Quality teachers is the key

Many people hold up Finland as the idea schooling system. They don’t have standardised testing, charter schools and a whole bunch of other things that allows the vested interests of the NZEI and PPTA to hold up as an example of a proper functioning education system. The one part the unions won’t tell you about though is the drive for excellence amongst teachers:

Finland’s highly developed teacher preparation program is the centerpiece of its school reform strategy. Only eight universities are permitted to prepare teachers, and admission to these elite teacher education programs is highly competitive: only one of every ten applicants is accepted. There are no alternative ways to earn a teaching license. Those who are accepted have already taken required high school courses in physics, chemistry, philosophy, music, and at least two foreign languages. Future teachers have a strong academic education for three years, then enter a two-year master’s degree program. Subject-matter teachers earn their master’s degree from the university’s academic departments, not—in contrast to the US—the department of teacher education, or in special schools for teacher education. Every candidate prepares to teach all kinds of students, including students with disabilities and other special needs. Every teacher must complete an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in education.

Because entry into teaching is difficult and the training is rigorous, teaching is a respected and prestigious profession in Finland. So selective and demanding is the process that virtually every teacher is well prepared.

Imagine of our teacher training were so rigorous. A great many of the problems in our schools would dissipate almost instantly. Here, instead, teachers demand respect they do not deserve nor that they have earned.


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  • Blokeintakapuna

    Yep agree here WO. It seems the majority of our teachers became teachers because of the huge amount of annual holidays and very low entry level into teaching. Sure they love kids too, but better educational outcomes should always be the desired outcome. Mind you, that would cause the teacher unions all manner of grief – as individuals would need to be accountable for their own performance – not hide behind a union solidarity banner bemaoning having to achieve and maintain minimum standards – and improve on those minimum standards!

  • Gee that’s really big news that is – I remember that a million years ago when I thought about becoming a teacher – back then most of my peers said – shit you want to be a teacher? even the pay being offered turned my off. Several of my childrens friends are teachers now and their only gripe is after all their training to become teachers too much is now administration and reporting work when their focus should be on teaching. All of this added non teaching work is done in evenings and weekends – “holiday” time is course prep work for the next term. There will have to be a fundamental change in this country across all sectors to even approach teachers getting any form of respect. Respect for any sector in this country is an ancient myth.

    • Gazzaw

      Neil, I go along 100% with you on the admin & reporting regime. I have a family member who is a primary teacher (a good one & non-NZEI I might add) and the paperwork is mind boggling. There needs to be a total change in mindset from the bureaucracy as I would estimate that currently good primary teachers spend about 25 hours a week in front of their class,15 hours prep & 15-20 hours admin work/meetings.

      Kosh may want to add to that – he after all is at he coalface.

      • Petal

        And most teachers also have an extensive extra-curricular interest around the school, be it music, debating, sports, etc.  Syndicate leadership, self-development, community involvement, child/parent counselling…

        There is no doubt some teachers are phoning it in.  But people need to get over this idea that teaching as a profession is an easy ride when done properly.

      • Euan Rt

        Gazza, I find it really interesting that Kosh got out of school, trolled the expected National slap, Labour defensive stuff he so predictably does; and yet when you ask a serious question of him genuinely inviting him to comment on an area where he supposedly does have some expertise – not a peep?

      • Kosh103

        Euan try thinking before you speak. I dont live online and will comment whenever I so please on whatever I so please.

      • Kosh103

        Depending on what time of the year it is you can be spending most nights working and weekend. And other times of the year you can work only a few nights a week and have your weekends.

        But the hours doing paper work just increases as the year goes on, and increase with every daft Govt idea.

      • Euan Rt

        Dont get me wrong kosh, I did think first. When Gazza made his post I too thought it would be interesting to get your opinion on, for me especially interested in the amount of paperwork each evening. Then when you made your comments around various posts, it seemed you purposely left the one where you can demonstrate real cedibility. I am under no illusion that I can control what you comment on or when. I hope you can accept that it was a genuine pondering.

