Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Teacher Training in New Zealand

Last Week a number of the Normal School’s executive flew to Wellington to meet with the Education Council, Ministry of Education and Deans of the Universities to discuss Initial Teacher Education in New Zealand (how we develop quality teachers).  During the meeting with the Education Council we discussed a range of options for teacher education.  You can imagine my surprise when my wife brought the article (below) to my attention this evening which states that teacher education in New Zealand will become a purely post grad qualification. In the article below Dr Graham Stoop states that "That is a position that the council has thoughtfully adopted with the initial teacher education providers”. As a principal of a Normal School which works with a wide range of teachers (both pre and post graduate) and a member of the executive group of Normal School principals I am wondering if I may have missed Graham’s call…

I have a number of concerns of this direction in teacher training…

New Zealand is an ethnically diverse country (and becoming more so, by the day).  New Zealand schools need a diverse range of teachers and leaders.  Research over many years shows that the pathway that people take to become teachers are varied depending on age, gender, culture, motivation and socio-economic factors.  Do we want to block the pathway for some prospective teachers?  Post grad teaching degrees don't currently allow students to gain an allowance which I have witnessed firsthand as being a deterrent to potential teaching students.  Aren’t we already facing teacher shortages in some key areas in NZ?

University = Dollars
Waikato University has been known for many years as a lighthouse for teacher education in New Zealand.  As well as providing multiple pathways, the University has had a wide range of specialist educators, lecturers and relationships with Normal Schools.  These programmes have been recognised to work.... by creating great teachers!  Over the last couple of years these expert practitioners have been decimated as the University focuses on retaining lecturers whose motivation is research based (to raise University ranking points), whilst quality practitioners with real life school experience are lost.  It seems that $$ and rankings mean more to the new vice chancellor than quality graduates.  Does he understand what a quality teacher programme looks like and the resources it needs?

Why?  New Zealand Context
One of my previous blog postings questioned whether NZ education has actually considered what is right for the NZ context...  Yes, teachers in Finland have Masters level qualifications as a baseline, but what do Finland and NZ have in common?  The status of teaching in Finland is high, but not because of the Masters qualifications.  Do the All Blacks follow trends in the world of rugby?

Consultation-  in word only
As I mentioned previously, last week I attended meetings in Wellington with a range of stakeholders in NZ Education, including the Education Council.  At a meeting at the Education Council this direction wasn't mentioned.  You would think that the Normal Schools Association would be a major stakeholder in consultation considering that we work with a huge range and number of student teachers every year.  This gives me little confidence for any consultation...

A rich curriculum?
At Ms Parata's last cross sector education meeting she spoke (very passionately) about the importance of a rich curriculum for all learners.  How can teachers do this, without proper training?  Ten weeks in a classroom is not enough time to learn the craft of teaching, let alone learn how to develop relationships with staff, parents and learners (of all cultures). Dr Graham Stoop states in the article that "Every teacher in the country would have a bachelor degree in arts or science or commerce, law, whatever it happens to be. That would give us the content knowledge that we want them to have.  What a load of nonsense... Learning about another subject (say a science degree) and then a year's teaching is not enough.  Do we ask lawyers to learn about architecture before beginning law?  Teaching is a practice based profession.  Perhaps all politicians should study education before becoming ministers...

I urge anyone with a vested interest in education and learners to add their voice to consultation, if in fact the Education Council engages in this in a real, meaningful way.  I intend to add to this blog post to link to current and relevant research. And for the record, I have a MEd qualification (Educational Leadership). This is not a defensive post about qualifications....


  1. I agree Stuart. This article surprised me when I read it tonight. I don't believe this proposal is necessary. We already have a shortage of teachers in both rural areas and Auckland.

    The government should be focusing on greater engagement and consultation with the education sector.

  2. Interesting that they feel they can increase the status of teachers, by bluntly saying you master the craft of teaching in 1 year. I would be interested to see the percentage of teachers that are currently teaching with a 3 year degree or those that did the post grade? Also I wonder what the drop out rate from both courses is after several years of teaching? Where is the proof that this will make better teachers?

    I think this would create a huge shortage in teachers.

    I for one would wouldn't have become a teacher if this was the case. I also think you need a range of people in the profession. Sometimes those that are more academic are not able to control classes or have the ability to engage with children at their level.

  3. I have been passionately involved with Initial teacher education over a number of years and after reading that there will only be one pathway to become a teacher, it feels very scary for the future. I am not in any way against post grad or masters’ pathways but really believe that the three year programme should still be an acceptable pathway for teacher education.
    We are encouraging teachers to provide a rich curriculum for their children and encouraging children to explore multiple pathways in variety of contexts to best prepare them for the future. Should we not be extending this to our life-long learners – our prospective teachers? Their very diversity along different pathways brings a diversity of learning and understanding of the complex influences personal, social and cultural factors have. Their very diversity along different pathways brings a diversity of teachers who make the right connections with our priority learners and support for their colleagues. Classrooms and schools are becoming more and more diverse and the challenges (for schools whatever the level, teachers and parents), are becoming more complex. We do not just need academics in front of our children, but teachers who have the theory, the empathy, life skills and a variety of teaching experiences that cover all the curriculum areas – especially in early childhood and primary levels. This takes time and the option of a one year - one size fits all for initial teacher education defies all we know about how learners learn – whatever the age.
    I have worked with students from 3 year programmes, one year post graduate programmes and masters’ programmes and each have very different aspects to them. I have seen some very innovative, committed student teachers from all programmes, who work hard to provide very effective learning environments that engage their diverse learners Equally I have found some very capable academically able student teachers who found they needed a great deal more time to learn about relationships with all stakeholders, connecting and communicating at a range of levels, the artistry of teaching, managing classroom environments, and understanding the learning process. This has always been one of the tensions for one year programmes and whilst many students manage this well in 12 ½ weeks of practicum, many students do not. Yes they do have a further two years provisional but at what cost to the learners in their rooms if they are one of the ITE students who have needed more time to process the educational theory and the coal face teaching experiences that are not learned in an academic degree in civil engineering for example, followed by one year.
    We have all had student teachers that are innovative, inspiring, and intuitive and have that in- built heart for teaching who cannot afford a 4 or 5 year programme especially when they become ineligible for further financial assistance after completing their initial degree. We would lose them from teaching because it would become an in-affordable pathway for that particular group of student teachers.
    I hope this article in the NZ Herald is a misquote or is inaccurate because it is essential we have true consultation with all stake holders including students from all programmes currently offered before any final decision is made.

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