Much media attention has been devoted to concerns about the quality of some early childhood education (ECE) services, and this year’s begun with the spotlight on the inadequate supply of teachers – including ECE teachers.
Perspectives from the wider education sector have been shared in Education Central, variously calling on the government to implement quick fix solutions to the teacher shortage through immigration or to take the time to develop strategic options for stabilising future supply and ensuring children’s positive learning outcomes.
Te Rito Maioha maintains that having a qualified ECE teaching workforce, appropriately funded to keep its practice up-to-date, is a basic but vital step towards improving educational achievement in New Zealand.
For many years, New Zealand’s education system has been among the best in the world, and we must strive to maintain that standing. One of the cornerstones of a high-quality and effective education system is a qualified workforce.
As a provider of undergraduate and postgraduate ECE teacher education, Te Rito Maioha equips people with the skills, knowledge and experience needed working with and nurturing our youngest learners, while delivering the world-class ECE curriculum, Te Whāriki.
While we agree changes to Immigration New Zealand’s Skills Shortage List might bring some immediate relief, we don’t consider this would serve our youngest learners well unless we ensure these overseas teachers invest in upskilling themselves in our ECE curriculum.
New Zealand qualified ECE teachers have first-hand knowledge of Te Whāriki, which they have gained over years of dedicated study and practical experiences in ECE services. This deep knowledge and experience is critical to effective ECE teaching in New Zealand.
In order to give our youngest tamariki the strongest beginning to their educational journey, we must find the right balance between maintaining high teaching professional standards and ensuring we have adequate numbers of qualified ECE teachers to meet demand.
We consider that greater investment is required to both attract more people into the ECE teaching profession, and to retain them once qualified. ECE teachers, who have put in the time and effort required to become qualified and registered, should be properly paid. And ECE services must have the money to support their teachers’ ongoing professional learning and development (PLD).
The new Minister of Education has clearly signalled his plans for improvements for the ECE sector, and has hinted that May’s Budget announcements will bring good news for ECE services.
In the interim, Te Rito Maioha will continue to build the ECE teaching profession’s capability through its initial teacher education and PLD programmes; we will work with the Ministry of Education to develop a national workforce and development strategy; and we will keep lobbying for the pay and conditions that qualified ECE teachers so thoroughly deserve.
After all, a teacher is a teacher is a teacher.
Kathy Wolfe is the Chief Executive of Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand