Over­seas teach­ers a ‘short-term fix’

The Press - - National News - Adele Red­mond adele.red­mond@stuff.co.nz

A plan to put teach­ers on the skills short­age list is a wel­come quick fix but not a long-term so­lu­tion, teach­ers unions say.

The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion has sup­ported adding teach­ers to Im­mi­gra­tion’s ‘‘es­sen­tial skills in de­mand list’’, which would make it eas­ier for for­eign­ers to get a New Zealand work visa.

Post Pri­mary Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Jack Boyle doubted a promised 400 over­seas teach­ers could be re­cruited for the 2019 school year – an Over­seas Re­lo­ca­tion Grant of­fered in De­cem­ber 2017 ‘‘was go­ing to bring hun­dreds, thou­sands of teach­ers through the door and they didn’t show up’’.

New Zealand Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute pres­i­dent Lynda Stu­art also feared teach­ing was not at­trac­tive enough: ‘‘I’ve spo­ken to prin­ci­pals who have re­cruited teach­ers from over­seas who have found it so dif­fi­cult that they haven’t lasted.’’

Min­istry deputy sec­re­tary Ellen MacGre­gor-Reid was ‘‘con­fi­dent’’ the grant and other ef­forts to in­crease teacher num­bers were work­ing. These in­cluded fund­ing ‘‘re­fresher’’ cour­ses for teach­ers re­turn­ing to the pro­fes­sion, ex­pand­ing a vol­un­tary bond­ing scheme for new teach­ers, and mar­ket­ing and re­cruit­ment cam­paigns aimed at teach­ers here and abroad.

She said 245 teach­ers had ap­plied for the Over­seas Re­lo­ca­tion Grant since Fe­bru­ary – 192 were ap­proved.

Stu­art said the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment’s pro­posal to add teach­ing to the skills short­age list was an ac­knowl­edg­ment the teacher short­age has reached cri­sis point.

Though wel­come as a short-term fix, it could dis­tract from the need to get more Ki­wis teach­ing, she said.

‘‘We want to ac­tu­ally have our own homegrown teach­ers. Lan­guage, cul­ture and iden­tity em­bed­ded in our [ed­u­ca­tion] sys­tem, with peo­ple who un­der­stand that, is ab­so­lutely im­per­a­tive.’’

Tim Tucker has seen suc­cesses and fail­ures in hir­ing teach­ers from abroad. The Nel­son Col­lege deputy prin­ci­pal said for­eign teach­ers had a lot to of­fer New Zealand’s in­creas­ingly di­verse pop­u­la­tion be­yond just bod­ies on the ground.

‘‘Good teach­ers are good teach­ers,’’ he said. ‘‘If they’re pas­sion­ate about teach­ing and they want to see chil­dren do well, then it doesn’t mat­ter where they come from.’’

But ed­u­ca­tion was not the same ev­ery­where, Tucker cau­tioned: NCEA was ‘‘quite unique’’, our class­rooms look dif­fer­ent, and a grow­ing com­mit­ment to in­te­grat­ing the Treaty of Wai­tangi into the cur­ricu­lum pre­sented ob­sta­cles for im­mi­grant teach­ers.

If teach­ing wasn’t an at­trac­tive ca­reer for Ki­wis, it may not ap­peal to for­eign­ers ei­ther.

‘‘If they make the move 24,000 kilo­me­tres away, it’s not just for the sake of mov­ing,’’ Tucker said, not­ing fam­ily con­sid­er­a­tions were of­ten a driver.

More for­eign teach­ers are al­ready be­ing wel­comed to New Zealand. Be­tween mid-2016 and mid2017, Im­mi­gra­tion NZ is­sued 10 per cent more visas for sec­ondary school teach­ers, 36 per cent more for early child­hood teach­ers and 72 per cent more for pri­mary teach­ers.

Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion deputy sec­re­tary Ellen MacGre­gor-Reid says the agency is ‘‘con­fi­dent’’ ef­forts to at­tract new teach­ers are work­ing.

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