Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 37, No. 4, November 2011, 433–440.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The author explains how the context of New Zealand's historical cultural and political climate affects practice and discusses the current direction of teacher education.
Key contextual influences on teacher education
New Zealand is a bi-cultural nation, founded on the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi.
Despite the status of Maori as a Treaty partner, there are still widespread disparities between Maori and Pakeha (New Zealand European).
They have a separate curriculum document that privileges Maori knowledge and tikanga.
However, most Maori children are taught in English-medium classrooms.
In addition, more than one in five New Zealanders were born outside New Zealand.
New Zealand’s schools, particularly in Auckland, are serving an increasingly diverse population.
Consequently, teacher education in New Zealand needs to prepare teachers in mainstream classes to be ‘culturally competent’ and to be with an awareness of the significance of cultural and linguistic diversity in the classroom.
Furthermore compared with other higher achieving countries, the gap between New Zealand’s highest achieving and lowest achieving students is large.
Maori students and Pacific Island students are overrepresented in the lower achieving group, while European and Asian students are overrepresented in the higher achieving group.
Current directions in New Zealand teacher education
Teacher education in New Zealand, as in many countries, has been subject to regular review and calls for reform in recent decades.
Two current key documents considered the direction of teacher education in New Zealand: Approval, review and monitoring processes and requirements for initial teacher education programmes (NZTC 2010) and A vision for the teaching profession (Ministry of Education 2010).
These documents address the main issues in New Zealand teacher education: the supply and retention of quality teachers who can effect learning for all students, and the coupling of theory and practice through relationships between ITE providers and the profession.
In 2010, the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) declared a new set of requirements for teacher education courses, effective from January 2011 (NZTC 2010).
These requirements propose that a panel visits each teacher education provider to assess documentation and interview a range of people, including students, before determining whether a teacher education programme can be accredited.
The changes reflect concerns about selection of quality candidates, literacy and numeracy competence, and practicum supervision.
Furthermore, all prospective teacher education students must now have an interview, an assessment of their communication skills, and assessment of their numeracy and literacy skills, and members of the relevant school sector must be involved in the selection process.
Practicum lengths and setting types are specified in the requirements.
Student teachers must be visited by teacher educators who teach on their programme, and are also registered teachers.
These changes represent closer control of the initial teacher education (ITE) by the NZTC.
The other document was issued in 2010 by the Education Workforce Advisory Group, which formed by the Minister of Education.
This document identified five key areas for consideration: ITE, the induction and mentoring of beginning teachers, career pathways for teachers, leadership in schools and accountability systems.
In their report, the advisory group recommended substantial change to provision for teacher education and early career teaching.
They propose that posts in schools would be regarded as still part of the process of ITE, with new teachers having less responsibility for their own class and more time for professional learning.
They also suggest that teaching becomes a post-graduate profession, with new teachers completing Master’s level qualifications in their induction period.
In addition, the Advisory Group also emphasizes the importance of continuing professional development and learning for teachers following full registration.