Overseas teachers a ‘short-term fix’
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.