NZ Initiative on improving teacher quality

December 11th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Initiative have released a report called “Around the World: The Evolution of Teaching as a Profession” which is a comparative study of Singapore, Germany, Finland, England, Canada and Australia focused on improving teacher quality to deliver better educational outcomes.

Almost all respected research has concluded teacher quality is the most important factor in lifting achievement levels for students. It dwards ither factors such as socio-economic background, location, class size, principal, school size etc.

Four things the Initiative found that were important in the countries studied were:

Recruiting the best teachers: Finland, Germany and Singapore place strict quality controls on who gets admitted to teaching, ensuring that only the most dedicated, motivated, and academically talented people who have rapport with children become teachers.

Teaching how to teach: The best systems encourage, or require, would-be teachers to have a master’s degree before entering the classroom. Even with the strong focus on the theoretical foundations of teaching, there is now more emphasis worldwide on practical training in learning on the job. 

Career progression: Many other countries recognise remuneration is important for retaining talent. Singapore offers teachers the ability to progress up a career path for teachers to retain the best teachers in the classroom.  England has disbanded step-lock pay increases, and Finnish teachers with exceptional skills are offered bonuses.

Develop teacher capacity: Career structures that encourage teachers to lead other teachers are increasingly being adopted internationally. This lateral capacity building is seen in Singapore, and in the way England’s schools are ‘chaining’ together. Ontario’s leading schools also pair up with other schools that serve a similar profile of students to help them raise student achievement. 

So in essence they are saying make teacher training more practical, have much higher entry standards for teacher training, pay good teachers more just for being good teachers and develop better teacher capacity.

These would cost money to do, but would be a worthwhile investment.

The report says at one point:

In England, school principals are being given a lot more autonomy to pay their staff as they wish within minimum and maximum salary bands. The potential benefits include placing a premium on subject-teachers high in demand. 

Excellent teachers stay in the system. But it also relies on having highly effective school leadership so that remuneration is fair.  Singapore aligns remuneration with career progression, and Finnish principals pay bonuses to high performing teachers. 

I think this is essential.

Also of note:

Governments that work with teacher unions have seen more success, particularly when strong accountability mechanisms and regulation is already in place. While in England, unions are striking against reforms, Germany’s teacher unions recognised after their poor results in PISA that they needed to get out in front of educational reforms. Ontario has managed peaceful relations with teacher unions over the last 10 years, and started with the assumption that teachers want to do the right thing. 

I think this report is an opportunity for both the Government and the teacher unions.

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18 Responses to “NZ Initiative on improving teacher quality”

  1. deadrightkev (182 comments) says:

    In my opinion there is no such thing as peaceful relations with a NZ teachers union. They and state bureaucrats are the difference between greater numbers of NZ children succeeding or failing as productive adults.

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  2. thor42 (780 comments) says:

    A very good report. I can’t see teacher unions viewing it positively though.
    I agree with deadrightkev. Teacher unions are part of the *problem*, not part of the solution. The sooner that they can be done away with, the better.

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  3. Ross12 (931 comments) says:

    ” there is now more emphasis worldwide on practical training in learning on the job.”

    This is very important. My wife is a very experienced teacher who for some years has been in the position of being involved in recruitment for her school. She says these 6-12mth post grad training courses are hopeless and the school ends up doing all the training, from scratch. So now if there is a choice of picking someone with an Ed degree with plenty of practical work involved (ie. placement work ) vs the one with a post grad. “speed” training course there is no contest.

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  4. Cunningham (746 comments) says:

    “I think this report is an opportunity for both the Government and the teacher unions.”

    I would love for the Unions to take a good hard look at themselves (the government also needs to rethink) but I think there is 0% chance of this happening. Why are the Unions in this country seemingly so unwilling to try anything different when in other countries they do? I can’t understand it. In any industry if you stay static you get overtaken. Why can’t they see this?

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  5. MH (558 comments) says:

    Does the report tackle the reasons for the lack of and solutions to getting more males into the vocation? If not rip it up. The curriculum could be the best in the world but if the teachers who deliver it are all women – and there are schools with ZERO men in them in NZ then it’s a waste of time. Boys need good male role models esp those from solo homes. Why don’t people and the teachers’ Unions realise this fundamental flaw?

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  6. jawnbc (40 comments) says:

    Given that Finland’s performance is tanking. Given that the UK’s not been a strong performer ever. And given that Germany serves its minority students about as badly as NZ does…that leaves Singapore and “Canada”.

    Singapore is a microstate, which is quasi-democratic. Canada is loosely confederated and the various provinicial school systems perform very well (BC and AB) to very poorly (NS and PEI). In some parts of Canada there are public secular AND religious (Catholic) school systems; in Québec all children must be schooled in French unless one of their parents was schooled in English.

    BTW in BC teacher training is an 11 month post-baccalaureate programme, which leads either to a certificate or a Bachelor of Education. But regardless of what subject matter and age-specific training you receive, you are licenced to “teach” in BC—from primary to secondary, in any subject that someone’s willing to hire you to teach.

    There’s no simple, clear equation for how to create great schools. But in NZ a good place to start would be to pay teachers a living wage—including wage differentials based on local cost of living. We pay peanuts in Auckland…come get yer monkies.

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  7. Johnboy (13,439 comments) says:

    “But in NZ a good place to start would be to pay teachers a living wage—in….”

    $18.40 an hour seems more than generous for the retarded commie sods! :)

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  8. itstricky (1,148 comments) says:

    Whilst I applaud anyone researching and publishing ideas to benefit the education system, I yawn at the flavour of the suggestions. I mean what else would you expect from such an organisation? They may as well say “we’re JK’s backside kissers and we’ll say whatever he says is good”. Where’s the independence?

