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Students Take Gamble on Recognition of Early Childhood Qualification

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October 14, 2016.

All students are able to have confidence in their initial teacher education provider and know that when they graduate their early childhood teaching qualification will be accepted by the Education Council as good enough for registration for a practising certificate.

Right?

Unfortunately the answer is “No”.

The NZ Tertiary College (NZTC) does not guarantee its New Zealand-delivered teaching qualifications are of sufficient standard to be accepted by the Education Council of NZ.

It seems that New Zealand (domestic) students who choose to study with the NZTC are left to take a gamble on whether or not the thousands of dollars they spend on course fees and time put into study will pay off in the end.

When offering students a place NZTC asks students to sign a letter of acceptance that includes a disclaimer. The disclaimer, in small print, at the end of a standard letter of offer of a place on its Bachelor of Teaching (Early childhood Education) programme given to students during 2015 was as follows:

The decision by NZ Teachers Council [now called the Education Council] to grant provisional or full teacher registration to a student who graduates with an NZTC Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) or Graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood education) qualification is independent of the decision of NZTC to graduate students with the qualification. Whilst we design our educational courses to be a sufficient basis for NZ Teachers Council to grant registration we cannot give any reassurances to our students that NZ Teachers Council requirements will not change and cannot therefore guarantee that every graduation and course completion will in every case result in provisional or full registration for the student.

When more recently asked for an assurance that on graduating with an NZTC teaching qualification the New Zealand student’s qualification would be accepted by the Education Council for the purpose of applying for a practising certificate, NZTC’s reply was:

Whilst we design our educational courses to be a sufficient basis for Education Council to grant registration and to issue a practising certificate, we cannot give any reassurances to our students that the Education Council requirements will not change and cannot therefore guarantee that every graduation and course completion will, in every case, result in registration for the student or that a provisional or full practising certificate will be issued. This is true for all providers of initial teacher education programs, not just NZTC.

Well, that does not quite appear to be the case for all providers of initial teacher education programmes.

When the Education Council was asked about this, it said it did not know about NZTC’s disclaimer and had not heard about this happening elsewhere.

Team leader of student services at Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand Ann Trappitt says it stands by its Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) degree. “We comply with the Education Council requirements for Initial Teacher Education requirements and students are not awarded the degree unless they meet the graduating teacher standards required by the Education Council.”

Canterbury University student experience manager Dr Barry Brooker says it has “three early childhood qualification pathways, approved by the New Zealand Education Council and graduates of these qualifications are eligible for provisional registration as a teacher (presuming other Education Council requirements, such as police checks, are met)”. The University ensures that students for whom English is an additional language (EAL) meet the New Zealand Education Council’s IELTS requirements prior to entry into the programme.

University of Victoria Wellington associate dean of teacher education Dr Robin Averill says: “Our initial teacher education qualifications, including the Bachelor of Education (Teaching) Early Childhood and the Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Early Childhood), have all been approved by the Education Council. Graduates who have met all entry and completion requirements of these qualifications are eligible for provisional registration on completion. Our entry requirements for these qualifications include that students must meet the Education Council’s English language requirements before entry into the programme of study.”

Similar responses were received from Eastern Institute of Technology, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and Auckland University of Technology.

Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic expressed surprise that it was asked for an assurance: “I am surprised you do not know that a rigorous accreditation process occurs involving NZQA and the Education Council before ITE courses are accredited to ensure that graduates will meet the academic requirements for registration and that processes are in place to ensure second language speakers meet IELTS requirements on entry to the programme. Our programme is also monitored on a yearly basis. This means that our qualifications comply with all NZQA and Education Council requirements for IELTS on entry to the qualification and that graduates are eligible to apply for provisional registration on successful graduation.”

Waikato University associate dean of teacher education Beverley Cooper said: “We have never had any issues with the Education Council not approving registration or the awarding of a provisional practising certificate.”

The NZTC has had problems in the past and this could explain its disclaimer. In 2013 NZTC complained to the Ombudsman after learning that some of its graduates had not been given registration. The Education Council had expressed concern about the language standards and asked students to undergo further English tests before approving their registration. The Council said concerns had been raised about English language standards at the NZTC for some time. The Ombudsman supported the Council’s decision not to register a group of newly qualified teachers from NZTC and ruled against the College. (click to read more). It is not known what happened after that, if for example, NZTC refunded student money or covered the additional costs and losses faced by students.

As a Private Training Education provider the NZTC is required legally to protect student fees in the event of insolvency, cancellation of registration by NZ Qualifications Authority or loss of accreditation. But there does not seem to be protection for student fees and other costs paid should the Education Council at any time determine that NZTC has graduated students with teaching qualifications that are lacking in some way.

Students who seek to have trust in the teaching qualification they are studying are recommended to look to initial teacher education programme providers that can give an assurance that Education Council standards are applied correctly and graduates are guaranteed they will have the required language competency and academic requirements to apply for registration and a practising certificate.

Footnotes

At the time of this article going to publication, a reply had not been received from some providers or ChildForum was told its request for information had been passed either to customer services or would be responded to in due course.

NZTC now also offers a degree in ECE which is not a teaching qualification that gives students entry into a one year postgraduate ECE teaching qualification – effectively making a four-year teaching qualification with the commercial advantage of students graduating with the Bachelor of Education ECE having completed a Level 7 degree in English. This means the students do not have to meet the usual high standard of IELTS required for entry into a teaching qualification.

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