The Education Minister backs a shift to make would-be teachers complete a degree in their chosen subject as well as a post-graduate qualification in teaching.

Hekia Parata says teaching has one of the lowest barriers to entry of any profession. Labour says it can see merit in the proposed change.

The change is opposed by the secondary school teachers' union, the PPTA, who fear it could worsen teacher supply issues.

In a significant move, the Education Council is moving towards a position that all people wanting to become teachers - in early childhood, primary and secondary - should be required to have a bachelor-level degree, as well as a post-graduate level qualification in teaching.

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That would help raise the status of teaching, the council argues.

Parata, who is stepping down as Education Minister next month ahead of her retirement from politics, said the Government had no official position, but she personally saw benefits in shifting teacher training to the post-graduate level.

"I absolutely think it is the role of the council to put those propositions to the sector because qualifications are a cornerstone of a profession - entry to law requires you to sit the bar, entry to engineering requires you to have particular post-graduate degrees, certainly medicine. Whereas teaching has one of the lowest bars for entry of any profession," Parata told the Herald.

"We are part of a globally competitive world. And if all the economies with whom we compete are making changes of this nature then we have to rigorously interrogate that as well.

"I'm really supportive of how we lift that status of the profession . . . but I'm also very conscious that I am three weeks away from not being the minister, so I don't want to land the Government in a commitment that they haven't made."

Hekia Parata supports lifting the status of teaching. Picture / Mark Mitchell
Hekia Parata supports lifting the status of teaching. Picture / Mark Mitchell

Currently, secondary teachers generally have a degree in the subject they teach and a graduate diploma in teaching, with more primary teachers having degrees in education.

Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, says it warrants further investigation, and could help ensure all teachers have the required literacy and numeracy skills.

"I definitely see merit in having teaching as a post-graduate qualification," Hipkins said.

Dr Graham Stoop, chief executive of the Education Council, told Parliament's education committee last week that the council was forming a view that all teacher training in the future should be at a post-graduate level.

"This goes back to the core purpose of the Education Council - to raise the status of the profession," Stoop said.

"Every teacher in the country would have a bachelor degree in arts or science or commerce, law, whatever it happens to be. That would give us the content knowledge that we want them to have. Then there would be, let's say a level 8 post-graduate teacher education programme on top of that."

Stoop said the post-graduate teacher training course would likely be over three or four semesters. Currently, the graduate diploma in teaching studied by many teachers is at level 7. The proposed changes would increase this to level 8, a post-graduate level.

Any changes would be dependent on feedback and would be phased in over time, with the potential for ECE and Maori Medium sectors to have longer lead-in times.

Moving teacher qualifications to the post-graduate level was proposed in a 2012 report by the Education Workforce Advisory Group, and the Government has since funded pilot courses at universities as part of a broader programme to improve the expertise of graduating teachers.

Peter Reynolds, chief executive of the Early Childhood Council, said he failed to see a valid argument for raising the entry qualification to post-graduate level.

"We remain unconvinced that increasing the minimum qualification level of the profession will have any direct impact on the performance of a teacher on the floor of a childcare centre.

"We are concerned that many of the key supporters of this proposal have an economic interest in seeing more student teachers studying at this higher level."
Reynolds said the council wanted more emphasis on reviewing the quality of existing teacher training.

Now

Secondary teachers generally have a degree in the subject they teach and a graduate diploma in teaching, with more primary teachers having degrees in education.

Proposed

All teachers would need to get a bachelor-level degree and a post-graduate qualification in teaching, which at level 8 would be a higher qualification than many current level 7 graduate diplomas in teaching.