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Cullen: Jessie Hetherington Ed Research Centre

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Minister of Finance, Minister for Tertiary Education, Leader of the House

15 November 2006 Speech Notes
Embargoed until: 5pm
The Jessie Hetherington Education Research Centre

Speech notes for the launch of the Jessie Hetherington Education Research Centre, Victoria University’s College of Education, Karori, Wellington.

I’m delighted to be here today with people who play a crucial role in educating the students of today so they can be equipped to face the challenges of tomorrow.

The government wants New Zealand to become a much smarter kind of country, a high-income, knowledge-based country where all people can have the standard of living, the social services and the environmental protection that they aspire to.

The key to this vision is education. We need to understand what we are teaching, why we are teaching and how we are teaching. Educational research is the way we lift achievement, recognise the potential in all students and know what makes a real difference in teaching and learning.

As you will be aware, on 1 January 2005 Wellington College of Education merged with Victoria University. It is clear from those around me today that this merger has gone well and that teacher education in the Wellington region is in good hands.

Both the Wellington College of Education and Victoria University have an enviable history of quality educational research that has contributed to New Zealand’s evidence base. Recent educational projects span a diverse range from investigating NCEA motivation, the numeracy project, in-service development for teachers and tertiary study abroad schemes.

The Jessie Hetherington Centre is an acknowledgement of the fine work conducted by researchers and it is also an expression of Victoria University's ongoing commitment to growing our educational research capacity.

It is fitting that the Centre is so named, as Jessie Isabel Hetherington was a distinguished pioneer of New Zealand’s education system. Born in Thames, New Zealand in 1882, Jessie graduated from Auckland University College where she gained a BA and began studying law.

Education was not simple in those times. Although Jessie completed her law degree at Cambridge University, in those days women were not granted the degrees they had earned. Jessie received an MA from the University of Dublin on the strength of the work she conducted at Cambridge.

Upon returning to New Zealand in 1914, Jessie Hetherington was appointed tutor and librarian at Wellington Teachers’ Training College. Soon after, she began lecturing at Victoria University where she was the first woman to teach the history of education in a New Zealand university.

In 1923 Jessie Hetherington applied for the vice-principalship of Wellington Teachers’ Training College. Though she was well qualified for the post it was made clear that applications from women would not be considered. Jessie Hetherington promptly resigned from the college staff in protest.

This however was not the end of Jessie Hetherington’s long and distinguished career. Three years later she became the first woman to be appointed as a full inspector of secondary schools. This was a job that she threw herself into. For around two thirds of the school year, Jessie traveled widely visiting every girls’ school and half the co-educational schools in the country. Think how challenging and time consuming that would have been in the 1930s without the convenience of air travel that we rely on these days.

Jessie Hetherington retired to Auckland in 1942 although perhaps retire is not quite the right word because, at the age of sixty, Jessie continued to lecture at the Workers Educational Association, was active in the New Zealand Federation of University Women, and sat on the National Council of Adult Education.

After a lifetime of devotion to education, Jessie Hetherington died on 28 February 1971, in her 90th year.

So I am sure you will all agree from my description of her life’s achievements that this Education Research Centre is named after a pioneer in education, who pushed the boundaries of equity and excellence through her work and commitment to ideals.

Today’s launch is an opportunity to celebrate the life of an important contributor to New Zealand’s educational history, and to encourage the researchers and staff who are present today to aspire to continue shaping our educational future through the Jessie Hetherington Education Research Centre.

Thank you.


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