Teacher fighting to prove her English is good enough for NZ

Author
Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 7 August 2018, 6:51p.m.

A teacher with 12 years' experience who has lived in New Zealand for more than 20 years can't get registered because the Education Council still considers her to be a migrant who needs to prove her English is up to scratch.

Jacqueline Hsu, 36, originally from Malaysia, scored 57/60, or to a "very advanced" level, in a QPT test meant to assess the language ability of domestic applicants when she signed up for her Bachelor of Teaching degree.

But a council spokeswoman said just four tests for minimum standards for English were recognised - the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), International Second Language Proficiency Ratings (ISLPR), Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE).

The spokeswoman said she was unable to comment on Hsu's case because she not able to access individual cases without permission.

Hsu said she was told by the council on the phone that only "Western people, New Zealanders and Australians" were exempt from English language testing.

"I feel I'm eligible to apply for teacher's registration because I have 12 years of teaching experience in NZ and that's New Zealand experience," Hsu said.

"I feel really angry about it because, did they actually look at my name and put me in the same category as an international student?"

Hsu first moved to New Zealand in 1993 and has been living here since, except for four years between 1997 and 2001.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Teaching from NZ Tertiary College in 2012, and has applied several times for provisional registration without success.

"To my dismay, Education Council asked me to sit for the IELTS exam because it claimed English was not my first language," Hsu said.

"I'm annoyed and frustrated, I feel it's unfair because I've gone to school here in New Zealand and see myself as a New Zealander."

Hsu, now a homestay co-ordinator, says teaching is her passion but she has been forced out of the field because of the council's "absurd requirement".

She is refusing to take the IELTS test because she "didn't feel the need" to do so.

The council told the Herald some aspects of the English language proficiency requirement was being reviewed.

The review comes in the wake of figures predicting the teacher shortage in New Zealand will reach crisis point by 2030.

"We are also reviewing what evidence we should look at, when considering if a candidate has English as a first language or not before requiring them to take an English language test," the spokeswoman said.

She said teachers needed sufficient English or Māori to be fully engaged with the national curriculum and to support students to achieve curricula outcomes.

"This is why the council requires a good knowledge of the language of instruction," said the spokeswoman.

"The rule is the same for everyone: teachers need to demonstrate that they have the required proficiency in English or Māori ... [they] need to demonstrate they have met the required level."

Figures released to the NZ Educational Institute showed that by 2030, there would be at least 40,000 more primary school students due to population growth - and 38,000 of them are projected to be in the Auckland area.

There are 40 per cent fewer people entering teacher training now than there were about six years ago.

Primary school teachers and principals are set to strike for the first time in 24 years on August 15 after rejecting the Government's pay offer last month.

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