Heather Roy

8 May 2018

Just as no-one has a monopoly on good ideas, no-one should be denied the opportunity to pass on their skills and knowledge to others who wish to receive it. A teacher is a person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competences or values and to try and regulate the term would exclude some of the people who legitimately do this.

At last common sense has prevailed – or rather public pressure has prevailed – and NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft has withdrawn her ridiculous Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill. That the bill got the support of Labour and the Greens to be sent to Select Committee in the first place was bizarre but at least now the right outcome has been reached.

It is always worthwhile looking at the intent of legislation and the motivation for a Member of Parliament to put forward a bill. This bill, initially drafted by Tracey Martin in 2016, was a NZ First reaction to the ability of New Zealand Charter (Partnership) Schools to employ unregistered teachers.  In fact most of these schools employed registered teachers, using others only for the specialist activities such as drill (marching) at the military academy Vanguard School. Legislation that is drafted as a protest is never good legislation.

Teacher is a commonly used term with much wider meaning than just being confined to a professional group. Roger Patridge (NZ Initiative) wrote in his Freedom to Teach and Freedom of Speech article published recently that “Occupational licensing is usually justified on consumer protection grounds – not to ‘bolster’ the status of a profession. But with this Bill, there will likely be no change to the quality of services offered by the ‘once-were-teachers’. And it is not obvious how picking on piano teachers will improve the status of the teaching profession.

Of course, many professions are regulated … But there are also countless professions where registration is not required. It’s open season if you want to call yourself an accountant, a builder, or even an economist.

Open-entry professions deal with the absence of restrictions by creating their own designations – like ‘chartered accountant’ – as a mark of quality. Indeed, the teaching profession itself already has this type of protection. The Education Act makes it an offence for anyone to use the title ‘registered teacher’ when they are not registered.

So, for now anyway, music teachers, ballet teachers and others without a teaching degree are free to pass on their knowledge and competence without being fined or having to find a new name for themselves. A victory for common sense over political protest.