      • SalaciousTCrumb

        Soo, if we reduce the bloated beuracracy…….the workers might not be so screwed?

      • Gazzaw

        The impression that I get STC is that the Education bureaucrats don’t garner too much respect from teachers right across the spectrum. I am sure that Hekia has more than a few reforms in her sights.

  • AnonWgtn

    It used to be that any child wanting to go to Teacher’s College in New Zealand had to appear before a committee, made up of 5 people, a Maori, a Unionist, a College lecturer, and two so called lay people (invariably women).
    Any child from a private school never got an interview because they were not considere suitable – full stop.

    • Gazzaw

      Doesn’t apply now. Not in Auckland anyway. Family member is ex private school and no worries there. However, the Auckland Uni post grad teaching diploma is pretty heavy with
      Treaty stuff & cultural bullshit. NZEI reps also have the opportunity for some indoctrination. The bright students learn to go along with it.

      • thor42

         Agreed, gazzaw.
        A few years ago, I flatted with a teacher-in-training (she had almost finished her studies). Anyway, I expected her to be a real “treaty-lover” (you know, Treaty this, Treaty that…). Very surprised when she completely blew that notion out of the water – she said that she just “went with the flow” and ignored the Treaty bullshit that they shovel at training teachers. Good on her. She would be a far better teacher than any Treaty-lover.  

      • Gazzaw

        I’m surprised that they have got away with it for so long with teaching being such a feminine dominated profession & yet women teachers have to play lip service to a culture that clearly regards women as second class citizens. 

  • A loooong time ago (pre WW1) my father’s aunt went to Russia to be a Governess. She mentions in an audio we have of her life story that schools in Russia at the time had some of the highest standards. Three languages were taught, Russian, German and French. Now what they did was on Day 1, all lessons were conducted in Russian. On Day 2 all lessons were conducted in German. On Day 3 all lessons in French. On Day 4 all lessons back in Russian again, etc.

    This means that your math’s teacher, for example, had to be fluent enough in three languages to be able to successfully teach the kids. And that in order to learn your maths as a kid, you had to be fluent pretty quickly in three languages.

    Can you imagine if they even thought of trying something like that today in NZ?

    • ConwayCaptain


      Before WW1 the language of the upper classes in Russia and Eastern Europe was French.  I had a French teacher at school in the UK who was an emigre Pole and her first language was French.  Also there was a very great German influence in Poland and Russia so many people also spoke German and of course Russian to be able to converse with the lower classes so it was not unimagineable for people to speak 3 languages.

      The diplomatic language untill WW 1 was French as well.

      In NE France which borders on Belgium (French and Flemish) Germany (German) and also close to the Netherlands (Dutch which is related to German) it is common to have people speaking 3 languages plus of course they learn English in school.

      People in Europe who live close to borders regularly speak two languages and maybe English.

      •  I’m ex South African, we had to pass two languages in high school in order to get our Senior Certificate. So most people can speak atleast English and 1 other language (Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa or one of the other remaining 7 official languages), many speak 3 or 4 languages.

        But we never had a day with our all our lessons conducted in another language. Let alone it cycling through three the whole time. And no offense to my teachers who were generally pretty good, but I don’t think any of them could have done it (of course with training they could have, but I think you get my meaning).

  • Arthur

    Imagine, treating teachers with respect, giving them conditions conducive to create an educated population, not just factory fodder

    • Gazzaw

      GOOD teachers can still earn respect from pupils, parents & community Arthur. 

      I get the impression though that there are far too many older teachers who were recruited in times of high teacher demand and blatantly should not be there. They are too old or incompetent to get jobs outside the profession, can’t be made redundant and are just working out their time. They are doing irreparable harm to our kids’ education.     

  • jay cee

    yes, good teachers are a treasure. however it is also not helpful when staff room politcs continually undermine their efforts by jealous/envious colleagues as a close relative of mine found out. not saying the relative was the “treasure” only what was observed. this is what happens when you pit one teacher against another for grading purposes.

