Status versus teaching

Today’s ODT editorial looks at the push to higher education for teachers, versus what makes teaching effective in Various degrees of teaching

Teachers play a significant role in the development of young people, some of it good, some of it bad.

I was taught stuff but largely uninspired by my education. Since leaving school most of what I have learnt that has been of benefit has been on the job and self taught.

In what must be one of the last acts of Education Minister Hekia Parata, she is backing a shift to make would-be teachers complete a degree in their chosen subject as well as a post-graduate qualification in teaching.

The Education Council is moving towards a position that all people wanting to become teachers – in early childhood, primary and secondary – should be required to have a bachelor-level degree, as well as a post-graduate level qualification in teaching.

One thing inherent in the success of any teacher is the ability to communicate with pupils of all ages. A teacher can be the brightest and smartest person in the room, but without being able to change the motivation of pupils to believe it is in their best interest to learn, success will remain elusive.

The most highly educated teacher I had, Professor Nimmo, ‘taught’ me 6th form physics – if you call writing screes of words on a scrolling blackboard that we were supposed to copy verbatim and learn from. While I knew how to do enough to pass exams that was very uninspiring.

The teacher who connected the best, albeit in small patches, was someone teaching outside of their main interest. It was hard to package the prose Shakespeare and a comparison of West and East Pakistan in an exciting way, but I remember Graeme Sydney trying a few tricks to stir interest up. He was an inspiring rugby coach, which was my real passion. A couple of years later he left teaching to go pursue a career in painting.

A degree in a subject is a good thing, but there are concerns a post-graduate degree will lead to qualification inflation, where teaching methods are secondary to a list of letters after a name.

At an early childhood level, the most important qualification is understanding human behaviour and development, rather than content. How the youngest in the education system develop has a life-long effect on their lives, as the longitudinal study run in Dunedin continues to show.

One of my grandkids went to a very good Early Childhood Centre. I have no idea what qualifications anyone there had, but the kids loved them and they had them doing all sorts of fun things – including working together to write a book illustrated by the kids.

The only thing I remember from my pre-school was sitting on the mat waiting to be given a quarter of an apple for a snack – that seemed very odd because I picked my own whole apples at home.

The Education Council is moving towards a view of all teaching training in the future being at a post-graduate level. This goes back to the core purpose of the council, to raise the status of the profession.

But the ‘status’ of teachers is a self-interested focus, effectively teaching kids should be the priority.

I know of a teacher from twenty years ago who had a van so he could sleep in it to avoid drink driving – whatever his qualifications were they didn’t determine his status.

Having a degree convinces employers the person has the ability to learn, understand and adapt – all important traits for teachers. However, the ability to literally teach a subject must be the most important consideration.

Surely any post-graduate teaching degree must concentrate on applying the valuable skills of motivation and communication.

I love looking up topics of interest online, I do it a lot. It’s far more interesting and effective than reading a text book or encyclopaedia. But I’ve obviously changed a lot since my primary and teenage years.

I have done a lot of looking up stuff of interest on the ‘net with grandkids, but if given the choice they would choose to watch cartoons or play games.

The competition for gaining children’s attention and teaching them things they will enjoy and benefit from must be a real challenge for teachers today.

I’m not sure how a post graduate qualification will help that. By the time a high falutin’ course has been developed and taught things are likely to have already changed again.

Teachers need to be able to learn as they go, and keep up with the play, because that’s what kids have to be able to do.



  1. Like you, I cam remember inspiring teachers well and dull, lacklustre ones could literally douse an interest.

    I’ve always thought that higher salaries might attract a higher calibre of teacher and ( big bonus) more men. However, to ensure excellence in teaching there needs to be checks and measures to assess and judge their achievement. It’s quite horrifying that uninspiring, dull teachers going through the motions and are peppered liberally through our schools, still wrecking kid’s dreams and still unanswerable for their lack of results based achievement.

    Remind me how and why we still have that 1 in 5 tail of functionality illiteracy again.

    #disengaged parents #lack of student tracking at state level. #teachers whose delivery and methodology is substandard #teachers who don’t give a toss #unions that block any qualitative assessment.

    • duperez

       /  18th April 2017

      Remind us of the specifics of a “1 in 5 tail of functionality illiteracy” please. And how you know. And how it’s measured. Thanks.

