Worryingly, the growing teacher shortage is pushing some schools to hire untrained teachers while others are asking staff to teach outside their subject specialisation, according to the Post Primary Teachers’ Association | Te Wehengarua union.
Trying to rectify the issue, government is pushing to increase funding and attract new people into the profession. As such, postgraduate pathways for teachers and non-teaching staff are growing in appeal.
Distinct from professional learning development opportunities that focus on gaining specific skills, formal postgraduate study focuses on gaining new qualifications. Particularly as more people are expected to career-change into teaching, current teachers may want to increase their earning potential by obtaining a postgraduate diploma, certificate, Master’s or Doctoral Degree.
To find out what postgraduate pathways exist for school staff this issue, School News interviewed Dr David Parsons, National Postgraduate Director at The Mind Lab.
Q: Are there many different postgrad pathways for teachers?
A: Postgraduate pathways for teachers range from short periods of study that might take only two or three months and includes micro-credentials, through to larger qualifications including Postgraduate Certificates, Postgraduate Diplomas, and up to Master’s and Doctoral Degrees. There are a range of different institutions offering postgraduate pathways for qualifications accredited by NZQA, including universities, polytechnics, and private training establishments, including us.
Q: What is the unique appeal of formal postgrad study for teachers?
A: Formal postgraduate study can provide significant advantages over other forms of professional development, including the opportunity to achieve postgraduate qualifications that will be well recognised in the education sector as evidence of capability and commitment and can help with career progression. Depending on their current role and salary level, gaining new qualifications can also assist teachers to increase their income, even in their existing roles.
Those who wish to become school leaders can particularly benefit from this type of higher study. Across the board, achieving higher qualifications raises teachers’ self-efficacy, confidence, and mana, and contributes to improvements in the education system through increased capability and influence.
Furthermore, engaging in formal study with recognised academic institutions will provide a much better foundation for research literature than other forms of professional development, giving teachers more rigorous methods and processes for improving their practice.
Q: How about pathways for non-teaching staff?
A: There are certainly many pathways for non-teaching school staff, and higher education institutions offer courses in a wide range of education-related subjects, such as information science for librarians, that are not only intended for teachers.
It is just as important for non-teaching staff to be given the opportunity and encouragement to undertake higher study to further develop themselves and subsequently be able to contribute more in their support roles.
Q: Can staff study part-time while working?
A: Part-time study while working is certainly an option and is probably more financially viable for most. However, with some of the higher qualifications like Master’s, and particularly Doctoral study, teachers may feel that the part-time pathway would take too long and so might want to consider studying full-time, at least for a portion of these higher qualifications. This is especially the case when, for example, a part-time doctorate could take more than six years to complete.
Many institutions deliver online or hybrid learning now, offering teachers even greater flexibility and access to their preferred institute regardless of where they are based in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Q: Are there many scholarship opportunities for teachers?
A: There are many scholarships available for teachers, depending on their subject area, working context, and whether they are a member of a priority group such as Māori or Pasifika.
Both educational institutions and many charitable organisations offer scholarships of various types and sizes. The Ministry of Education also offers a range of scholarships to support teachers undertaking higher education.