    • Kthxbai

      Every other workplace in the country ‘pits people against each other for grading purposes’ and people continue to behave in an adult fashion.

      And I agree, good teachers are a treasure and most are just fine.  It’s the rest who need exposure and performance enhancement.  Like my daughter’s 2nd year intermediate teacher who had a TV in the classroom and watched sport 2 or 3 afternoons a week while the kids got on with whatever he’d set them. 

  • Kosh103

    Nice that the Minster is all for quality teachers.

    So I take in National is going to dump the rather stupid and insulting 6 weeks and into a class teaching prog. then.

    • Greg M

      I fucking hope so, on this one I do agree with you kosh.

  • Jcooper1982

     I’m not a teacher, but my partner is. From what I have observed of her training at UoA, it was full on and rigorous, yet very lacking in terms of anything that would prepare her for her career. Moreover, the support she receives as a beginning teacher is nonexistent as all the senior teachers are too overloaded or don’t care, and she has been piled with classes with some major behavioral issues. She started down this career path for all the right reasons but is questioning her decisions now. If there is a lack in teaching quality, I would attribute it to the dreadful amounts of work expected of them, the convoluted systems they need to work with, and the absolute lack of respect and cooperation from the student body in many cases (I doubt kids would be so lacking in discipline in Finland). 
    I can’t see how anyone with an inside look could possibly judge our teachers harshly. Some of the higher uppers need to wake up to the fact that there need to be educational reforms that actually work and some social changes to get rid of this entitled culture that kids have these days.

    • HB

      If she is a first year teacher her teaching load should only be 0.8.  The school should have appointed someone to oversee and support her progress toward becoming a fully registered teacher.
      My advice as far as misbehaving students go is to find out the discipline process at the school and use it.  Some teachers are reluctant to use it because they don’t want to look like they can’t handle it but this backfires.  Any discipline issues should also be recorded so that you have an e paper trail (in MUSAC or KAMAR, depending on what your school uses) 

  • i have a couple of pieces on this…

    (and i really think the high pay/prestige given teachers is a factor..)

    “..The task is as hard as weeding out the brightest youngsters for
    places on Oxford and Cambridge Universities’ most popular courses.

    are 16 candidates for every vacancy – and somehow the 2,000 applicants
    have to be whittled down to 120 by the time the course starts.

    We are not talking about law and medicine at Britain’s most
    prestigious universities, though.

    This is Finland and the applicants are
    desperate for a job in what is the most sought-after profession in
    their country: teaching.

    Finland is the country that has topped the international league table
    of the developed world’s education systems for almost all of the past

    And England’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has been taking
    a close look at its policies to see if there is anything he can glean
    from them to improve standards over here.

    Finland’s top-level ranking is based on its performance in the PISA
    (Programme for International Student Assessment) tests of 15-year-olds
    around the globe in reading, maths and science.

    It is published by the
    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

    Professor Jari Lavonen, the head of the Department of Teacher
    Education at the University of Helsinki, is the man with the enviable
    task, in some eyes, of whittling down the pack.

    He is in no doubt as to
    how Finland has got to this position. “We decided all teachers should
    have a master’s degree – putting teaching on an equal footing with law
    and medicine,” he says.

    “Teacher education is therefore very attractive.”

    Figures showed that
    the highest-flying youngsters then started flocking to the profession
    because of its new-found prestige.

    The applicants are all given a book to read before being grilled on
    their understanding of it.

    Then the 300 top performers are interviewed
    before the remaining 120 are offered places. “We want to find out how
    suitable a person is for teaching,” he says.”

    [email protected]

  • Hey Jude

    Surely with the prestige of the teaching profession in Finland must come reasonably high pay? Otherwise why would those clearly very smart people want to become teachers? Unless it was their calling, of course.

    • Kosh103

      You will find in most countries – you dont become a teacher because of the big bucks.

  • Kosh103

    And as a side note, good to see an OECD report vindicates teachers concerns about National Standards.