Country can’t afford what teachers deserve

I spent a year at Teachers’ College during which the most important lesson I learned was that I would be a bad teacher.

I also learned to appreciate and value good teachers.

I agree they deserve to be paid more but the country can’t afford what they’re seeking and contrary to what teachers’ unions would have us believe not all teachers are good.

Quite why they think teachers are different from every other group where you have a spread of ability is beyond me. If they seriously believe their own propaganda and don’t realise that some teachers are spectacularly good, a few are spectacularly bad and the rest are somewhere between they must be on another planet.

That might also explain their insistence on seeking salary increases well beyond the country’s ability to pay.

They say they’re underpaid when compared with other OECD countries but so are the rest of us and as Kiwiblog points out a more useful comparison would be between pay rates and GDP:

In Australia 3.5% of GDP is spent on non-tertiary education, and in New Zealand it is 4.0%. So we are already paying more as a percentage of GDP, than Australia. Hence the solution is to increase GDP, not to increase the share spent on education.

Only three OECD countries spend a higher percentage of GDP on non-tertiary education than New Zealand.

He followed that up with these figures:

The OECD doesn’t seem to have up to date average wage data for NZ, but there is good data on GDP per capita. So let’s compare teacher salaries to GDP per capita. Taking a primary teacher with 15 years experience, the data is:

  • Australia $46,096 salary vs $38,911 GDP per capita = 118% ratio
  • UK/England $44,630 vs $34,619 = 129%
  • France $31,927 vs $33,679 = 95%
  • Luxembourg $67,723 vs $78,395 = 86%
  • US $44,172 vs $46,381 = 95%
  • NZ $38,412 vs $26,708 = 144%
  • OECD $39,426 vs $35,138 = 112%

So in fact New Zealand is paying primary teachers with 15 years experience far more, compared to our national wealth, than the OECD average, and than Australia, the US, UK, US, France etc.

Even if ones takes secondary teachers with 15 years experience, NZ at 144% pays far more relative to national wealth than even Luxembourg.

Picking up on this Kerre Woodham reckons teachers are unpatriotic and the Herald On Sunday says teachers aren’t doing too badly.

That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be doing better. They could, and given the importance of the job they do, they should. But not until economic growth improves enough to make their claims affordable.

Even then, they’d have a much stronger case if they accept that different teachers have differing abilities. The good ones deserve more money, others need more help to improve, or they should accept, as I did,  they’re not good enough and find another job.

4 Responses to Country can’t afford what teachers deserve

  1. Deborah says:

    I would like to see teachers paid a lot more. I suspect that we might get quite a few more people interested in being teachers if the salary rates were more competitive. But I would also like to see some form of performance assessment. A friend pointed out to me a few weeks back that every parent has quite a good idea about which teachers they would like their children to have. That’s not based on fantasy: parents know damned well which teachers are good and which are not, which teachers are irascible curmudgeons who are merely serving time, and which are deeply committed to excellent teaching.


  2. Ele – you’ve fallen for the line that Tolley and Co. have spun regarding the teacher’ issue. ‘4%’ is the dog-whistle being used and you have fallen in behind, as have many of the media commentators. What I hear the PPTA and it’s teachers asking for is genuine negotiation. The Government is not engaging in good faith, fair negotiation and the stop-work action is the result. There are many improtant things that need to be addressed in secondary education in order that learning improves for our students. The teachers want to discuss those things with Tolley etc. but in the time-honoured tradition of the National Party, those discussions are being refused. As is always the method, Tolley has gone to the public with ‘teachers are greedy’, ‘teachers are out of touch with reality’ and Key has repeated those dog-whistle, anti-teacher statements. Classic Nat strategy and very divisive. Feeling annoyed by the teachers actions are you? That’ll be why – National wants you to feel that way.
    Don’t be so gullible Ele.


  3. Sally says:

    A Balfour said “Every extension of government begins small and has the character of a wedge.”

    Time for the teaching profession to be opened up to private enterprise. It is in desperate need of competition.


  4. […] Ludemann has a post on the teacher’s strike. I spent a year at Teachers’ College during which the most important lesson I learned was that I […]


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