Ensuring that all teachers have masters degrees, and introducing performance pay, could lift the quality of teachers, a new report into the state of the education system says.
The report by business-led think-tank the New Zealand Initiative says that, in some top-performing countries, recruiting the best teachers means having strict controls on who goes to teaching college and ensuring they come out with a masters degree.
Countries such as Singapore, Finland and Germany controlled teacher applicants, and had performed highly in the recently released 2012 Pisa exam results, in which New Zealand slumped to an all-time low.
Report co-author Rose Patterson said Pisa results were a big shock for Germany in 2000. In the past 13 years, it had turned things around to be ahead of New Zealand.
She believed an "aspirational career structure" was needed. "Some kind of measure of performance is necessary - it's not so much about incentive but more about recognition.
"At the moment teachers work hard, go above the call of duty and go up the pay band, as does everyone else regardless of the work they do," Ms Patterson said.
However, being a top academic did not necessarily make for a top teacher, Frimley Primary School principal Malcolm Dixon said.
"We have a regime where there is a lot of teacher-bashing from the ministry. If there was more encouragement of teachers, there would be even more high-quality applicants applying.
"If you survey parents at a school, they're supportive of teachers and what they do, but that's not what you hear about."
He said there was a difference between being told how to teach and applying that in a classroom.
Comparing New Zealand with other countries that completed Pisa exams was "not weighing apples with apples".
" A lot of the countries that do well don't test any of their students that have special needs in the classroom."
Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts said studying overseas systems provided evidence that teachers' professional autonomy was highly valued.
The loss of professional development, non-contact time and the means to learn from other specialist teachers meant New Zealand was lagging behind.
Performance pay was nothing but a distraction. In teaching, there would always be a bell curve and the goal was lifting the bar of all teachers, not rewarding the top.
"You want every teacher to be a great teacher," she said.
Ministry of Education acting deputy secretary for student achievement Ben O'Meara said there were no plans to introduce performance pay.
A lot of work was being done around the systems high-performing Pisa countries were using.
Education Minister Hekia Parata last week announced a review of the $70 million spent on professional learning, and $10.5m was being put into assisting with science and maths in schools.
- The Dominion Post
How soon will you visit the new war memorial park?Related story: War memorial park all but completed