EDUCANZ - Here's my oral submission to the Education and Science Select Committee


Oral Submission to Education and Science Select Committee 

Education Amendment Bill (No 2)

Areas I would like to highlight are:
lack of teacher representation
lack of a democratic process
expanded functions of the Educational Council of Aotearoa New Zealand
changing the Code of Ethics to Code of Conduct
expansion of the Limited Authority to Teach

Lack of Teacher Representation
The lack of teacher representation (Section 380 and Schedule 22) is a major issue. The complete absence of elected teacher positions marks an absolute departure from democratic process. I believe this undermines teachers as professionals and suggests that teacher voice is not valued in decision making related to EDUCANZ.

Look if you will to the Medical Council of New Zealand:

Medical Council of New Zealand
We are governed by a 12-member council appointed by the Minister of Health.
The Council comprises:
four doctors elected by the profession
four doctors appointed by the Minister of Health
four laypersons. Note: a layperson is someone who is not registered (or qualified to be registered), as a health practitioner.

By law, the majority of Council members must be doctors.
Source: https://www.mcnz.org.nz/about-us/

Nursing Council of New Zealand
The Nursing Council itself is an organisation established under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act. The board of the Council is made up of nine (three of which are elected) members six of these are nurses and three are laypeople. The work of the Council is supported by the Chief Executive/Registrar and staff.
Source: http://www.nursingcouncil.org.nz/General-Public

Veterinary Council of New Zealand
There are seven members. Three of these are elected by veterinarians. Two are lay people appointed by the Minister for Primary Industries. One member is a veterinarian also appointed by the Minister. The seventh member is the Academic Programme Director of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at Massey University.
Source: http://www.vetcouncil.org.nz/about.php

Of these examples I would suggest a similar process to the Medical Council for appointment and spread of representation would be far more equitable, representative and democratic. So often we hear the need for teachers to be treated as or regarded as “professionals”, similar, one would hope, to how doctors are regarded. I would suggest that having a similar approach to Council formation, would be an excellent start.

Remember, teachers are in fact the people who fund the Council, surely, it would only seem fair that the Council made possible by teacher registration funds was at least in part elected by the teaching community.

Expanded functions of the Council
Another area of concern (at least without further information) is the expanded functions of the Council. It would seem that Council is going to have an increased leadership role over the profession. It would also seem that the Council will be disseminating best practice and fostering development of the profession. Whilst best practice and professional development is integral to raising teacher performance, it is also incredibly important that this leadership comes from within the profession and not from an external body. If the Council was definitely made up of at least eight highly regarded current practitioners this would not be of concern. However, at present, the make-up of the Council looks like it will not be representative of the teaching community at all. We are professionals, we have a vast pool of expertise within our community. Teachers must be represented, they must be recognised and they must be the people who lead their peers.

If, as you state in Section 382, the functions of the Education Council are as follows:

  • to provide leadership to teachers and direction for the education profession:
  • to enhance the status of teachers and education leaders:
  • to identify and disseminate best practice in teaching and leadership and foster the education profession’s continued development in light of research, and evidence of changes in society and technology,

then you will need the Educational Council of Aotearoa to have mana, to have gravitas amongst New Zealand educators. This will only be achieved if educators have a sense of ownership of the Council.

Changing code of ethics to code of conduct
Another area of concern is the change of Code of Ethics to a Conduct of Conduct. Ethics is integral to the teaching profession, a shift to focus on conduct, or rather behaviour is simply insulting. It would suggest we as a profession need our behaviour monitored, rather than abiding by a set of ethical guidelines. This to me is preposterous. Again, we are professionals who deserve to be treated in the highest regard. In an age where the rhetoric of the classroom is shifting away from conduct and behaviour and is engaging increasingly in dispositional curricula that looks to develop ethical, world aware young people it seems almost absurd that the Council would like to move backwards in their language and approaches.

We need to ask the question, why the change of language needs to take place. Looking at the definitions of each word, it would seem that ethics is inclusive of the notion of conduct. This seems an unnecessary shift.

Definition of ethics
Moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity: medical ethics also enter into the question
The branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles: neither metaphysics nor ethics is the home of religion
Source: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ethics?q=ethics

Definition of conduct
The manner in which a person behaves, especially in a particular place or situation: they were arrested for disorderly conduct a code of conduct for directors of listed companies
The manner in which an organization or activity is managed or directed: the conduct of the elections
Source: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/conduct?q=conduct

Other models existing:
New Zealand Medical Association maintains a Code of Ethics  - http://www.nzma.org.nz/sites/all/files/Code_of_Ethics.pdf

Limited Authorities to Teach
A final area of concern outlined in this bill (Section 365) is the changes in provisions for Limited Authorities to Teach which will  mean that someone “with specialist skills but not a teaching qualification” can be authorised to teach for three years at a time without the employer having to prove that they have tried unsuccessfully to fill the position with a trained and qualified teacher. Whilst I believe it is becoming increasingly important for schools to partner with the wider community and to access the expertise of a range of specialists, I do not believe that this change is necessary.

The present model does suffice:

At present LATs can be issued for:

Up to Three Year LAT's will be issued for:
qualified to level 6 or above relating to role AND:
part time (up to 0.5) specialist teachers (such as a language specialist)
itinerant teachers
guidance counsellors (with teaching responsibilities)
applicants participating in initial teacher education programmes (only until the qualification is complete).

Up to Two Year LAT's will be issued for:
Māori medium settings
alternative education centres / special character settings / in a school in support of secondary-tertiary partnerships
isolated rural settings (using MOE criteria).

Up to One Year LAT's will be issued for:
day to day relievers
positions for which it is currently difficult to secure a registered teacher.

The amendment bill states:
Section 365 Purpose of limited authority to teach
The purpose of granting a limited authority to teach is to enable employers to have access to skills that are in short supply and to enable those with specialist skills but not a teaching qualification to teach.

All this will do is undermine the very profession that you suggest you are trying to elevate. It infers that registration and even teaching qualifications are not valued, or even required. If the government believes that the present teaching qualifications do not provide the skill set needed in schools, I would suggest you redirect your focus to those delivering the qualifications and not undermine an entire nation of registered teachers.

What is the actual reason for this?
There are three things an educator must be able to do: know the learner, know the New Zealand Curriculum and know what effective pedagogy feel like. That is why we must employ trained and qualified teachers, and look to simply ‘engage’ specialists.

If the issue is that the present skill set of teachers is not meeting the needs of the schools and students, then we need to address this in other ways. We can not simply undermine trained and qualified teachers with what equates to a ‘workaround’.

Summary
In summary, I have a number of real concerns about the aforementioned changes to the Education Amendment Bill. It is absolutely essential that the Council is representative of the teaching community, and that a democratic process is used to establish it. Without this representation, the increased functions of the Council is deeply concerning. The change of the Code of Ethics to a more menial Code of Conduct is also deeply troubling. This compounded with the elevation of “unqualified teacher” suggests an incredible lack of trust and low regard for the registered and qualified teachers of New Zealand. I would like to finish this submission by repeating my earlier refrain - teachers must be represented, they must be recognised and they must be the people who lead their peers.

Put bluntly, if this bill goes through as is, you are condoning the establishment of an educational autocracy. In a country that values democratic process I can only imagine the proposals outlined in the bill are actually an embarrassment.

Thank you.

Notes from oral submission by Claire Amos


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