Unqualified Teachers & Charter Schools

The first point I want to make is that parents should have the choice as to how they want their children educated. As it currently stands we have state schools, private schools and integrated schools. These schools are subject to government imposed curriculum and employ on the basis of an institutionally recognised qualification. I am indifferent to Charter Schools. I’m neither pro nor against. Although, I can see how others might perceive my stance as pro-Charter.

Charter Schools
What I disapprove of with Charter Schools is the proposition that they should not be subject to oversight by the Ombudsmen. Of course they should be – they are entrusted with the education of children and must be accountable to someone outside their organisation as they are performing a public function. They must also be subject to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act to prevent abuses of power while performing a public function.

In my opinion, education belongs to the commons much the same as land, natural resources and the internet and as such society must have ways of holding those in education accountable where rights are breached and powers abused. If there is no external oversight, then we cannot be assured that there are no abuses of power or breaches of civil rights.

What I like about Charter Schools is that they propose models of education that are not mainstream for instance, they can address the different needs and requirements of minority groups in NZ such as Maori, Pacific Island, Special needs, and our growing population of immigrant minorities.  And they offer a way of innovatively engaging such students in learning in a way that is meaningful to those students.

I am aware of the vast array of literature that criticises Charter Schools although I’ll admit that I haven’t actually read any of it. But my point is that the idea of a charter school model provides a different choice to parents, and as a society that is diverse such choices should be made available.

Unqualified Teachers
I’m not against Teachers obtaining a qualification that is recognised by an institution. But I do not believe that to be a Teacher you MUST obtain an institutionally recognised qualification.

I accept that the qualification equips people with the skills to manage a classroom and to teach what is required under the curriculum. I also accept that many teachers develop their own style to make learning more engaging for students and therefore such qualifications do not necessarily produce ‘homogenous robots’ . But my argument is that it is not the qualification itself through which teachers develop their own style. It is through experience that teachers develop their own style and come to understand what works and what doesn’t. This means that even without the qualification a teacher can develop strategies that work best for the students they work with.

Another argument raised is that there is an over-abundance of teachers who have invested time and money in teaching qualifications, but in my view that’s not a justifiable reason to prevent unqualified persons from teaching. It proposes an arbitrary restriction purely because some teachers are going to be out of pocket. In fact, I would argue further that because of the mandatory qualification some experts are arbitrarily restricted from sharing their knowledge simply because they do not possess the qualification, even if they have the skills.

What’s my solution? If it is important to many that teachers have an institutionally recognised qualification then the government can maintain the status quo and require that teachers’ possess the qualification to teach in Mainstream/State schools – the benefit of obtaining a qualification I suppose is that a teacher will be able to work in either State school or any other school. But do not restrict those in private or charter schools from employing people who have no teaching qualification per se but have knowledge that can be imparted to students. Besides, it’s unlikely that a charter school will employ a person that shows no capability of being able to teach if they are held accountable for the outcomes they produce. 
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10 comments

  1. I'm not sure what you're pointing at to say that I am arguing for the imposition of the State in your life – I am arguing that the choice ought to be available for parents so that is consistent with what you are arguing for. My understanding about charter schools is that they wont be subject to the state curriculum, which is one reason I see the benefit in Charter schools. I get your point about the Ombudsmen – but surely you can agree that there must be oversight for protecting students from breaches of 'individual' rights and preventing abuses of power – wouldn't you want that reassurance for your children? Perhaps a solution would be an independently elected Ombudsmen by the people rather than appointment by the state? (Btw when I refer to the commons, I do not impliedly refer to the state)

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  2. @AlexEdneyBrowne wrote: I am anti-charter schools. At the same time I'm very aware of the failings of public schools (high schools, particularly), but I attribute those failings to what doesn't make them 'public': for instance, the business mindset most school senior management have because they lack proper govt funding and need to find their own money. I'm also upset to see a blanket disregard/unappreciation for the humanities which can also be attributed to neoliberalism. I think problems in public schools could be solved if the govt paid them due attention (and money) rather than investing into charter schools because they made a deal with Banks. I think the best thing the govt could do to stop children from 'slipping between the gaps' is reduce class sizes to 15 students per class. That would also help with the over-abundance of qualified teachers unable to find work. [Posted by Ellipsister on behalf of commenter]

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  3. @AlexEdneyBrowne wrote: CHOICE You argue that charter schools will give parents more options as to where to send their child (especially a child who may not be catered to by the mainstream), but I think that parents already have lots of choice – some I've spoken to say the choice is overwhelming. Despite zoning, there are a large number of schools available. As for the minorities you mentioned, Maori; Pasifika; and refugees, the initial charter schools are being established in areas (South Auckland, for instance) where the surrounding public schools' biggest demographic (or majority) is Maori and Pasifika. These schools naturally focus on promoting and learning about Maori and Pasifika culture and catering to their students' needs. I don't know as much about refugees, but the decile 1 school in West Auckland I studied for a university project had a club in the evenings for refugee parents to bring their kids and listen to what they were learning about. It had set up school-based programmes to cater to the needs of minority groups, and they were working well. Most schools with a Pakeha majority have cultural groups, and special classes, for different groups of students. I'm sure there is plenty of room for public schools to get better at catering to minorities, as most do by default end up reflecting the demographic of their student body. But the charter schools established in South Auckland are going to have the same demographic, and probably offer the same amount of cultural education, as the public schools in that area already do. Except they're going to be owned and run by private institutions like businesses and churches (which sounds dangerous to me…)[Posted by Ellipsister on behalf of commenter]

