Some migrant teachers are having to sit expensive tests to prove qualification and eligibility to teach, despite already working in Victoria’s education system. With the support of the AEU, these teachers are pushing for a simpler process, especially given the current shortage in qualified teachers across the state.
AEU member Azusa Suzuki has been teaching Japanese at McClelland College in Frankston for more than a year. Azusa, who passed a language test as part of her VIT registration process, is on a temporary visa and looking for permanent residency.
To attain residency, Azusa needs to pass the International English Language Testing System skills assessment test, which has four parts: Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking. Azusa has been close each time, passing three of the four and missing out on one by just half a point – and then taking the test again and passing that component but missing out on another by half a point. It has been incredibly frustrating, not to mention expensive.
“The scores are really inconsistent, and I couldn’t tell what I did wrong in order to improve, because they don’t give individual feedback,” Azusa says. “The test is ambiguous. One of my housemates knows someone from England who couldn’t pass. If a native English speaker can’t get through, how am I supposed to?”
She says the process has not been good for her confidence or mental health. It is also costly and time-consuming. Each time, you have to sit all four, regardless of whether you passed three of them last time. Azusa has spent more than $5,000 on the tests to date.
AEU organiser Hanae Honda undertook the process in 2004, when there was a lower barrier for passing. “Why make it harder for people to get into this role when we are desperately needing teachers right now?” Hanae says. “Azusa is already writing reports; she already speaks great English.”
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership says its criteria align with federal government guidelines and regulatory authorities. But the AEU is calling for simplified visa procedures, especially for those teachers already trained in Australia.
“It’s ridiculous that we’ve got people who’ve been working in our schools successfully and registered to teach in our state, but have to go through multiple, repeated barriers to accessing permanent residency,” says AEU Victoria president Meredith Peace.
The AEU has raised these issues directly with the state education and home affairs ministers. “There have to be appropriate standards to get a visa or permanent residency, but we have to make sure these are consistent,” Meredith says.