We’ve got the Apples but not the Teachers

The Government’s solution to the apparent teacher shortage is to increase their engagement in Covid-Roulette by opening the borders to 300 teachers from overseas. What has happened to the old system when the Ministry of Education knew, with some certainty, that the likely supply of teachers would be made up of three categories – teachers registered and on-the-job, teachers-in-training, and what I think was intriguingly called the “Pool of In-Active Teachers?”

Perhaps the numbers of students who drop-out or leave primary school but never appear o the roll of a secondary school or join the ranks of the NEETs has complicated the process of making predictions for the supply of teachers a bit of a guessing game. The fact that the MOE has five years to prepare for the number of students entering primary school and 10 years to work out the relative numbers moving on to secondary school. Either solving the strange disparity in population numbers and progression figures or simply shrugging shoulders as to this mystery and factoring it into their calculations should help.

Another issue -It seems that there are teachers experienced in the New Zealand education system who are available to teach but simply cannot get teaching positions and, we are told, even an interview! This seems a bit daft?

Now, some positive moves.

Teachers themselves could be their own worst enemy. Some think it smart to say: “I wouldn’t recommend to a student that they consider a teaching career.” Well, this can only make the recruitment of young people into the ranks of teaching more difficult and it will rebound on the lives the lives of those who make these statements.

New Zealand’s current position makes it imperative that we find people willing to teach in a wide range of settings. We cannot continue to ignore the great need to recruit and train hundreds of teachers who reflect the skills, languages and community connections of Maori and Pasifika and other groups of students who would respond to teachers who can relate to them, and ideally have fluency in the language of the students in their language kit-bag.

An example. It is a lazy and unacceptable to respond to a reluctance to learn Te Reo, for instance to state that there are no opportunities because there is a shortage of teachers. New Zealand could solve this simply by recruiting Maori to be specialist teachers.

It has been disastrous to place teacher training predominantly into the hands of the universities (New Zealand has not been the only country to head done this track). Teaching as a pathway must be available to young people. Access to programmes of teacher training must be developed so that teaching is easily accessible in regional settings. There could of course be a teacher training programme in every polytechnic and institute of technology. Pukenga could respond to a challenge in this area surely. Incidentally while mentioning Pukenga, they should be thinking of playing a role in preparing teachers to service the needs of the very successful Secondary Tertiary Programmes.

New Zealand has a very successful distance learning institution, Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu. There could be a role for this organisation in providing pathways to post Year-12 students wishing to head into teaching, or members of the communities in regional cities and towns for those wishing to return to the workforce as teachers. This could be done in conjunction with universities.

There are so many ways in which shortage of teachers can be addressed and solved. Migrants are likely to be part of the solution as indeed they have been at times in the past. It is one solution, but it will never be the solution. Teaching is an area where home-grown will prove must be seen central to a great solution.

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  1. Ian Hall says:

    A very insightful comment as always. I’m not entirely a neutral observer, having seen the dedicated teacher education institution in which I worked absorbed into a university with the demise of a powerful distance education programme which had the sole aim of widening access to a qualification. The situation in which we now find ourselves was entirely predictable, and I see little enthusiasm for facing the issue with any imagination. It’s so hard to admit that a mistake has been made.

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