    • Blazer

       /  18th April 2017

      teachers are no different than any other vocation…about 5% are brilliant,about 40-50 % adequate/competent and the rest…..!

  2. duperez

     /  18th April 2017

    This latest Parata move is symptomatic of much of what she has introduced. And like much of what she has introduced it is hard to argue against it. A closer though look brings reality into the picture.

    It’s like painting the car a fancy colour thinking that it will go better, go faster, be more comfortable and get you where you want to go with more certainty and safety.

    A person with 10 degrees is not necessarily a ‘better’ teacher than someone with none. A teacher who helps you get 61% in the end of year science test may be ‘inferior’ to the one with which had you end up with 51% but having also learned all sorts of other stuff and learned to look at the world through different eyes.

    Pete, you say most of what you learnt since school of benefit was on the job and self taught. The vast majority of stuff everyone learns is not learned at school. I was called a ‘fucktard’ on a site for pointing out that kids and young people spend a small proportion of their lives until the age of 18 at school. They do.

    It is important to have highly educated teachers but it is also important to have the best people possible being teachers. Identifying those qualities in our environment and doing as much as possible to achieve the goal of having the best is complex.

    It’s a far easier sell to just slap on another paint job or do a cut and polish. The shiny new look will have everyone commenting on what a flash car we have. Meanwhile Parata will be riding off into the sunset in her landau.

    • Most of a child’s fundamental literacy/numeracy skills are set up, if not directly imparted, by a child’s parents and or wider family group. My eldest, for example, literally taught himself to read long before he started school. He wasn’t fast tracked, just read an awful lot and saw there was a formula. He explained it as” the first word in the book is “the” and the first and last word on this and that page was such and such and he therefore recognised it on another page. Naturally his efforts were encouraged and rewarded. Numeracy was involved, (word counting) and in respect to the formulaic approach. Thing is, he’s bright, but no genius, he was just read to and any interest was encouraged. Sadly, not the case for many kids and where illiteracy is in the home, the schools are not simply unable to compensate.

      • duperez

         /  18th April 2017

        But it’s not just the fundamental literacy/numeracy skills which come from home, it’s just about everything – how the world is, how it operates, what is in the world, how people act, how people interact, whether one can do something, or nor, where one fits in, or not, whether one is scum or valued, and so on.

        • Very true. whats missing in our system is a way to compensate through our schools for the homes the don’t, won’t or can’t provide this. It’s a huge call, requires huge resources and needs the unions to butt out while we furnish serious tracking and vigorous standardised testing, increased funds in the area of catch up, truancy enforcement(what a joke!) and teachers who kick aR$e metaphorically and who get rewarded for the differences they make in lives. Let’s boot out the deadwood.

          • duperez

             /  18th April 2017

            “Compensate” ? Yes, along with “re-programme.”

            Requires huge resources? Absolutely. And resources we do not want to come up with. It is better to chuck some into policing, sentencing and imprisoning.

            Unions to butt out? The majority of teachers in schools being expected to compensate, re-programme, actually teach as well as providng models of humankind as civilised, caring and giving, are likely to be union members. Does their union stop them from doing those most basic needed things?

            • Yes, it does. It’s completely against ranking of schools according to their results

            • duperez

               /  18th April 2017

              So you say “what’s missing in our system is a way to compensate through our schools for the homes that don’t, won’t or can’t provide” then you say you want schools ranked on results.

              Results of what? How good the kids are at maths or how much the schools have compensated for what the homes didn’t provide? Like civilising the kids?

  3. “The Education Council is moving towards a position that all people wanting to become teachers – in early childhood, primary and secondary – should be required to have a bachelor-level degree, as well as a post-graduate level qualification in teaching”

    Surprise surprise!

    Make the new ‘pay-per-rung’ ladder longer … hence more expensive to climb …

    Its an industry … Its gotta have raw material … Demand must be created … sustained … expanded … Growth is all that matters …

    Better teachers in a failing education system will ultimately only stave off the inevitable collapse – though it will be a functioning collapse – and subsequent radical, revolutionary, (chronologically) progressive, necessary reform … Time for another Sylvia Ashton-Warner, Clarence Beeby and others …?

