of an education degree. This would help to avoid the issue of individuals completing the majority of their degree and then not being able to graduate due to failing the tests.

  10. Teachers jump many hurdles to prove their ability in providing a quality education for Australia’s youth. From attending professional development courses, becoming registered and maintaining registration, being involved in external validation processes, planning effective units and delivering content that is engaging, differentiating lessons, developing IEPs, volunteering and supporting families and other staff members. It’s also a very competitive industry, you’ve got to prove you have what it takes against other teachers as determined as you. Passing these tests ensures you have the skills to recall and apply your knowledge of Australian curriculum content. I have recently finished my degree and will soon graduate. I did these tests as it was required of me. I feel it would be unjust to then allow some students to be exempt from the same tests I had to study for and pass.

  11. My biggest concern here is not with the tests but that you have been indoctrinated with the totally debunked and discredited notion of learning styles. The fact that some education faculties are still pushing this is reprehensible given all the evidence to the contrary.

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