Hawke’s Bay is bucking a national trend for recently graduated primary teachers, with the first cohort of EIT’s practice-based degree all securing jobs.
This week, newspapers nationwide reported that new graduates were struggling to find permanent work.
A New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) survey of 374 teachers who graduated within the past five years found just under 60 percent were in fixed term or relieving positions rather than in full-time permanent jobs.
And two months ago, the Ministry of Education said only 15 percent of new graduates were picking up permanent jobs in schools.
Blaming a lack of government workplace planning, NZEI president Louise Green is calling for an investigation. She blames an over-supply of new graduates on tertiary educators seeking to sustain student numbers and attract funding.
Meanwhile a group of seven university deans of education have called for standards to be raised by focusing on postgraduate qualifications.
However Associate Professor Viv Aitken, programme coordinator for EIT’s Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) says Hawke’s Bay’s innovative degree is a success story and provides one possible model for degree-level teacher education in New Zealand.
Far from struggling to find jobs, the entire first cohort of 19 EIT graduates secured full-time positions in local schools within three months of completing the degree last year. About half of these were permanent positions, a much higher figure than that reported by the Ministry.
Aitken puts that down to the content and delivery of what she describe as a “boutique” degree – the first of its kind to be offered by a New Zealand institute of technology.
Launched three years ago after an approach by the principals of four Hawke‘s Bay schools, it breaks new ground with the level of practice-based learning it offers students.
The candidate teachers, as EIT calls them, spend two days a week at designated schools and another two days in a blend of on-campus and online learning. They also undertake five school-based block practicums – a total of 22 weeks over three years.
“They are actively supported by the schools, where they are assigned mentor teachers,” says Aitken. “The hands-on approach suits many learners and gives them immediate opportunities to put learning into practice.”
The degree launched with six partnering schools, and for the last two years it has also been offered by EIT Tairāwhiti in Gisborne. It now encompasses 22 schools and several others are on the waiting list.
Aitken believes the partnerships provide a vital link between primary teaching graduates and their potential employers.
“The candidate teachers make connections with school staff and gain hands-on experience and a real-life perspective on what is required of them in the classroom. For the schools, it is an opportunity to get to know the capabilities of the students and to help guide them in their learning.
“Schools also tell us they appreciate the professional development for their staff that comes from working in partnership with EIT. As one principal commented this week, it’s a win-win situation.”
Aitken says that, counter to claims being made more generally about the calibre of students being accepted into teaching degree programmes, the EIT degree attracts good quality applicants.
“University entrance is our minimum requirement and candidates go through a numeracy and literacy assessment as part of the half-day group and individual interview process”.
The EIT programme attracts a mix of school leavers and mature students seeking a change in career direction.
“It’s a policy on both campuses to accept only passionate committed people with some existing knowledge and experience of the teaching profession. No ‘plan B’ teachers here,” says Aitken, referring to a New Zealand Herald investigation which found many prospective teachers considered the career as a second string choice.