    • duperez

       /  18th April 2017

      Well-done! You got Dr Beeby on the same page as Hekia Parata. That’s a bit like saying something about the North Pole and South Pole in the same sentence and people making assumptions about their similarities. The Lut Desert and Oymyakon would be better comparisons.
      (Since it’s all about vision there’s probably a “should’ve gone to specsavers” ad there.)

  4. David

     /  18th April 2017

    Increasing the credentials needed for teaching reduces the ability of people from outside the teaching industry to move into it, and reduces the mobility of teachers out of education (sunk cost).

    Is this the type of monoculture we need in teaching? Where is the diversity?

    • duperez

       /  18th April 2017

      Why do we want diversity? Diversity is not important, what is important are the % lines on the charts.

  5. C orky

     /  18th April 2017

    Pete, you have described all that is wrong with our education system. We never seem to get the mixture right between a dullard writing screeds of symbols on a blackboard and the ‘everyone can be a genius’ approach of Gordon Dryden.

    I only had one inspiring teacher throughout my sojourn in education. This chap loved talking. He inadvertently taught us through real life homilies he told us. Things I have never forgotten:

    1- Don’t trust Fijian Indian trinket sellers. They may rip you off.

    2-The story of a cat;starving,with a grim choice. Risk capture by eating food in a trap, the cat knew was a trap, or continue to starve. That has saved my bacon on many occasions.

    3- Never, ever, forget your wedding anniversary. Your wife will never forgive you. True again, I’m told.

    4-Always remember what people tell you and what they really think are two different things. (Ain’t that the truth.)

    5- Apologising is a social convention. What a person originally told you is what they think…and it will rarely change.

    6- Don’t turn up to a fight you can’t win

    7- Always be better than the other chap, but never let him know it.

    All these points were interwoven with a story, whether they were true or not, I don’t know.
    All I know is our class was at the bottom academically, and you could hear a mouse fart as Mr Taylor spoke….he had our attention, forever.

  6. artcroft

     /  18th April 2017

    The Govt knows that the general idea is that we are all teachers at some level and some people are very good at it. So if there’s a teacher shortage you can stick anyone in front of a class. This debases the profession and leaves it low paid. The Teachers Council wants to add higher qualifications to the list, but without a significant pay increase that just adds obstacles to greater cost to entry. And I can’t see the govt giving up the right to stick anyone in a class during a teaching shortage, nor adding many dollars to a teacher’s weekly wage.

    As to how to assess great teachers? Where to start? Is the best teacher the one who taught Johnny his four times table or the one who taught him what kindness looks like? Its easy to assess the first, impossible to assess the second but which was more important?

    • Blazer

       /  18th April 2017

      Kindness doesn’t rate in the capitalist rat race.

      • Oh yes it does. Do you think at someone’s funeral his friends, family and colleagues talk about his assets? They talk to one’s character. Yes, being driven, focused and intelligent may lead to a fortune, which will get a mention, but only in regard to the deceased’s nature. . Kindness and consideration are primo characteristics and they lead to advancement professionally and personally. It’s especially valued in a teacher.

        • Blazer

           /  18th April 2017

          Funerals. .totally different. ..this is where perception in the name of tact prevails.

        • artcroft

           /  18th April 2017

          Kindness is just an example. There are many lessons a teacher gives that can’t be quantified, measured and valued.

          BTW; NZ isn’t capitalist. Its a social democracy which provides good opportunities to almost all.

          • Blazer

             /  18th April 2017

            You are wrong…NZ is most definitely Capitalist.

    • C orky

       /  18th April 2017

      Its not often you muse before shooting someone’s eyeballs out, Arty. You are obviously learning from the great school of life.

  7. At present we fund schooling for children/teenagers for 15 years assuming early childhood education occurs. Why? What is the purpose of Education? I know what Dewey said in 1938, but what is the real purpose of Education today? We need agreement on that, before we can look at the very complex question of what is the purpose of tertiary education, and how should we in society select the best candidates for tertiary level education? This is actually a huge subject on its own.

    • Yes it is indeed. I’d argue that the stats re NZ illiteracy should give an impetus to concentrating at ground level so more members of society can at least access information and education. This is so fundamental to society function.

