The degree will provide pathways to teaching careers for people who may not be able to access traditional tertiary education; and help schools in rural areas contribute to students gaining a teaching qualification, helping to addressing the teaching shortage.

Bachelor of Teaching (Primary)/Tohu Paetahi Whakaako (Primary) is a three-year degree programme developed by early childhood education provider, Te Rito Maioha. New Zealand’s largest field-based early childhood initial teacher education provider is using its expertise in online learning and biculturalism to develop the primary programme which will be rolled out in 2021 nationwide, pending approval from the Teaching Council and NZQA.

The degree will be field-based with students combining online study and spending two days a week in a school, along with extended practicums in primary, intermediate or middle schools each year.

Long-time educator (teacher, principal, educational psychologist and academic), Anthony Fisher is the primary programme development leader and says the initial idea for the programme came from Northland, but there has since been interest from other rural communities nationwide.

“Te Rito Maioha has a very good relationship with REAP in the far North. We are doing such a good job with early childhood education that they were interested in a pathway for primary teaching in their area. ”

“In a lot of rural areas, there are young people who don’t go on to tertiary education for a number of reasons. They are often financial – such as moving away from home when the family is already under financial stress, or they may not want to move away from that support network.”

“In the far north earlier this year, I was talking to a young woman who was a teacher aide. She left school at Year 13, became a teacher aide at that school and wanted to be a teacher but did not want to move away from home,” says Anthony.

Rich local resource

Bachelor of Teaching (Primary)/Tohu Paetahi Whakaako (Primary) will likely appeal to two groups who may want to qualify as teachers: school leavers and ‘second learners’ who may be teacher aides, and/or parents coming back into the workforce.  The aim is to train and retain people who will  contribute and work  in their local communities.

“Schools – particularly in rural areas – recognise they have difficulty staffing and they recognise that some of their teacher aides are a rich resource in their community. They have a knowledge of their community and a lot of connections with tamariki and whānau in their schools.

“The benefits to schools in having students on the programme are that they will have local people with local knowledge and people that they know. As a principal some of the teacher aides I had would have been great teachers, but the pathway didn’t suit them at that point in time for a varying number of reasons.”

Being a recognised quality provider of early childhood teacher education will also provide the opportunity to focus on transitions between early childhood education into the primary school setting.

“The bicultural strength in our early childhood programmes will be an integral part of our primary programme. The cultural aspect will go right through the programme in terms of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori,” says Anthony.

Breaking down barriers

The degree programme will reduce cost and stress around arranging accommodation for block courses. “We are trying to break down the barriers. We are working with schools to try  to build in a lot more community support. For example Year 13s in an area school could stay in their school and study for their first year, which will provide support for students during their initial transition into tertiary education. A lot of these communities are really keen to support young people into a pathway to employment,” says Anthony.

Te Rito Maioha has offered a range of online diplomas and degrees in early childhood for many years.

“We’ve got a strong online presence which meant that during Covid we were flexible enough that it made no difference to our students and it showed in our retention. We have those structures to support and mentor students. Also, with 11 education hubs around the country, we can provide face to face support when required or a space for groups of students to meet together. We try to work with students so they have a successful learning pathway.”

What makes a good field-based programme?

The programme developers have looked at research from around the world; a literature review about field-based programmes was done by the New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER) that helped to inform the programme development.

There are some key elements for a good field-based teacher education programme.

“It’s ensuring that link between practice and theory and giving those students opportunities to reflect on what’s happening in schools; reflect on their theoretical input.

“A key thing for initial teacher education (ITE) anywhere in the world is in-school mentors and their role and how they work with the students. We are looking at how we can support those people as well.  It’s about making it work for the students, the teachers and children in schools.

“We have a strong foundation to build on in terms of online learning, a bicultural approach and existing connections in a lot of those communities,” says Anthony.


  1. I am doing batchelor of teaching ECE this year with Toiohomai ,mokoia campus, Rotorua. It us my first year. I have four pre schoolers that attend a centre. I have been wanting to change to online only, with practicums/work included and have also been considering primary. My goal is to be a teacher aid for one on one children who need specialcare, or to teach children in long term hospital care/respite care when fully qualified. Would you recommend changing to your course or should I stay where I am .Thank you. Abbey Pentelow

    • Kia ora Abbey
      My apology for not responding to your question earlier, I had not realised you your question was at the end of the article.
      I think changing to primary would provide you a different focus to ECE but ultimately you need to decide what sector you wish to work in long term. If you have been undertaking study at Toiohomai in ECE we would not be able to cross credit any of these courses into our first year Bachelor of Teaching (Primary).
      However it may be useful to have a conversation to see if we can help you in someway, maybe transferring to our Bachelor Of Teaching (ECE) programme so that you can continue your study.

      We can either have a phone call or a zoom meeting, if you email me at to let me know if you would like to follow-up with a conversation.

      Ngā mihi nui
      Anthony Fisher
      Primary Porgramme Development Leader
      Te Rito Maioha


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