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The government has today announced it will be providing a $20.5 million grant to the Teach for Australia program to fund an additional 300 teachers in regional schools across the country.

The grant, which was announced in today’s mid-year economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO), will support the non-profit organisation, which recruits top university graduates from various disciplines and fast-tracks them to a classroom within 13 weeks, until the 2020-21 financial year.

The program was launched by the Gillard Government in 2009 with the purpose of increasing the quality of education in regional and low-socioeconomic schools across Australia.

It has a particular focus on targeting graduates from science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) degrees as the need to develop Australia’s skills in these areas increases.

In a press conference today, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the grant reflected the government’s focus on helping children across Australia gain access to strong education.

“All the evidence tells us that it’s the quality of the teacher and early intervention that matters,” Turnbull said.

“That’s why we are focused on building better pathways for children no matter who they are or where they live.”

The program, which has received $56.85 million in government grants since its 2009 launch, has proved controversial.

Last year the State School Teachers Union labelled the program as an “expensive experiment” and “unacceptable” imposition on school resources, according to an ABC report.

At this time the union’s secretary Pat Byrne explained that the program doesn’t allow enough time for the teacher to be sufficiently prepared, adding that “teaching is a profession – I don’t believe that any other profession would tolerate this sort of thing.”

Currently Victoria, Western Australia, the ACT and Northern Territory have signed with the program, with NSW refusing to join.

Tom Alegounarias, president of NSW Board of Studies, has rejected the program under the guise of protecting student interests, stating that they should not be “compromised for the convenience of short-term packaged approaches”.

However, Education Minister Simon Birmingham said there was increasing evidence that the program was beneficial for schools.

The data shows that after two years in the classroom almost 90 per cent of principals considered TFA graduates to be more effective teachers than other graduate teachers with the same level of classroom experience,” Birmingham said.

The Education Minister likened the intense mentoring, observational method and professional development focused on in the program to what forms the high-ranking schooling systems of Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Image: Simon Birmingham. Source: AAP.


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