Government plans to raise graduating teachers to master's
degree level have concerned an education specialist, who says
it could bar fantastic would-be teachers from the profession.
At present, those wanting to enter the teaching profession
need a bachelor's degree or graduate diploma in teaching, but
University of Otago College of Education senior lecturer
Steven Sexton believes the Government is attempting to raise
the bar so that teachers will need a master's in teaching and
learning to get jobs in primary and secondary schools.
''Personally, I strongly believe that no matter what the
outcome of the next election, that initial teacher education
(ITE) will move to a master's level entry requirement in the
''This is my personal opinion and not that of the College of
Education or Ministry of Education, but I would be surprised
if there was an undergraduate education programme intact
after 2016, meaning that the undergraduate programme would be
phased out and then replaced with only the [master's]
''Raising the entry level requirement will bring teachers
into the profession with a higher academic capability, but
will invariably bar from the profession those who would be
fantastic teachers but do not have the entry requirement
grade point necessary.''
The change process began more than a decade ago, when the
then Labour government signalled a shift to degree entry
requirements for all primary and secondary teachers.
The Ministry of Education announced last year it was
introducing master's degrees in teaching and learning as a
way to ''lift the quality of graduating teachers' practice''
as part of a broader approach to strengthen the capability of
the schooling workforce.
The introduction is consistent with international moves to
ensure that teachers have the competencies to work
effectively in 21st-century learning environments.
The master's in teaching and learning degrees are now being
run at the Universities of Auckland, Waikato and Otago for
those wanting to teach at primary and secondary level.
Dr Sexton said some people would argue the Government's move
was ''a knee-jerk reaction'' to the drop of pupil achievement
in the recent Programme for International Student Assessment
results, but others would argue it was ''an elitist policy''
designed to reduce the number of teachers and those able to
apply for positions within ITE.
Dr Sexton said the master's programme did have merit.
It will be a one-year degree, like the graduate diploma and
one of the biggest advantages would be student teachers
spending almost equal time in the university and teaching in
a partner school setting - 114 days at the College of
Education and 112 days in one of the college's partner
''This allows the student teachers to build up professional
relationships in the school and with their mentoring
About 31 students are taking the master's degree at the
University of Otago College of Education at the moment, he
Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Mason
Stretch said the initiative had some positive elements, but
if teacher education followed the direction predicted by Dr
Sexton, he, too, would be very concerned.
''If that [master's] was the only thing they were using to
determine who was going to be a teacher, I would be
concerned, because there are a whole lot of qualities in
teachers that are not related just to that academic ability.
''You have to have really strong relationships, you have to
be able to communicate really effectively. One of the most
important things is being able to give quality instruction to
students, and that's not just about your level of technical
understanding or content understanding. Communication skills,
passion and enthusiasm are important.
''There needs to be a balance,'' he said.
However, he believed the degree would raise the status of
teachers, and more time spent in schools would be a huge