Teacher Shortage a Threat to Education Quality 

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3 May 2023

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The teacher shortage in New Zealand is making the country’s long-term educational goals harder to achieve. The Ministry of Education report that the demand for secondary teachers is projected to grow year-by-year, peaking in 2025 and having a sharpest growth rate between 2023 and 2024.

This is posing a serious for problem for STEM subjects, which are now being taught by many non-specialist teachers. When it comes to these subjects, hiring experienced, skilled teachers is particularly important, because 80% of future jobs will require maths and science skills and New Zealand is one of many countries that are lacking in this area. In 2019, for instance, 80% of all IT subjects had to be filled by immigrant employees. Moreover, a 2021 survey has predicted that New Zealand will be creating between 4,000 and 5,000 new digital technology jobs per annum. The situation can be particularly tough for women, since they fill a little over a quarter of available STEM subjects.

Why Are Teachers Quitting?

More people in New Zealand are now training to be teachers compared to recent years, but the shortage remains—and much of the problem is that teachers are leaving to pursue other jobs that pay better and are less stressful. Just a few jobs that are attracting teachers include online tutoring, which provides an attractive pay and the option to work from home. Tutors with a reputation for excellence can fetch around $60,000. However, tutoring jobs are usually far more relaxing, as sessions are one-on-one or limited to small groups.

Moreover, students in these classes are usually more motivated. Other jobs teachers are fleeing to include corporate training (in areas like communication, presentation, and organisation), entrepreneurship, editing, non-profit work, and creative pursuits such as the fine arts and writing.

What is the Solution?

One solution to the teacher shortage involves increasing teachers’ salaries. The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) reports that low salaries are a major factor contributing to the problem. Secondly, working conditions should improve. Class sizes and hours can be reduced so that teachers do not experience burnout and have time to calm down between challenging classes. Teacher training programs are a third strategy, as they can produce more qualified teachers, especially those specializing in STEM subjects.

For this purpose, scholarships and loan forgiveness programs can be offered. Experienced teachers should be retained with chances for new roles—for instance, mentoring new teachers. They should also be offered lifelong learning opportunities, so they stay at the top of their game and share updated knowledge with their students. Finally, New Zealand can encourage overseas recruitment by partnering up with other countries to offer relocation packages and other incentives to highly qualified teachers.

The shortage of teachers in New Zealand is threatening the quality of public education. This is particularly true in STEM areas, which are increasingly becoming a pillar of the economy. In order to prevent teachers from quitting, a complete overhaul of teacher’s conditions should be offered. Fair pay, continual learning opportunities, and overseas hires can go a long way in terms of attracting top talent to state schools.

Related article: Why are we so bad at under paying teachers so well?

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