Investing in the future

Actions speak louder than words when it comes to investing in education and the future of Aotearoa New Zealand, writes Chris Abercrombie

At the summit: Chris Abercrombie, US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, United States First Lady Jill Biden and PPTA Te Wehengarua Māori Vice President Te Aomihia Taua-Glassie

Being acting president of PPTA Te Wehengarua has many privileges and a terrific one was being part of the Aotearoa New Zealand delegation to a summit in Washington DC at the end of April.

The International Summit on the Teaching Profession (ISTP) brings together education ministers, union leaders and other education leaders from OECD nations to discuss education systems, and to review how best to improve quality teaching and learning. For a nation to attend the summit, their education minister must be present. It is the only global event which brings together teacher unions and government Ministers on an equal basis.

Each year, summit organisers produce a report on the state of the profession that is used as a springboard for discussions. This is the first time New Zealand and therefore PPTA, has attended the summit in-person since 2019.

It was great to attend this gathering of representatives from more than 22 countries throughout Europe, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific, and it was especially good spending that time with our Minister of Education and with the President of NZEI. There was a last-minute guest, the First Lady of the United States, Dr Jill Biden. She is a teacher herself and is still teaching so it seemed fitting to have her there.

Meeting fellow unionists from around the world was great and it was equal parts heart-breaking and reassuring to hear that we are facing the same issues, especially around recruitment and retention. It also shows the limited ability that overseas recruitment has in dealing with our staffing crisis.

The summit focused on three themes: elevating and enhancing the teaching profession; educating for global and cultural competence and civic engagement, and leveraging digital technologies to ensure equitable access and enhanced learning for all.  At the end of the summit, each country’s delegation agreed on three commitments for each of the themes.

We committed to raise the profile and status of the teaching profession through positive messaging on the value and impact of teaching in society; to cement the importance of mātauranga Māori in education, curriculum and teaching practice;  and empower school communities to find solutions for their digital and connectivity needs. It was a very busy three days of mahi and an amazing experience that I will remember for a long time.

The host of the summit, United States Secretary for Education, Dr Miguel Cardona, in his opening address stated that ‘our students are counting on governments and organisations alike to come together and invest in their future.’

Those words resonate particularly for me – and I’m sure for you – as I write this viewpoint in the midst of an increasingly difficult negotiating environment.

Investment in the future must include a well paid, adequately supported secondary teaching workforce able to provide ākonga with the skills, knowledge and qualifications they need to live their best lives and create the best opportunities for themselves. It must include a specialist teacher in every subject.

Yet, at the time of writing, we have held three full strikes and are set to reject the second formal offer from the government for settlement of our collective agreement.

The Minister of Education has said she is proud of the teacher unions for standing up for education, she shares the same goals as us and she believes we will get there eventually. I sincerely hope, for the sake of our teaching profession and our ākonga, that we get there soon. Actions speak louder than words.

Last modified on Thursday, 13 July 2023 14:46