Dr. Heather Purdie, TEU member, senior lecturer in glaciology and physical geography at the University of Canterbury-Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha, and 2019 Tertiary Teaching Excellence awardee, discusses Objective three: quality teaching and leadership and the importance of well-resourced and supported staff and students, and of strengthening engagement with Te Ao Māori.

I welcome the holistic and inclusive direction of the draft Tertiary Education Strategy. Regardless of which whakapaparanga or level of the education sector one might teach, ourselves and our students are connected to the levels above and below, and to the whānau and communities that the education system is designed to support.

Achieving quality teaching and leadership in tertiary institutions that makes a difference for learners and their whānau requires tertiary institutions to equally value and support teaching as well as research. A focus on quality teaching ensures that high-impact research is not just disseminated in academic journals, but also forms the foundation for engaging lessons and transformative knowledge, and thereby benefiting students, their whānau, and our communities.

Increased student diversity needs to be meet with increased diversity of staff. Requests for flexible learning options, and academic programmes better aligned to future employment opportunities, are all possible, so long as staff are afforded the time and professional development to redesign teaching programmes that keep pace with our rapidly evolving society.

Recognising the value of teaching and learning research, and encouraging staff to engage in opportunities to ‘talk teaching’ is essential. Indeed, the tertiary sector is somewhat of an anomaly, in that it does not require teaching staff to undertake some form of formal teacher training. As classrooms become increasing diverse, it is essential that teaching staff have the skills and resources with which to engage all students.

Education in Aotearoa has so much to gain by more actively embracing Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles and the bicultural foundation of our nation. I strongly believe that if we aspire to improve the bicultural confidence and competence of our students, then we as staff need to first develop and strengthen our own understanding and engagement with Te Ao Māori.

Educational research has shown us that adopting teaching practices that enhance the experiences of Māori and Pasifika students also enhance the learning experiences of all students. For example, creating a classroom in which staff and students actually know one another, where students feel safe to express ideas and contribute to class discussion.

It is fantastic that the draft Strategy aspires for all educators to have cultural competence and use te reo Māori correctly every day. However, to realise this objective the tertiary sector needs to ensure that our kaiārahi are well resourced to support staff on this important journey. Tū kotahi, tū kaha, leaving no-one behind, describes a modern, inclusive education system that will be exciting to be a part of.