Victoria Uni criticises ministry over teaching

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 07:42 16/10/2012

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Victoria University has accused the Education Ministry of undermining its teaching qualification by suggesting graduates go overseas for work and recommending ways to reduce student numbers to cut Government costs.

The Dominion Post yesterday revealed primary teaching students at the Wellington institution were told by a ministry-contracted speaker that only one in five would get a job in New Zealand and they should head overseas.

It follows last week's release of reports obtained by Labour showing in June the ministry gave Education Minister Hekia Parata options to scale back her policy of requiring all teachers to have a minimum postgraduate qualification.

The report was written the same day the minister announced a U-turn on the Government's plan to increase class sizes, which left the education budget with a $114 million funding gap.

The ministry's suggestions included capping the number of postgraduate places, publishing graduate outcomes to discourage students, and offering the qualification at only one or two institutions.

Victoria University Education Pro Vice-Chancellor Dugald Scott said the ministry was discouraging postgraduate students and undermining the teaching diploma. "The impression you get is that they are anti postgraduates."

The ministry appeared "fixated" on concerns too many teachers were being trained, he said. The number of teaching vacancies a year varied between 15 and 2 per cent of the teaching workforce, or between 7500 and 1000 positions.

There were about 2800 teaching graduates a year.

The economic downturn meant people were staying in their jobs and only about 1000 jobs existed, Prof Scott said. "But if it jumped back to 15 per cent, 2800 wouldn't begin to fill the 7500 [vacancies].

"History shows it is very dangerous to be too hard and fast about the exact number you will need next year or the year after that." An outcry occurred when the ministry had to bring in many overseas teachers 10 years ago.

The irony was it cost more to train postgraduates so the Government's policy would reduce student numbers without costing more, and achieve its goal of increasing teacher quality, he said.

The ministry denied it was undermining postgraduates or the teaching diploma.

Education workforce group manager Rebecca Elvy said it had been talking to the teaching profession for several months to "help manage the expectations" of prospective teachers. Although a 10-year low existed in teaching vacancies, there were still shortages in specific areas, relief and part- time teaching.

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