16 Nov 2018

Foreign teachers could struggle with NZ classrooms - principals

6:40 am on 16 November 2018

Hundreds of foreign teachers recruited to tackle the teacher shortage face a culture shock in New Zealand classrooms, principals warn.

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Photo: 123rf

The Education Ministry said more than 3000 overseas teachers had responded to a recruitment campaign and about 550 had completed screening of their qualifications and were ready to be hired.

School principals said it was good that schools had a bigger pool of teachers to consider for their 2019 vacancies, but they warned that overseas-trained teachers sometimes struggled with the New Zealand way of teaching and with Māori and Pasifika cultures.

Secondary Principals Association president Mike Williams said some of the teachers simply would not adjust to the New Zealand system.

"While you might have a degree and a teaching qualification, what's really important about the New Zealand context is cultural competence," he said.

Mr Williams said the New Zealand educational style was also important.

He said it was based on a "relational" model and most teachers did not stand in front of their classrooms and lecture their students.

"Many overseas teachers struggle with that change. A lot make the adaptation really well but is quite a challenge for them in a lot of cases," Mr Williams said.

The principal of multi-cultural Mount Cook School in Wellington, Sandra McCallum, said foreign teachers often struggled not only with the New Zealand teaching style but also with the students' cultures.

"In terms of working with our Māori and Pasifika students, that's something that even we as New Zealand-trained teachers work at all the time to be constantly improving our practice, and so I think that's a really big jump for somebody coming from another country."

But some foreign teachers do make the adjustment.

Ōtāhuhu College's English head Emma Norgate said she moved to Auckland from England just two years ago.

"It was an incredible culture shock. I wasn't quite aware of the influence of the Pasifika communities in New Zealand, particularly in South Auckland," she said.

For example, Ms Norgate said it took time to learn that Pasifika teens were showing respect by not looking at their teacher when they were being disciplined.

Ōtāhuhu College principal Neil Watson said it did not take long for good teachers to adjust to New Zealand classrooms.

"To be honest, a term or so they've pretty well got it sorted," he said.

"It gets better and better as they get used to our students."

However, Mr Watson said it was not clear how many good teachers were among those who had been approved to work in New Zealand.

The Education Ministry's deputy secretary for early learning and student achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, said cultural competence was a work in progress for everyone, not just foreign teachers.

However, she said cultural training for the teachers would start later this year.

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