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Street: Ako Aotearoa Academy for Tertiary Teaching

Hon Maryan Street
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

16 October 2008 Speech

Speech to Ako Aotearoa Academy for Tertiary Teaching Excellence

Speech by Associate Tertiary Education Minister Maryan Street to the inaugural symposium of the Ako Aotearoa Academy for Tertiary Teaching Excellence in Wellington

Good morning.

Dr Peter Coolbear, international and distinguished guests, members of the academy, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to welcome our Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award recipients to the inaugural symposium of the Ako Aotearoa Academy for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Ever since the Performance Based Research Fund got underway, there have been calls for an equivalent emphasis on teaching. That emphasis is being provided through the work of Ako Aotearoa – the National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.

Looking around the room at so many of our excellent teachers, I know the focus on quality tertiary teaching is gaining momentum.

This is indeed, an elite group of people. I am delighted that so many great teachers from across the country have made themselves available for today’s event. It is a privilege to be part of such a positive initiative.

Each year the government recognises our top tertiary teachers through the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards. Quality teaching is an essential part of the government’s vision for quality tertiary education.

Recognising excellence through the annual awards has an important role in promoting quality teaching. But that is just part of the story.

Often in our society we have the tendency to elevate people we admire to “hero” or “celebrity” status. There are many examples of this happening with our sports stars and pop icons.

By elevating them, they become out of reach to the average person. Sure we can enjoy their talent from afar but we are unable to share in the secrets of their success and learn from them.

There is a danger this could also happen with our excellent teachers, if it were not for the intentions of this academy – to foster, promote and advocate excellent tertiary teaching in all parts of the sector.

What the Academy provides is a structure so that, with the help of Ako Aotearoa, our excellent teachers can begin to reinvest their expertise in others.

Without structure, it is difficult to invest in anything that supports people to reach the best of their potential. That is why government made fundamental changes to the tertiary education system.

The new way the government invests in tertiary education is designed to ensure the education and training needs of various stakeholders are better met. That is, students, employers, iwi and communities – the people and organisations that tertiary education is supposed to serve.

These changes mean that students can be confident that they are part of a system that is more responsive to the labour market, aware of shifts in the economy and sensitive to society’s needs.

But all the changes and wise investment in the world won’t make a lot of difference unless it is backed up by quality teaching. Excellent teaching gives greater learning opportunities to students, and equips them with deeper and broader life-long skills. These skills will improve students’ social and cultural engagement in society and, at the applied level, will foster greater innovation and productivity across our workforce.

So excellent teaching, resulting in excellent learning, provides a fundamental stimulus for the country’s economic transformation. It leads to a smart and productive country, and raises the quality of jobs and living standards for all New Zealanders.

That is why the government has invested a total of $20 million through to 2011 to run Ako Aotearoa.

The Centre has been charged with looking for ways that our top teachers can maximise their contribution to the best advantage of the whole sector. I congratulate the Centre for being proactive and setting up this academy. Well done.

There are many initiatives underway that will expand our knowledge of excellent teaching. In addition to the academy, the Centre also supports 25 projects that span the whole tertiary sector. I’d like to share some examples with you.

• Manukau Institute of Technology is trialling the use of “Teaching Champions” as mentors who will help new teachers to develop the skills to self-reflect on their practice. The idea being that they will enhance their long-term development as teachers.

• The Aviation Tourism and Travel Training Organisation are working with a group of Industry Training Organisations to produce resources and develop advanced training with a Māori focus.

• Victoria University of Wellington and the Eastern Institute of Technology are exploring the success and impact of early career academics in our tertiary institutions.

Research clearly shows that the quality of teaching is the most significant factor in successful learning. Beyond that, these projects will add to the existing evidence base on best practice. Through Ako Aotearoa, this information will be shared with the rest of our tertiary education sector.

Today’s focus is educational leadership. It is hoped that the achievements and successes our excellent teachers have had with their own students becomes a practical means of inspiration for others out in the sector.

Teachers achieve excellence by making a particular subject area or body of knowledge accessible to their students. This academy will achieve excellence by making expertise in the art of teaching accessible to other teachers.

To aid you in developing a work plan, Ako Aotearoa have put together a great line up of speakers – experts from both New Zealand and overseas.

I wish you all the best for this symposium. I look forward to seeing the Academy foster, promote and advocate for the development of excellent tertiary teachers.

Have a wonderful day. Thank you.


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