Changes in government policy will impact New Zealand’s early childhood education sector, with a predicted shortage of qualified teachers spurring new training opportunities for experienced but unqualified educators. There is also demand for bilingual teachers, particularly those who can speak te reo Māori or Pasifika languages.

Joanne Groenewald

Joanne Groenewald, who heads the school of Early Childhood Education at Hamilton’s Vision College, says the ECE industry in New Zealand will grow and more qualified teachers will be needed in the future.

“We are hearing every month of new centres being built, all with different teaching philosophies, increasing the need for more teachers and creating more options for parents and caregivers for their children,” says Groenewald.

“Combined with the new minimum teaching qualifications mandated by the Ministry of Education, and proposals to move towards a 100 per cent qualified teacher workforce in ECE centres as well as for home based providers, New Zealand is going to be experiencing a shortage of qualified teachers, unless we recruit more students to the industry,” says Groenewald.

As part of the government’s announcement last November of its $3.5 billion early childhood review, the draft 10-year strategic plan includes raising the minimum percentage of qualified teachers in teacher-led early childhood centres from 50 to 80 percent by 2022, and to 100 percent in the longer term.

Education Ministry figures indicate that 57 per cent of all teaching staff were qualified in 2018, up from 56 per cent in 2017. However, in the home-based educators’ segment, 90 per cent did not have an ECE qualification.

“This could mean the likes of those who may have 20 years’ experience but aren’t fully qualified and are working in centres, along with a high proportion of home-based educators, should look to ECE qualifications to upskill,” says Groenewald.

There were 4,532 licensed ECE services in New Zealand in 2018, according to Ministry of Education figures, with more than 200,000 New Zealand children aged 0-4 attending at least once a week. There was growth in private education and care services (day cares), but a decrease in other service types such as kindergartens and playcentres.

Groenewald also believes the industry is crying out for more bi-lingual teachers, particularly those who can speak Māori and Pasifika languages. This is backed up by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Occupation Outlook reporting that says the demand for early childhood teachers who are speakers of Māori and Pasifika languages is particularly strong.

“We have an intake in East Tamaki that is generally made up of students who can speak Māori and/or Pasifika languages, which reflects the demand for the multi-languages in our communities. Our tutors are also from our communities, and speak the languages, so they are able to offer full support to our students,” says Groenewald.

There were 655 ECE services in 2018 that offered either bilingual or immersion language instruction in a language other than English, according to the Ministry of Education. Te reo Māori, Tonga, Samoan and Northern Chinese language are the most commonly spoken in bilingual or immersion ECE services.

Salilo Ward (banner image), an ECE tutor with Vision College, is fluent in Samoan, English and also speaks basic Tongan and te reo Māori. She’s been tutoring the NZ Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Care for four years and has seen the growth of private childcare centres and the growing shortage of qualified ECE teachers.

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