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  4. @AlexEdneyBrowne wrote:KNOWLEDGE AND QUALIFICATIONSYour other argument was that most adults have invaluable knowledge to part with, and that a qualification isn't needed to teach. "We are all naturally teachers." I don't disagree with you at all here, and maybe there is a place for more adults 'from outside' to come into high schools. I think this already happens a lot in primary schools. I can only speak from my own experience (which was a public school in the UK) but we had doctors, dentists, policemen and women, parents of other kids, local performers/speakers at assemblies, the school nurse, sports coaches and the cooks all interacting with the children frequently. Not to mention all the adults a child meets through their parents at home. A child does not only learn from their teachers, which is why I don't agree with you that a child's education is rigidly defined by the state and that leaves no room for innovation. On top of this, I would say that EVERY teacher "goes off topic" at some point during a class: they drift away from the content and end up on a rant about current affairs, or they make a side-comment about school politics, or they simply say something interesting about an unrelated topic etc etc. Teachers are also humans with their own views, knowledge beyond their subject, and personal lives, and their qualification or the curriculum doesn't take away from that. I also think that there are many good things within the current curriculum that are enlightening. I learnt lots in History, English and Media Studies that I haven't forgotten and wouldn't swap for anything. I do agree that teachers should be given more liberties when it comes to the curriculum, but I wouldn't say it's currently awful, and it's also important to remember that teachers and ex-teachers are often the ones who write it (the NCEA assignments and exams too) not some man in a suit who could be labelled a 'statist' (:-P) or parliamentarian. I would also offer that degrees in Education or the post-grad dip in Teaching have a big focus on education psychology and how a child learns. They do a number of placements in schools with ranging deciles and gain invaluable experience working with large numbers of children that the average adult (even if they're a parent) might not have. Realising how much I've learnt at university in the 3 semesters I've been there makes me think there's a lot to a degree in Education that the rest of us might not know about or we may under-appreciate. [Posted by Ellipsister on behalf of commenter]

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  5. I think problems in public schools could be solved if the govt paid them due attention (and money) rather than investing into charter schools…I agree that the government could invest more time and money into public schools, but I disagree that this would solve the problems therein. The problem with public schools failing kids is not simply because of under-funding and under-resourcing. I accept that they are problems for the public school system, but correcting those alone does not resolve the choice issue. In my view, choice is inherent in the right to an education because choice is what determines how the right is actualised – otherwise it's not a right(See also Art 26(3) UNDHR Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children)In regards to class sizes, I agree they are an issue and I agree that smaller class sizes would be beneficial to all students whether or not they are part of a minority group. But I think the point about an over-abundance of qualified teachers is irrelevant to whether or not charter schools provide an alternative for parents and children.

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  6. I think that parents already have lots of choice – some…say the choice is overwhelming…there are a large number of schools available Again I refer to Art 26(3)UNDHR. The choice you are implying is one of quantity (i.e. availability) and not of quality (i.e. content/substance). As a young parent of school age children, I wholeheartedly disagree about the quality choice. I'm not talking about decile numbers, I'm talking about how children are educated, by whom they are educated, and what it is that they will learn. But the charter schools established in South Auckland are going to have the same demographic, and probably offer the same amount of cultural education, as the public schools in that area already doTo keep it simple I will use specifically Maori as an example. The best quote I have heard comes from Bentham Ohia "dont teach me about my culture, but use my culture to teach me". From what I've heard, it is in fact iwi who are keen to set up charter schools so that Maori children are educated in a tikanga environment rather than being taught rudimentary te reo in a public school. I'm sure similar arguments will be made for other groups. Its a completely different experience being educated by a person well versed in their own cultural history, language and values in comparison to a person who learnt about that history, language and those values external to that culture.

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  7. A child does not only learn from their teachers, which is why I don't agree with you that a child's education is rigidly defined by the state and that leaves no room for innovationI agree children learn from all their experiences, but this is not akin to the 'education' imposed by the state – i.e. a system in which any person under 16 years old must participate. To clarify, I think education and learning are distinct concepts. Education involves learning but learning does not necessarily involve education. In my view, education is where learning is formally measured or assessed according to a one size fits all objective criteria and in that sense education has been institutionalised and I think parents should have the choice to have their children educated in an uninstitutionalised environment.

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  8. "I am aware of the vast array of literature that criticises Charter Schools although I’ll admit that I haven’t actually read any of it." Says it all really for someone who thinks his opinions on education should taken seriously. Let's just air and share our prjudices shall we? After all informed debate and education are polar opposites on my planet!

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  9. "Says it all really for someone who thinks his opinions on education should taken seriously" Her, actually.And I made the statement you refer to explicitly to inform my readers that I hadnt read the material, i.e. transparency so readers knew I wasn't intending to offer an expert opinion.Nice trolling btw…as per most trolls you offered nothing to the debate.

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