  8. this is huge gains and got to be good, surely

  9. duperez

     /  18th April 2017

    Not questioning the value of any success or improvement but tables are easy headline grabbing stuff. What is behind them is more important.

    Example: Yesterday at our club, after seeing the Herald report, there was talk about the NCEA results. “I see So-and-so High” did really well, better that Such-and-such High.”

    Then the, “What do the figures mean?” “So-and-so High had eight kids doing Bed Making and they all passed so they’re on 100%, Such-and-such High had 40 kids doing Physics and only 30 passed so they’re on 75%.”
    And on it went. Simple numbers, no underlying stories, simplistic understandings. Fodder.

    Is a most reasonable expectation in such an environment that it gets like the old School C days, all you have to do is get 51%? Do whatever it takes to get the graph in the newspaper looking good because that’s all Joe Bloggs cares about.

  10. I have looked at the statement of the NZ National Education Goals as revised in 2004. There are 10 of the NEGs and they can be read via Google. However, I have been unable to find anywhere a statement of what is the agreed “Purpose” of Education in New Zealand, and I am aware that this has been the subject of some comment amongst the teaching profession together with a call to have a public debate on the matter. We still wait!

    The NEGs are clearly a political statement that outlines the areas of indoctrination that our politicians see as a means towards the creation of a New Zealand as they would want it. In my view it is a Liberal interpretation firmly anchored in the bicultural model of 20th Century New Zealand and not the multicultural society New Zealand has become in the 21st Century. It particularly does not address some of the real changes that are occurring in a Global sense
    such as the age of robotics and the effect this will have on society. Is a society full of graduates with degrees of excellence what we should plan for or even want?

  11. Gezza

     /  18th April 2017

    I read that Orago Daily Times editorial three times & found it rather confusing. It brought up quite a few issues without but I wasn’t really sure what the editor’s main point was. It ended with

    “Having a degree convinces employers the person has the ability to learn, understand and adapt – all important traits for teachers. However, the ability to literally teach a subject must be the most important consideration.

    Surely any post-graduate teaching degree must concentrate on applying the valuable skills of motivation and communication.”

    So I guess that is the editor’s main point. But I’m not completely sure. I would give it a C at best for communication.

    • Gezza

       /  18th April 2017

      (Ignore the redundant “without” in line 2 above. I will sadly accept an F for proof-reading.)

    • Gezza

       /  18th April 2017

      I also don’t understand why they didn’t link to their earlier article about this : somewhere or put a link in at the bottom, given that it was
      a. 10 days ago, and
      b. something Hekia had said
      so no one would have paid much attention or remember it anyway.

      • Gezza

         /  18th April 2017

        (* 8 days ago. Still working on my own numeracy skills.)

      • Gezza

         /  18th April 2017

        My google search to find out exactly what it was that Hekia had said that prompted the editor’s effort to say whatever it was that heshe was trying to say also produced this article:
        from June last year, which indicates Heks favoured putting unqualified teachers into classes unsupervised, so either she seems to have had an epiphany or she’s all over the show.

        • “The Teach First NZ programme recruits and places graduates in secondary schools for a two-year contract, after they complete an eight-week course, and is the only institution to operate this way in New Zealand.” – as above

          How the hell did Teach First NZ get this approved by the Ministry of Education? How did they get it past the teacher unions? Past teacher trainees doing the full 1 year course? And, how do they then become the “only institution to operate this way”? Read: The only supplier of it …

          Sounds like the National Party cronyocracy at work to me …

          Parata was never in an either/or position IMHO. She can support both, since these Teach First NZ recruits are already graduates …

          That’s ultimately what its about; everyone having a graduate degree to begin with … 3 years of tertiary education … 3 years of student allowance and student loans … This is what passes for ‘life experience’ nowadays …

          Cunning cronyocracy …?

          • duperez

             /  18th April 2017

            The idea is that the craft will be learned on the job. Obviously with help from the best practitioners at the chalkface. Who obviously will then necessarily have less time to focus on what they’re best at and the best at.

  12. Alan Wilkinson

     /  18th April 2017

    You can guarantee that the more regulated a profession is the more moribund it will become. A great teacher finds out what each pupil needs to know and finds a way to teach that whatever it is. To be a good teacher you must first have lived. To have spent your whole life in education is not a good qualification for that.

