I’m proud of New Zealand’s history of educational achievement. Despite falling a few ranks in recent years, we still score well by international standards. And many of us have taken up the opportunities of further education.
Our slide down the rankings shows why we cannot take our success for granted. Finland leads the world in education, but they have constantly innovated to maintain that success. They require all teachers in schools to have a post-graduate qualification, and they also ensure that they celebrate their teachers in a way that we don’t always in New Zealand. In Finland, teaching and teachers are held in such high regard that it is harder to get into the college of education than it is to get into law or medical school.
In Finland, people respect teachers and seek to ensure they have the best conditions to do what they do best: teach. Schools are well equipped with nurses and social workers to make sure kids are ready to be educated. When children need further support, there are staff on hand to readily complete all the necessary paperwork. Basically, the learning needs of children are put first, and that means supporting teachers in whatever way is required.
We all remember our schooling well, especially the teachers that made a real difference in our lives. Unfortunately, teachers in New Zealand are not as well supported as they once were. As a country I think we must do more to better support and celebrate teaching.
A few weeks ago, I walked in the shoes of support staff at Dunedin North Intermediate for the NZEI 'Support Success' campaign. I saw first-hand the consequences of National's decision to freeze support staff funding; children with very high needs are not receiving the level of support they should, and some children with special needs are not receiving any support at all.
It’s not news that teacher aids make learning so much easier in the classroom for the limited hours they are supplied. That is true both for those receiving the support directly, and for the remaining children in the class who have better access to their teacher. Our children and their educators are bearing the brunt of this Government’s decision to cut support funding and freeze funding for public skills. Those decisions affect all of us.
Education is the building blocks of opportunity. That’s why I’m so passionate about making sure every child receives a world-class education at their local school. To unlock this opportunity, we must work alongside teachers to ensure they are supported to do the best job they know they can do.