Teaching degree concerns

Steven Sexton
Steven Sexton
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 future.

''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] programme.

''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 schools.

''This allows the student teachers to build up professional relationships in the school and with their mentoring teachers.''

About 31 students are taking the master's degree at the University of Otago College of Education at the moment, he said.

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 benefit.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

 

No teaching jobs

''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.''

I think the real thing barring fantastic teachers from the profession is the lack of jobs.  I think reducing the number of graduates the colleges churn out will do wonders for both the quality of teachers in schools and those individuals struggling to find work in teaching.  Plus, raising the entry requirement will likely increase the life experience that these teachers bring to the profession, which I see as beneficial for the students of this new breed of teachers.

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