    • Blazer

       /  18th April 2017

      I will repeat myself…

      teachers are no different than any other vocation…about 5% are brilliant,about 40-50 % adequate/competent and the rest…..!

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  18th April 2017

        About the same as drivers. Which is why self-driving vehicles are inevitable and will be a big improvement in efficiency and safety.

        So teaching should also be automated. First, to diagnose what the pupil needs to be taught and then to teach it. Anything else is a sideshow.

        • duperez

           /  18th April 2017

          Diagnose what the pupil needs to be taught and then to teach it? No, definitely not.
          Teach what people on internet discussion boards say should be taught.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  19th April 2017

            Exactly. First you have to find out if the pupil is motivated. If not, that is the very first problem to tackle. Then you have to find out what the goal is and evaluate the requirements for reaching it. Then you have to find out the current levels of attainment of those requirements. Only then can you start “teaching”.

  13. I thought the following comments by my son to the NZ Productivity Commission about aspects of our tertiary training model in NZ may be of interest.

    “Management of the system currently is also affected by the dominance of the degree. The
    spread of degree offerings beyond Universities is a natural response to the pressure for people wanting cheaper access to a qualification that is seen as providing better access to jobs and which is internationally recognised for both migration and employment.”

    “…The harsh reality is that the vast majority of students will always act at a disadvantage when selecting educational activities. Education is an experience good, which is to say that its value can only be determined during and after the experience of it. Another problem is that the impact of an educational experience is in part determined by the student themselves. Finally, longer formal qualifications such as degrees are offered over a timeframe that increasingly seems out of step with the pace of change in society generally. A three year period can see dramatic changes in the economic, technological and social environment that mean any form of prediction is flawed at best.

    Student choices also do not happen in a vacuum, and any factors influencing interest in
    particular qualifications and providers will likely see other students similarly affected – thus generating boom/bust cycles with consequent impact on the value of the resulting qualifications .”

    “…Internationally, teaching only universities struggle to attract top academics and this model is associated with a significant decline in the employment conditions of the staff – including
    casualisation and precarious employment. Students must inevitably be affected by this
    degradation in quality, particularly as many existing staff would leave for countries like Australia if They lost the ability to be researching as well as teaching academics.
    New Zealand already essentially has this model with the degree provision by non-University
    providers, none of which have the same reputation as even the smallest University
    The defining feature and engine of universities is post-graduate education.

    The undergraduate population sustains this and provides a context for students to learn about and gradually enter the post-graduate community. It is implausible to talk of offering PG education without a strong research culture that will only exist if academics conduct research as well as teach. Arguments about the contribution that such research makes directly to undergraduate outcomes are essentially irrelevant to this point (and it should be noted depend on a highly suspect evidence base of student outcomes). It should also be noted that the rapid pace of change in many disciplines and the complexity of the changes mean that teachers need to be actively engaged with research in order to be able to predict future trends and prepare students for the future context.Internationally a university would struggle to attract foreign full fee paying students if it was s if it was poorly ranked for research, and would also be unable to charge anything like the already very cheap fees we currently do.
    Source : Dr Stephen Marshall “”

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  19th April 2017

      Excellent commentary, BJ. I would also note that involvement in research stimulates and supports links to overseas institutions and expertise as well as to local interests outside the institution which fosters relevance and job opportunities for graduates.

      • I like that Alan and will pass it on. Stephen is currently the Chair of the Aust/NZ Advisory Committee on Tertiary Education, particularly the use of IT as a teaching tool. He is adamant that the present situation does not meet the needs of the student, nor that of the Business Community. A University without a solid research core is never going to be fully functioning as a tertiary institution.

    • duperez

       /  20th April 2017

      “Education is an experience good, which is to say that its value can only be determined during and after the experience of it.”

      The effectiveness of teaching may be judged by a test shortly after the event but the real test of the learning, and the real value of the learning and the breadth of it may only be determined, and be able to be determined, in a much longer term.

      And can the real source of all learning be determined?

  14. Blazer

     /  19th April 2017

    they should start teaching the wonders of compound interest and property speculation at an early age.Once these ‘skills’ are mastered you will have the means to pay anyone to attend to your….needs or…wants.