OPENING OF CHRISTCHURCH GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION

  • Wyatt Creech
Education

Introductions

I am very pleased to be here to officially mark the opening of the new Christchurch Graduate School of Education. I realise this is a somewhat delayed opening - commitments involved in the election campaign got in the way last year!

Your first intake of primary teachers is near to graduating and you now have a secondary group as well - so this is a celebration of several achievements.

I am advised that this College takes an innovative approach to teacher training. You take advantage of your smaller size by responding to the individual needs of students, and follow them closely through their training. Many new teachers tell me, as I travel around New Zealand, of the importance of the practical side of their training. Often they tell me they think their course somewhat overlooked the importance of this element of their training - I have been surprised by the number who have told me that.

Your system of personalised assessment and supervision of trainees on section should help establish that your students have what it takes to be well-rounded teachers. Ideally all will graduate with that X factor that really gets through to students.

Education in New Zealand has been changing and developing - more especially over the past 10 years. These changes reflect changes in society, in labour markets, in technology, and our increased exposure to other cultures.

There have been significant reforms in the curriculum, assessment and qualifications - and a broadening of education opportunities for all learners. We're starting to lose some of the old divides - between senior school and polytechnic or between education and training.

Curriculum and qualifications have been continual talking points - with some divisions of opinion about as wide as the Canterbury Plains. Not only are they wide, they are often quite dismissive of all opinions other than their own. Yesterday I released a green paper on the national qualifications framework. It canvasses the whole range of qualifications issues and draws together some of the divisions. It's important that we develop a system of qualifications for NZ that's durable, credible, acceptable to teachers, students, parents and employers, and offers true learning opportunities for all. The ideas proposed in the green paper should meet those objectives.

These 'green papers' are part of our wider effort to implement an effective consultation process on major reforms. All interested in the particular subject are invited to read it and make submissions. These will be carefully considered. After that analysis, we will then make decisions which will be published in a 'white paper' - essentially a clear statement of government policy on the subject.

Returning to curriculum and qualifications changes. These do not alone guarantee achievement for the students who are at the heart of our education system. Their success also depends on their attitude towards learning, and way they are taught. A lot of that depends on the way teachers teach, and this flows back to the way they themselves learn their professional skills and are supported throughout their careers.

Colleges like this and other teacher education providers are there to build the quality of the teaching profession. Their performance is an essential part of lifting New Zealand's educational achievement. It's heartening to see providers responding to change already.

The Coalition Agreement commits us to a comprehensive review of teacher pre and in-service training this year. It will involve an analysis of all aspects of teacher education. Inevitably it will involve considerations of what the teaching profession should be like to serve the purposes of the young people of New Zealand as we move into the 21st Century. Information is being gathered at present - the resulting green paper will retain the positive aspects of existing teacher education, outline our thinking on the issues, and propose a way forward.

One of the much talked about issues the review will cover is ensuring we have all the teachers we need over the next ten years and on, without compromising quality. We want to be sure that high-quality pre-service teacher training is being consistently delivered; and that there is a better match between supply and demand.

The review will also cover the ongoing professional development of teachers during their careers. Education has changed a lot over recent years, and more school management decisions are being made at the school level. This requires different skills. This applies too to those who aspire to school leadership. The profession needs to be supported in the management of change - because society is going to be changing even more rapidly over the coming years.

Like it or not, schools now have to deal with social as well educational issues. What's happening around us is graphically, if not always accurately, documented in our news media every day. Family breakdown, abuse, dishonesty, lack of self-discipline. For some students, school is the most 'normal' place they have. I should stress that schools do not invent these problems, but being in society they cannot avoid them coming through the gate.

Schools have to somehow engage young people in learning because education is what will give them the chance for a reasonable life next century. Schools also show young people how to interact with others, and how to conduct themselves. Education helps provide the ability to cope with the new world; attitude gives the self-confidence and determination to succeed.

It puts a large responsibility on teachers. We recognise that, and are working on ways to support teachers in this 'social' as well as educational role. What teachers do has a huge effect on our future. We can all recall teachers we found inspiring - and others who we blame for making a subject boring.

I can still remember a couple of occasions from my own school days. One was getting the strap on my first day - outlawed now I'm happy to say. And the other involved the forbidden activity of climbing a nearby sycamore tree at playtime and filling my pockets with seed 'aeroplanes'. I started distributing them to the other kids during class - and of course was caught in the act. It could have been nasty - but our teacher simply confiscated the 'aeroplanes', used them to give an impromptu lesson on elementary physics and biology, then gave me the task of finding out more by next day.

That was a teacher who captured imagination. He taught us to make finding out an adventure - and to behave in acceptable ways. For most of you here I imagine it's that opportunity to make a positive difference to children's lives which has drawn you into teaching.

The Budget at the end of this month will begin the process of addressing many of the issues I've talked about. Education, support for teachers and schools, equality of opportunity and support for families and communities will be strong themes. This Budget is the start of a three-year plan that will build confidence and make the changes that matter in Education.

As Lyndon Johnson once put it: "Education is not just a luxury permitting some an advantage over others. It is a necessity, without which a person is defenceless in this complex society."

I wish the Christchurch Graduate School of Education and its students every success.

Thank you