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NSW promises to cut study time for aspiring teachers with postgraduate degree

The NSW government will introduce a one-year postgraduate teaching qualification if re-elected in March, halving the study time for aspiring teachers with an undergraduate degree. 

A one-year masters program will be made available to qualified individuals who want to re-train as an educator.

Currently, those wanting to gain a postgraduate teaching qualification have to enrol into a two-year full-time masters program.

"We know that the current two year masters really has been a deterrent and a barrier for entry for a lot of people," Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said.

"The fact that you've already got an undergraduate degree in a subject discipline but you then need two years full-time to do a masters.

"It's expensive for people to take time out of the workforce, particularly if they are a mid-career changer."

The government said the one-year masters would be made available to those wanting to enter high-school classrooms by next year, and primary school classrooms from 2026.

The requirement for a two-year masters qualification was introduced in NSW in 2014, after national education reforms released in 2011 ushered in tougher standards for teaching education.

A formerly available one-year Diploma of Education was axed in the change.

A report by the state's Productivity Commission, released today, concluded that 9,000 potential teachers decided not to pursue the qualification, largely due to the financial impacts of studying full-time for two years.

"(It) imposed additional costs on teachers ... increased their student debt, increased their foregone income and time spent balancing study, work and life."

Despite saying the two-year program "hasn't had any tangible benefits when it comes to student outcomes", Ms Mitchell said the two-year course was necessary at the time.

"There was definitely a need to make sure teachers were prepared to enter the classroom, and I still believe that," she said.

"But we also have had some improvements in terms of teacher quality since then. 

"We have very strong standards of entry into the public school profession after you complete university, including a credit average."

The Productivity Commission also concluded the two-year masters had impacted students, as mid-career professionals were less likely to bring their experience to the classroom.

The Commission highlighted STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as an area needing more specialist teachers.

"As a result, a sizeable number of students are being taught these subjects by non-specialist teachers," it said.

"There is evidence that this will have a detrimental impact on teaching quality, and hence student outcomes, in these key areas."

It found a reduction in the length of time degree-holders in fields like STEM need to study to become teachers means students will have "more exposure to experienced, in-field teachers".

The announcement is the latest in a desperate push by the government to boost teacher numbers across the state.

Following the release of a parliamentary report in November, Ms Mitchell disputed the fact 2,458 vacancies were recorded the month prior.

The inquiry also detailed concerns, held by unions and others in the sector, about stagnant wages — which the education union said was a key issue for recruitment.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos said the state government should concentrate on improving working conditions to boost numbers.

"We've had a 30 per cent reduction in the number of people going into initial teacher education, and completion rates of only 50 per cent at a time of massive teacher shortages," he said.

"All labour market analysts are saying the cause is workload, pay, and unsatisfactory conditions."

However, Mr Gavrielatos cautioned against making alterations to courses that could rapidly alter the quality of teacher education.

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