Early learning thrives with international teachers

Issue: Volume 102, Number 11

Posted: 24 August 2023
Reference #: 1HAbbr

We explore the value that overseas teachers bring to the early learning sector in Aotearoa – including fresh perspectives, global connections, reciprocal learning, and meeting the needs of diverse ākonga identities.

Early learning thrives 01

Lorenz Miralles is from the Phillipines and now teaches at Millie’s House Waiwhetu.

Su Costa says international teachers bring a really positive contribution to the early learning sector.  

“Our overseas teachers are excited to be here and learn, and that makes the team excited too. It’s brought the spark back.”  

The operations manager at Childcare & Learning Group (NZ), Su and her colleagues were concerned about the low numbers taking up early learning teacher training in Aotearoa before Covid hit, a situation which saw their ability to recruit quality teachers start to become challenging.  

“From 2021, it became increasingly challenging. By 2022, particularly in Wellington, it became practically impossible.”  

Su noticed that quality New Zealand-trained teachers looking for employment were “drops in an ocean of jobs being advertised”.  

“For the survival of our centres, the support and wellbeing of our teachers and managers, and to support consistency for our tamariki, we had to take action and look overseas for teachers.”  

Childcare & Learning Group now employs 16 internationally recruited teachers within their nine centres across Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.  

Su says these teachers are on Accredited Employer Workplace Visas – and some have now moved on to residence visas.  

Value felt nationwide  

They took the view that they weren’t just doing this for their centres, but also for the benefit of early learning in Aotearoa.  

“New Zealand early learning was in a recruitment crisis, we wanted that to change, so we had to be a part of that change.”  

Su says her centres are incredibly grateful to the Ministry of Education for providing resources and support to recruit internationally.  

“Both the financial support to us as employers, and the financial support to make Aotearoa a possible destination for overseas teachers.”  

There are two grants to support overseas teacher recruitment. Eligible schools, kura and early learning services can apply for the Overseas Finders Fee of up to $3,450 to help meet their recruitment costs.  

Additionally, eligible overseas and returning New Zealand school, kura and early learning teachers have access to the overseas relocation grant of up to $10,000 towards the cost of relocating to Aoteraoa.  

Growth in diversity  

Recruiting internationally also brings benefits to the day-to-day culture and functioning of centres, Su says.  

“For a teacher to go through this process – being interviewed, selected, and then take a huge leap of faith to move across the globe – they have grit, and an aspiration for a bright future. That grit and aspiration is so valuable in our centres.”  

Su says the different perspective that overseas teachers bring is also invaluable.  

“Whilst at the start that’s not always evident, when they begin to gain a sense of belonging in our centres, and are comfortable to share their perspective, it frees us as kaiako to look at things with a new lens and gain new learning too.”  

International recruitment can also offer the opportunity to employ a diversity of teachers who reflect the diversity of the children and whānau engaging in early learning.  

“This is local curriculum at its best; connecting people, culture and what matters here in our place. Our New Zealand kaiako learn from our overseas teachers as much as they learn from us,” says Su.  

Early learning thrives 02

Alicja Lis is originally from Poland and studied early childhood education in Ireland.

Reciprocal learning  

Those benefits of reciprocal learning, between New Zealand and international teachers, are echoed by Childspace Early Learning Centres tumuaki Lauren Ryan, who also employs several overseas teachers.  

“Our international kaiako bring a different perspective. I think we’re lucky in that a lot of our overseas teachers love our philosophy and want to learn more from us. But they also bring fresh ideas and fresh perspectives of different values for children’s learning.  

“I love that our international teachers are all from different places. We’ve got a Chinese teacher, a South African teacher, an American teacher, an Sri Lankan teacher. It’s pretty special. They all have very different, but then also very similar, understandings of children and childhood and what we believe in.”  

The diversity of experience is another positive for Lauren.  

“International teachers are really keen to share their cultural backgrounds and celebrate their cultural events. And if you’ve got learners who share that culture, it’s so important for those children’s learning that their culture is celebrated and uplifted in such an authentic and meaningful way.”  

Local context  

Su Costa says upskilling international teachers to understand Te Whāriki and the local learning context is hugely important.  

“Ahead of them coming to Aotearoa, we ask them to explore Te Whāriki online, we send webinars, a variety of links, and encourage them to fully explore the Teaching Council website for webinars and podcasts.  

“During our interview process, we draw comparisons to the type of teaching they’ve been involved with and draw comparisons with our play-based philosophy and working culture.”  

Once in Aotearoa, they take part in onboarding and induction for three months, then move into the professional growth cycle.  

The importance of meaningful induction into the New Zealand teaching space is also a focus for Childspace, with Lauren describing some of the support provided to their overseas teachers. 

“International teachers get a lot of on-the-job training, and because we have our Childspace Institute, we run specific induction programmes. We would also look to get them on a lot of relevant professional development.”  

Lauren says the natural environment in Aotearoa is a big drawcard for teachers coming from overseas.  

“Many overseas teachers who come here are really interested in our nature programmes. The strong links to te ao Māori in our nature programmes are very unique and can provide international teachers with entirely new ways of thinking.”  

Intrigued by Aotearoa  

Te Whāriki was a major drawcard for Alicja Lis, who is originally from Poland, and studied early childhood education in Ireland.  

“When I was in college, EP Education from New Zealand came for a visit to talk to students about living and working here.  

Early learning thrives 03

Lorenz is enjoying living and working in Aotearoa as an early learning teacher.

“It further sparked my curiosity about the early learning sector in New Zealand, as I was already intrigued by Te Whāriki and how it places children at the centre and encourages following their lead, development and interests.  

“Ireland has based a big part of their Early Childhood Curriculum, Aistear, on Te Whāriki so I had already applied some parts of it in practice, but I really wanted to experience what it is supposed to be like, and what could be a better place than in New Zealand itself?” 

And for Lorenz Miralles, who comes from the Phillipines and now teaches at Millie’s House Waiwhetu, the hurdles to get work in Aotearoa were worth it.  

“Working in a foreign country may seem intimidating to most people, but you will never know unless you take your chances. Myself, I wasn’t sure my New Zealand plans would fall into place. I just made baby steps each day – and now here I am.  

“Learning the curriculum can be overwhelming, but never hesitate to seek help. People here are so helpful, and they don’t judge your perceived weakness or shortcomings as an overseas teacher. They see us eye to eye, as long as you show them your passion to succeed.”

Click here(external link) to find out more about international recruitment from the Ministry of Education.

For more information about navigators who support schools and early learning services recruiting overseas teachers, as well as overseas teachers themselves, contact teacher.supply@education.govt.nz(external link) or call 0800 165 225 | +64 4 463-8602.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:20 am, 24 August 2023

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