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  9. Tom Jackson (2,263 comments) says:

    There are a few problems with this:

    (1) New Zealand Masters’ degrees are now a joke. Sure, if you do a Masters in one of the traditional academic subjects, it’s probably OK. However, there are all sorts of Mickey Mouse Masters programs out there (most of which tend to the vocational) which will give you a Masters degree even if you are a salivating moron. IMHO a Masters today is not quite worth what a BA was 50 years ago.

    (2) Even if we only had good Masters graduates, it would cost a lot of money in New Zealand to employ them.

    (3) The New Zealand secondary curriculum is mind-rotting shite.

    (4) Contemporary education is tailored towards allowing hardworking but bovine students to think they are academically gifted.

    (5) New Zealanders don’t value education (they value vocational training, which is something quite different).

    (6) New Zealand parents who want to get involved in the education system are usually nothing more than tiresome meddlers.

    (7) The problems we have aren’t with the education system. Education is being asked to shoulder the burden of society’s sins, and it cannot do so no matter how much we tinker with it.

    School sucks.

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  10. Tom Jackson (2,263 comments) says:

    I would have a couple of suggestions.

    (1) Lower the school leaving age back down to 15. Take the money you save and fund apprenticeships for the students who leave – school does them no good, and it doesn’t make them better workers – send them out where people actually have to work for a living.

    (2) Divert more tertiary students to the polytechnics they belong in, and let the universities get back to being proper universities (close a couple if needed or convert them to polys). Remove all commerce, business and “communications” degrees to the polytechnics where they belong. They aren’t academic subjects and have no place in a university.

    (3) 7th Form should only be for those going to university. Everyone else should be encouraged to go to Poly or to find a job.

    (4) Make Maori language a compulsory subject for all students.

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  11. kiwi in america (2,336 comments) says:

    I like the approach of the NZ Initiative – they looked at successful techniques in a variety of locations rather than some magic bullet. Even the successful countries (as far as the PISA rankings go) have obvious flaws in the their education system or cultural factors (such as the huge work ethic of the Asian countries where children are culturally attuned to long hours in the classroom and other study).

    The unions are all politics all the time. When there is a major political block (Labour/Greens) that will do their bidding in the education sector that has been in government and can again be in government, there is little motivation to get behind large attitudinal, procedural or structural shifts in education. The PPTA and the NZEI figure they can just wait out a centre right government or use their clout and influence in the media and amongst parents to whine and strike to resist a National led government’s reforms. Unions resisted Tomorrows Schools, NCEA, National Standards, they got bulk funding reversed so they are going to do the same if the government decides to move forward with any of these good ideas. They and Labour/Greens will dismiss this work as the musings of a right wing think tank. Cunliffe promised the unions everything they wanted and if elected, implementing recommendations on education from the NZ Initiative will never happen.

    Fortunately parents care enough to see the best NZ can do for their kids and the militancy of the unions is not popular. Sadly I’m not sure if Hekia Parata has the chops to shepherd through any reforms like this. It would take a big hitter like Ryall or Joyce to take education by the scruff of the neck and face down the unions with equal parts aggression and humour. Parata is too smarmy and difficult to work for and has too much baggage (intermediate school PR fiasco, Novapay and the botched consultation for the Christchurch schools mergers).

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  12. big bruv (12,388 comments) says:

    “(4) Make Maori language a compulsory subject for all students.”

    Why on earth would you do that?

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  13. big bruv (12,388 comments) says:

    “NZ Initiative on improving teacher quality”

    If you really want to improve teaching in NZ then the first thing you must do is smash the teachers unions.

    Only once you have done that can you even hope to put kids first.

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  14. Nigel Kearney (747 comments) says:

    The results are not surprising but I think it is misguided, in general, to just look at the countries with the best outcomes and copy what they do. There can be different reasons that teachers succeed. Someone with no degree and just a teaching diploma may do a great job teaching 5 and 6 year olds to read and write. You don’t need a masters degree to do that.

    I agree with Tom Jackson it will be the people with a masters in drama or sociology or media studies that end up becoming teachers if we make that a requirement. Tom suggestion’s are good ones apart from that last which I can only assume is mild trolling.

    Instead of focusing on qualifications and training, it’s more important to have accurate ways to assess which teachers are actually performing best. Without that, any claims about what works and what doesn’t are just hot air.

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  15. Yoza (1,361 comments) says:

    I would like to see symbolic logic introduced much earlier, say at year 9. Making Maori language compulsory would be an excellent idea, every New Zealand should have a solid understanding of New Zealand’s founding culture and studying the language would be a great first step.

    Strengthen teacher participation in forming education policy.

    Bring in free lunches and breakfasts for all schools.

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  16. itstricky (1,148 comments) says:

    “(4) Make Maori language a compulsory subject for all students.”

    Why on earth would you do that?

    bug bruv, you just proved Tom Jackson’s point (5) :

    (5) New Zealanders don’t value education (they value vocational training, which is something quite different).

    With such cutting precision, I’d tend to agree with his other points, particularly (6) & (7)

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  17. bc (1,252 comments) says:

    DPF: “These would cost money to do, but would be a worthwhile investment.”

    And that is why this report will just collect dust. There is no way the government will invest more in teachers. Hekia can barely hide her contempt for teachers in her voice and Bill won’t be loosening the purse strings anytime soon.

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  18. doggone7 (494 comments) says:

    “Ontario has managed peaceful relations with teacher unions over the last 10 years, and started with the assumption that teachers want to do the right thing.”

    The noisiest blog commentators in NZ start with the assumption that teachers don’t want to do the right thing. They start with the assumption that the right thing teachers should do is what they are told to do.

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