Ed's letter

June 2017

Any initiative or policy that leverages the status of New Zealand’s teaching profession is a good thing, says ER editor Jude Barback. 

jude barbackI like the idea of aspiring teachers completing a postgraduate qualification. However, I feel a little twitchy at the thought of making it compulsory.

Postgraduate study is hard and expensive and it is not for everyone. I wonder if a master’s degree might deter those who would have otherwise made excellent teachers. Those who are itching to get teaching and earning a salary might prefer to continue their learning while in the classroom rather than spend another year at university. I worry that by making a postgraduate qualification a mandatory requirement to become a teacher that it will change the teacher workforce and lessen its diversity.

Perhaps an alternative approach could be to allow teachers the opportunity to complete a postgraduate qualification at a time that’s right for them. For some this could be immediately following their undergraduate degree. For others it could be once they’ve got their career underway.

Sometimes it isn’t until you’ve had a few years of teaching under your belt that you have more questions to be answered through research, more experience to form an academic baseline and perhaps more maturity and financial stability to undertake further study.

Indeed this approach would work for most professions. The Productivity Commission’s inquiry into tertiary education models has indicated a push towards more lifelong learning that is tailored to the needs of the individual.

While I am very much in favour of entry level standards, and keeping these high, I think we need to get better at individualising learning. We are becoming so good at tailoring learning for our youngest students, but there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to higher education.

Every job is changing. Teaching is no different. If professional development and higher education is to keep pace with this change, we need to become flexible in how we approach it. And I’m not sure words like ‘compulsory’ or ‘mandatory’ fit into this line of thinking.

Editor, Jude Barback


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