The ACT Party wants teachers to pass tougher tests, and demonstrate more professional development to earn or keep their teaching certificates.
The party’s leader, David Seymour, told Q+A that a yearly focus on professional development in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects and English literacy needs to be a condition of any teacher registration renewal.
Currently, the Teaching Council requires teachers to have completed ‘professional development’ to renew their annual practicing certificate, but it doesn’t specify what that development is, aside from a recently added requirement to have continued to develop and practice te reo me ngā tikanga Māori.
“What do parents who send their kids to school, and pay their taxes, want the emphasis to be on? At the moment, are we really saying that we are doing so well at STEM and reading that actually, we don’t need to emphasise that becuase that’s not what the international data says,” Seymour said.
Concerns about New Zealand’s declining test scores internationally were the focus of a Q+A Our Future / Tō tātou anamata special earlier this year.
Seymour says his policy is about raising standards in our schools and ensuring New Zealand children are being taught to the highest standard.
“We should be aspiring to have the top performing education system in the world,” he said.
"The biggest determinant of where our country is going to be in 30 years time is what kids are learning today - and that should include greater emphasis on engineering, on maths, on science, literature. Those are the things that we need to focus, and ensure that teachers have a passion for and an emphasis on, so they can transmit that to the kids.”
Under the party’s proposal, new teachers entering the system would be required to have NCEA Level 2 in mathematics, while existing teachers would need to demonstrate that level of understanding, or work to acquire skills to that level.
He argued the approach wasn’t a blunt tool or too prescriptive, calling it a “pretty open-ended thing”.
“Look, we recognise there’s a range of people in the profession with a whole different range of skills. We’re not going to fire everyone if they don’t pass NCEA Level 2 tomorrow, but the professional development in mathematics would be aiming towards having a teaching workforce where everybody’s got Form 6 or Level 2, Year 12 NCEA mathematics. I think that’s absolutely the minimum we would require.”
Seymour also argued that teachers weren’t being valued sufficiently.
“If you look at teacher salaries versus the average wage over the past 40 years or so, actually, we just haven’t kept up.”