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Friday, February 15, 2013

Unqualified Teachers & Charter Schools

The first point I want to make is that parents should have the choice as to how they want their children educated. As it currently stands we have state schools, private schools and integrated schools. These schools are subject to government imposed curriculum and employ on the basis of an institutionally recognised qualification. I am indifferent to Charter Schools. I’m neither pro nor against. Although, I can see how others might perceive my stance as pro-Charter.

Charter Schools
What I disapprove of with Charter Schools is the proposition that they should not be subject to oversight by the Ombudsmen. Of course they should be - they are entrusted with the education of children and must be accountable to someone outside their organisation as they are performing a public function. They must also be subject to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to prevent abuses of power while performing a public function.

In my opinion, education belongs to the commons much the same as land, natural resources and the internet and as such society must have ways of holding those in education accountable where rights are breached and powers abused. If there is no external oversight, then we cannot be assured that there are no abuses of power or breaches of civil rights.

What I like about Charter Schools is that they propose models of education that are not mainstream for instance, they can address the different needs and requirements of minority groups in NZ such as Maori, Pacific Island, Special needs, and our growing population of immigrant minorities.  And they offer a way of innovatively engaging such students in learning in a way that is meaningful to those students.

I am aware of the vast array of literature that criticises Charter Schools although I’ll admit that I haven’t actually read any of it. But my point is that the idea of a charter school model provides a different choice to parents, and as a society that is diverse such choices should be made available.

Unqualified Teachers
I’m not against Teachers obtaining a qualification that is recognised by an institution. But I do not believe that to be a Teacher you MUST obtain an institutionally recognised qualification.

I accept that the qualification equips people with the skills to manage a classroom and to teach what is required under the curriculum. I also accept that many teachers develop their own style to make learning more engaging for students and therefore such qualifications do not necessarily produce ‘homogenous robots’ . But my argument is that it is not the qualification itself through which teachers develop their own style. It is through experience that teachers develop their own style and come to understand what works and what doesn’t. This means that even without the qualification a teacher can develop strategies that work best for the students they work with.

Another argument raised is that there is an over-abundance of teachers who have invested time and money in teaching qualifications, but in my view that’s not a justifiable reason to prevent unqualified persons from teaching. It proposes an arbitrary restriction purely because some teachers are going to be out of pocket. In fact, I would argue further that because of the mandatory qualification some experts are arbitrarily restricted from sharing their knowledge simply because they do not possess the qualification, even if they have the skills.

What’s my solution? If it is important to many that teachers have an institutionally recognised qualification then the government can maintain the status quo and require that teachers’ possess the qualification to teach in Mainstream/State schools - the benefit of obtaining a qualification I suppose is that a teacher will be able to work in either State school or any other school. But do not restrict those in private or charter schools from employing people who have no teaching qualification per se but have knowledge that can be imparted to students. Besides, it’s unlikely that a charter school will employ a person that shows no capability of being able to teach if they are held accountable for the outcomes they produce.