Austrian trainee teacher-educator Lena Schwamberger is hugely impressed by the education offered at kindergartens she recently visited in Hawke’s Bay.
Midway through a Bachelor of Education at Salzberg University, the 20-year-old chose Hawke’s Bay for a placement, gaining work experience at Frimley Park Kindergarten.
It may seem a long way from her home in Upper Austria, but coming to New Zealand was also an opportunity for Lena to spend time with lifelong family friends in Hastings.
To broaden her understanding of early childhood centre (ECE) teaching in this country, she visited a further seven kindergartens in Hawke’s Bay and also spent a day attending classes with Bachelor of Teaching (Early Childhood Education) students at EIT.
Lena says her degree is about the education of people and isn’t aimed at preparing students for teaching in kindergartens or schools.
However, it can lead to teaching teachers who work with disabled children in kindergartens and schools, and it can take graduates into the home environment where they might teach parents how to educate children about cleaning their rooms or going shopping.
Lena’s goal is to progress to a master’s degree in kindergarten teaching.
Students in the classes she joined at EIT were very interested to learn about the differences between kindergartens in Austria and ECE in New Zealand and also that in Austria a master’s degree is needed to become an ECE teacher.
New Zealand provides different bachelor degree pathways, including the EIT field-based degree and the pre-service university model, to qualify as an ECE teacher.
The Ministry of Education recently announced a tender for the ITP sector to provide a post graduate qualification. The aim is for 180 post graduate teachers to enter the workforce.
Kindergartens in Austria, Lena says, adopt a more protective approach towards teaching children from the age of three up to six, which is when they start school. Those in New Zealand, she says, encourage youngsters to learn through more adventurous play.
“You have to trust children,” she now believes. “Here I saw them use a hammer and nothing bad happened. They used a glue gun and no-one got hurt. Every child made a muffin – we never have baking.”
Impressed by these observations, Lena hopes to effect changes when she returns home after her nine-week stay.
“The kindergartens here are amazing, absolutely perfect.”
Her first visit to New Zealand was as a three-year-old but, remembering nothing of that two-month trip, it was always her dream to return.
“My father is a weightlifter and in Holland he met a Kiwi competitor, resulting in a lifelong friendship between our two families.”
For Lena, the trip has been her first stint of travelling solo. Already she is planning to come back to New Zealand but next time it will be for longer and she will be accompanied by her parents and boyfriend.
“I love it,” she says of this country.