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Student teacher representatives question mixed messages

NZUSA Media Release – Friday 13 July – For immediate release

Student teacher representatives question mixed messages about education

Student teacher representatives from around New Zealand are meeting in Wellington today to discuss future directions for teacher education, the impacts on pathways into teaching and potential points of conflict with government policy.

A common point of concern to emerge at the Student Teacher Summit – the first of its kind – is the vulnerability of student teachers and the children they teach to policies that “chop and change” from one government to the next.

This morning students heard from the NZ Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA), NZ Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI) and Post Primary Teachers' Association Te Wehengarua (PPTA) about the risks of policies that don’t draw on and include the knowledge of the people closest to teaching, and this afternoon they will group together to evaluate what issues need to be confronted the most.

One of the risks expressed by student teachers this morning is that a huge gap could result between a push to elevate the level of qualification required to teach in New Zealand’s classrooms higher and higher (to Masters degree or level 9), while at the same time National Standards could work in the opposition direction - ‘dumbing down’ teaching towards a narrower and narrower focus on minimal standards for literacy and numeracy.

NZUSA President Pete Hodkinson highlighted the fact that student teachers were one of the student groups “most dramatically affected” by changes to loans and allowances in the 2012 Budget. “Diversity in teaching is at risk because of the way the system is constructed, debt loads for new teachers and spiraling repayments. In addition the decision to strip eligibility for allowances from all postgraduate students presents both another barrier and another mixed message”.

The PPTA’s Deputy General Secretary Policy, Bronwyn Cross, thanked NZUSA for facilitating the Student Teacher Summit. She said the direction teaching was being pointed in was on the cusp of heading down the wrong road and following the wrong drivers, such as moving away from strong local schools and community building and instead moving towards “giving up on notions of equity”.

Bronwyn Cross encouraged student teachers to have courage in the face of the mixed messages they are receiving about the future of teaching, and expressed the hope that today’s Student Teacher Summit would be the first of many.

The one-day working summit has attracted students from Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Southland for the event, organised by NZUSA. NZUSA will be reporting further on topics raised at the summit.

ENDS

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