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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- Migrant Tales – Teaching in New Zealand and the NCEA: “NCEA markers and moderators are being told to “fudge the figures” for the Minister of Education, a shocked insider reveals in the July issue of North & South..”
- NCEA fails students: Unis (nzherald.co.nz)
- Teachers unhappy with NCEA German exam – complaints that the exam was in German (radionz.co.nz)
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- Migrant Tales – NZ Not The Land Of Promise For Me (e2nz.org)