24 August 2012
The review of the Teachers Council is timely as another teacher indecency case hits the headlines – about the only time the Teachers Council has a public profile.
I have long argued that teaching in New Zealand will never achieve true professional status until it had control over entry standards to teaching, a system of maintaining a disciplined system with members observing high standards within the framework of a code of ethics.
The Teachers Council on its establishment looks a little as if it might achieve this but it hasn’t.
I have noted over a long period that bodies brought together that consist of representatives of other organisations seldom achieve effective levels of activity. There is a good reason for this. A group made up of representatives of other organisations is simply a random collection of people. The Teachers Council agenda becomes distorted by the agendas that the members of the Council bring with them.
Members of the teachers Council should be a mix of professional educators of great experience and of considerable standing in the community appointed or perhaps even elected through an electoral college system
The question of entry standards into the profession is a key matter for such a body. Having determined a set of standards for entry they should then apply them at the point of entry. It is an absurdity that the Teachers Council gets involved in initial teacher education programmes. They should be approved by CUAP or by NZQA and the only question with regard to programmes should be whether the candidate for entry into the profession has undertaken such an approved course. There will of course be other critieria I would hope that go beyond mere training.
The registration process is cumbersome. The provisional registration system is simply a bit of nostalgia from the old days of the inspectors who would finally give the stamp of approval. The process for re-registration should be the confirmation standards and should be rigorous for all teachers.
Re-registration should not be the tick-the-box process that it has become. It should be a point at which we should show the professional development that has been undertaken (the qualtity of which might well be laid down), the refresher training that is required (perhaps every 10 years), the meeting of expectations for improved qualifications, and suchlike. This all seems to me to be part of the professional requirements of being a professional within a profession.
The Teachers Council might also be supported by an Education Commission (along the lines of the Law Commission) that could provide professional advice and commentary on the system and its performance – an ongoing source which would continually nourish the system with ideas and challenges.
The Teachers Council might sponsor a set of Teaching Excellence Awards – perhaps under the aegis of a charitable trust in the way the UK does.
In other words the Teachers Council review must lift the level at which the Council works so that it is able to provide leadership to the profession of teaching.
And that raises a final question. What is the “Teaching Profession”. Well, it is certainly those who teach in the early childhood and schooling sector. But what about the tertiary sector? I think not in general terms but as the boundary between secondary and tertiary education becomes very “jagged”, to use the PPTA term, and students are not so easily identified as “secondary” or “tertiary” there are questions (which is not the same as “issues”) about who should teach.
Finally, where do the costs of a Teachers Council come from? They come from the same place that other professionals pay – our pockets. The difference is the capacity of legal and medical professional to pass the costs on to their businesses. No doubt there would be a discussion about this!
Teaching has an opportunity now to realise professional status through a revised Teachers Council that could itself achieve a level of professionalism that has eluded teacher organisations and principals associations.