Good educational outcomes are cyclical. Good teachers employing good techniques in good environments produce good outcomes for learners, who go on to be the next generation of good teachers (as well as doctors, lawyers, builders, engineers, novelists, scientists, artists and so on).
However, if we don’t have good incentives for students to become teachers, then we’re not going to attract the best candidates to teach our next generation, and it becomes much more difficult to ensure our young people meet their potential. And in that way, what was a positive cycle becomes a negative one.
I’ve been excited to see the Government’s recent moves around tertiary education and teaching. The move to scrap National Standards takes a substantial burden off teachers’ backs, letting them focus more time on the real task of actually teaching their students. The planned review of NCEA is also an opportunity to further address long-standing concerns in the teaching profession, and making the first year of university education free is a huge boost to the affordability of higher education.
Lower costs mean a smaller student loan, which is a big deal for young people looking to start their working lives, as it can mean increased access to buying their first home or heading off on an overseas experience. The prospect of travelling overseas on an OE is also significantly improved for students with a Bachelor of Education since New Zealand teachers are well-regarded by international teacher-recruitment agencies.
Teaching as a career is also a stable option in an increasingly uncertain age where technology is disrupting many traditional career paths. Put it all together and teaching is on an upward trajectory in terms of attractiveness as a career while being more affordable to get into, broadening the pool of people who could choose to study teaching.
This is a good start, and it comes none-too-soon. New Zealand needs its best and brightest teaching our children if we as a nation are to have a successful future, not just in the next ten years, but in the next hundred. The cycles of improvement or decay that are in place now will have huge effects on the future, so it’s vital that we get it right today.
Paul Heyward is a professional teaching fellow at the University of Auckland.