Until the 1950s there was a dichotomy between those (usually in government) who believed that a sufficient preparation for teachers was a brief utilitarian training, and those (usually in the profession) who argued that teaching required an extensive education overlain with professional training. The emphasis on training was most apparent in state primary education, which until the end of World War II, relied predominantly on a pupil-teacher system, a form of apprenticeship in which teenagers taught during the day while studying at night to gain qualifications. A minority of primary teachers had the benefit of a brief but more formal college education available from 1855-59 in the Model School, but later only at the Anglican St James and St Paul's Training Institution (1857-69), to which few government trainees had access. The poor calibre of teacher preparation was condemned by the 1866-67 Royal Commission into Education, leading the government to reopen its Model School as the Training Institution in 1870.
Although the demand created by the Education Act 1872 was met largely by an expansion of the pupil-teacher system, the Training Institution was relocated and its courses improved. Reopened, after depression closure, in 1900, the revitalised Melbourne Teachers' College was the focus of professional education and training until new colleges were opened at Toorak (1951), Burwood (1954), Coburg and Frankston (1959) to cater for postwar demand. Such college courses became the basic qualification for employment in the state system. Specialised training was provided at the Kindergarten Teachers College (1917), the Emily McPherson College of Domestic Economy (1927), the Domestic Arts Training College (Larnook, Armadale, 1950) and the Technical Teachers College (Hawthorn, 1952).
From the beginning of State secondary education (1910) there was acceptance that its teachers needed to combine a part or whole degree with a certificate of teacher training. Until the 1940s such courses were run jointly by the Melbourne Teachers' College and the University of Melbourne, which commenced teaching education in 1903. However, during the 1930s depression the Education Department slashed traineeships, creating a shortage of teachers, which was met, after 1945, by bringing Education Department studentship holders into the universities. To cope with demand, the Secondary Teachers' College and Monash Teachers College (later Rusden, 1961) also offered short courses, but by the 1970s virtually all new secondary teachers had a four-year qualification. Tertiary education reforms in the 1970s and 1980s saw primary and secondary teachers' colleges absorbed into the expanded university system.
Preparation of teachers for non-government schools has been inconsistent. In the 19th century prestigious independent schools employed graduates. However, in the absence of requisite minimum qualifications, there were many untrained teachers in poorer schools. After the abolition of State aid in 1872, the Catholic education system relied increasingly on members of religious orders. When minimum qualifications for teachers at private schools were introduced in 1905, Protestant schools recruited from teachers prepared at the university and Melbourne Teachers' College, supplemented from 1921 by the graduates of the Associated Teachers Training Institution (from 1946 Mercer House). Two small Catholic colleges were founded: the Loreto Sisters' Central Training College in 1906 and the Sisters of Mercy Catholic Training College in 1909. Amalgamated with other small institutions established after World War II, these became the Institute of Catholic Education in 1974 (now Australian Catholic University).