Migrants Tales – The educational system in New Zealand treats all teachers horribly. NZ degrees worthless?

Education in NZ is effectively worthless

Education in NZ is effectively worthless when everyone passes

Continuing in our series of Migrant Tales, first hand accounts of the Migrant experience of New Zealand.

Today’s tale was left as a series of comments on E2NZ.org.

The author is originally from the US and has taught in the NZ tertiary sector for 20 years. He writes about how teachers in NZ are bullied by litigious management into dropping industry standards and passing underachieving students.

This effectively means being forced to adopt some very dubious practices to avoid complaints by failing students: making projects for them, allowing them to do multiple re-sits until they pass a course, hiring ‘student mentors’ to do the work for them and observing staff members being threatened with litigation and dismissal for blowing the whistle on plagiarism.

The educational system in New Zealand treats all teachers horribly not just those from overseas.

I am from the US and taught here in tertiary education for 20 years. I think the problem stems from the hierarchy of management in Universities and Polytechnics. Where I taught the Dean we had was a lawyer and the deputy principal’s background was in business management, deputy principals background was in accounting. They seemed to all have a deep seated disrespect for all teachers believing that they were lazy and needed to be taken down a peg or two- and that attitude along with their complete lack of understanding of what teachers do in their jobs and the power of being put in a higher position made them into bullies who set out to make all the teachers under them miserable- not just the overseas teachers but all of them.

What was my experience with the New Zealand tertiary system? I was a teacher who wanted to teach to an industry standard, so students could actually learn what they needed to know, in order to compete in the constantly evolving, technology driven, highly competitive profession of ______________* (name removed to conceal identity).

I can say teaching to a high standard created nothing but problems for me. If students were actually pushed to learn all the new technology, and perform to a high professional standard, the ones that were not up to the task (or didn’t bother to come to class) could complain. Any student complaints, no matter how ridiculous, meant I would receive a letter, (written like a legal document) on my desk informing me that there was a formal complaint made by a student against me, an investigation was in order …I was to address the complaint and report “WITH MY ATTORNEY” in the principals office… Students were encouraged by administration to write complaints and they quickly learned it was what they needed to do if they thought they might fail a class, to bully the teacher into passing them. I quickly learned, the only way to survive the classroom was to make assessments as easy as possible and fail proof.

Furthermore, to make students happy, I needed to do what all the other teachers were doing for their students— praise their work even when it was mediocre and never give clear critical reviews, only positive remarks, because any clearly critical remark, especially written on an assessment form, could be used as evidence for a formal complaint, leading to my constructive dismissal. So, with that in mind I survived by doing everything to placate students and avoid complaints. I picked up tips from other teachers on how to do this. I observed other teachers doing anything to create happy, passing students, including: writing students thesis papers, or having the “learning support” staff rewrite student papers until they were passing. I observed teachers spending numerous hours after classes making student’s projects for them (projects that were to be assessed by outside moderators or entered into competitions) because students could not master the software and create it themselves. I also, observed the hiring of “student mentors” to make student’s projects for them. I observed teachers forced by administration to come in on their breaks to allow students to resit exams, over and over again, in a desperate attempt to pass them. I observed a teacher being threatened with litigation and dismissal when she pointed out a students paper had been plagiarized.

So, my experience with tertiary education in short: easy for students, excruciatingly miserable and degrading for the teachers.

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Information obtained by the New Zealand Listener under the Official Information Act has revealed that the NCEA is churning out students with low levels of education who are poorly prepared for the intellectual rigors of tertiary education and  have a poor work ethic.

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2 thoughts on “Migrants Tales – The educational system in New Zealand treats all teachers horribly. NZ degrees worthless?

  1. I’ve had 4 kids go through NZ high school. My 2 daughters were academically inclined but my 2 sons were not. I was used to the SA system of pass/fail and battled as a parent to understand what the heck progress my child was making, if any. Teacher meetings involved the teacher asking my son his views and I would tell them I came to see a professional for an assessment not ask my son. Having said that, I can see pros and cons of the NZ approach. It dumbs down acedemically capable high achievers but on the flip side doesn’t leave the academically challenged kids feeling worthless and without hope for their futures.My daughter trained as a high school teacher and she feels the system can be great in the hands of a dedicated teacher.

    My wife and I and my 2 daughters have all studied at NZ Uni’s and I can compare my Uni distance studies to SA distance study.Similar to schooling system the NZ process is less pass/fail and more about a learning journey. It’s not bad, just different and takes a while to get used to. I do feel I retained (not the same as learned) more knowledge in the kiwi style although I found the process long winded and flowery. I still think that kiwi Unis do turn out good graduates who are capable to compete in the global market. I think any programme turning out good Doctors proves the outcomes are of a high standard. And kiwi chartered accountants are well regarded too.

    What irks me is how tertiary institutions are turning out graduates who can’t speak, read or write English. It is achieved using the subtle “group presentation” process that allows students to be graded by riding on the coat tails of actual English speaking students. Here it is time to come clean and start awarding English second language awards to be fair to potential employers, I had a lecturer at Open Poly who could barely talk English so I am not hopeful,

  2. I noticed that in a recent Australian TV doco, a NZ politician (Agriculture Minister?) suggested that Oz agriculture students consider getting their degrees in NZ. The present Australian government’s education reforms will probably make university degrees prohibitively expensive for many students, so NZ qualifications might seem an attractive and less expensive alternative.
    Out of the frying pan? I hope that they do their homework.

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