There has been a lot of discussion about the use of IELTS as the assessment tool to determine a prospective teacher’s English language proficiency.
Claims included that it was too hard and it cost too much money to sit. An ECE business lobby group (Early Childhood Council) went a step further and argued English language proficiency testing should be done away with altogether. It wanted changes to make it easier to have more foreign teachers to staff its centres.
In a quick Facebook poll by ChildForum 79 percent of people voted YES to keeping an English language test requirement for foreign ECE teachers to get a practising certificate in New Zealand.
The Teaching Council/ Education Council* decided that the IELTS will stay and other assessment alternatives will be added, such as the Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic and the TOEFL Internet-based test (iBT).
Changes that will take effect from the start of 2019 also include:
- The same English Language proficiency requirements for registration and entry to initial teacher education.
- Acceptance of tertiary qualifications from the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States and Canada (excluding Québec) as proof of competency; as well as from New Zealand and Australia. Accepting schooling in the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States and Canada (excluding Québec) as proof of competency; as well as in New Zealand and Australia.
- Recognition of the Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) and Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL) as evidence.
In 2010 The Teaching Council first moved to increase the responsibility on Initial Teacher Education providers to ensure that graduates are capable of communicating clearly in English and assess English language proficiency on entry to programmes. It required that from January 2011 teacher registration applicants with English as an additional language sit the IELTS with at least 7.0 to pass.
In July 2013, The New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC) took the Teaching Council to the Ombudsman and complained about it refusing to register a group of its graduates due to concerns over their English language competency. NZTC owners also operate the Kindercare early learning centre chain and were instrumental in the formation of the Early Childhood Council business lobby group.
The Teaching Council said its criteria generally worked on a high trust model that assumed students graduating from a New Zealand institution would have achieved Level 7 or above. The Teaching Council was concerned about NZTC’s language standards and asked students to undergo further English tests before approving their registration.
In the Ombudsman’s report, it was stated that anecdotal evidence during 2010 and 2011 led Teaching Council staff to question the standard of English used by graduates from NZTC.
This led to further investigations including the checking of information provided by the College with original student files.
In some cases, the level of English proficiency reported to the Teaching Council in a spreadsheet was different to that recorded in the student’s file including some who had not reached the listed entry requirements when they enrolled on the course.
Concerns were also raised about the type of tests used by the College, which were not considered equivalent to the IELTS test.
The Ombudsman decided that the Teaching Council had not acted unreasonably in declining to register some graduates and was within its right to request further testing.
The ruling also concluded that the NZTC was well aware of the language proficiency requirements and that although the wording of the regulations suggested that graduating from a New Zealand institution was enough to gain registration, it was not guaranteed and the regulations did include scope for discretion.
* Note the Education Council has had a name change to the "Teaching Council".