At the beginning of 2018, the ECC contacted the Education Council over difficulties arising from the application of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Whilst it is a logical requirement for teachers working in New Zealand classrooms to have sufficient language skills, this testing system is a very blunt tool and in particular harms the early childhood sector. The ECE sector needs teachers who are emotionally highly competent, have empathy and are culturally sensitive to very young children. In our increasingly multicultural society, this includes having awareness of what it means to speak another language. Teachers with additional languages are highly attuned to communication needs and are sought after. Unfortunately, this is not recognised by the authorities at this time.
We expressed our concern to the Education Council that very often the IELTS test represents a significant financial hurdle to prospective student teachers. It costs $450 to sit this test, which cannot be covered by student loans. It is structured in sub-sections, which means if someone fails in one part of the test, the entire test must be repeated – at a cost of a further $450. Moreover, it should be safe to assume that if a student passes all ITE graduate requirements then said student is capable of communicating satisfactorily in English. It therefore seems to be a revenue-gathering exercise to expect student teachers to pay for their teaching course as well as a language course.
In addition, this affects specialist language teachers who are employed precisely because they speak another language, for example a Pasifika language. In this case it is counterproductive to ask for English language skills – these are not the subject of teaching in a Pasifika language immersion environment. IELTS has resulted in preventing teachers from embarking on a teaching career and in student teachers entering specialist, i.e. Pasifika teacher training, which in turn has also resulted in a number of Pasifika teaching pathways closing. This seems incongruous at a time of acute teacher shortages!
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POLICY OFFICER | EARLY CHILDHOOD COUNCIL
DD: +64 4 472 5756 OR Phone: 0800 742 742 option 5
National Office | Lambton Quay | Wellington
PO Box 5649 | Wellington 6140