Dear friends, I would like to share with you an interview with Olga Lysun originally from Khabarovsk, who lives and works in New Zealand. Hello Olga, now you live and work in New Zealand, in Russia you have worked as an Associate Professor for a long time. It will be very interesting to learn about the peculiarities of education abroad, especially in New Zealand, about the role of the teacher. In this regard, I ask you to answer the following questions:
QUESTION 1: Olga, tell me, how are teachers of schools and universities perceived in New Zealand? Can a teacher be considered a significant figure in society? ANSWER: First, I just want to clarify that I work in my first specialty as an English teacher for speakers of other languages. Of course, I got to know much about the education system abroad, in particular about the New Zealand education system. However, there are nuances and details on the organization of the educational and academic process in universities and it would be fair to hear answers of local professors who have worked for decades at the university. I will refer to the responses of University of Auckland Professor, Tim Dare and University of Waikato Senior Lecturer, Justine Kingbury. Answering the first question, I can say that a teacher in New Zealand is a respected person in the majority of the education system. I think it will be interesting to make comparisons in secondary school, where in Russia there is even a mocking attitude towards the teacher on the part of students and attacks on the part of parents. My daughter has been studying for almost two years at Ponsonby Intermediate School and notes that this is impossible to imagine in a New Zealand school. As a parent, I signed a document which focused on the code of student conduct at school, including bullying, social media behaviour and standards of respect. Children at school are taught not to be rude, not to shout at each other. Actually, the first thing my daughter said was that teachers treat students with respect for the personality of the student. This creates a healthier school environment and it is positive. Although there are some disadvantages. I just want to focus on the assessment/marking system of knowledge which is not very transparent and obvious in order to monitor the child’s progress. I remember my daughter’s words: “It’s more interesting to study in a Russian school because you get grades, you know your mistakes and you reach for higher achievement.” The forming of academic process is not gradually systematic for example, teaching mathematics. They start the math theme without going deep. Then they stop to continue it the next academic year. Foreign languages are learnt by schoolchildren for just one or two terms. There are no textbooks and it is not possible to follow which topics are being taught in the class. Teaching has a practical orientation rather than a basic theoretical one. Returning to the topic of respect for the teacher, in my opinion, mutual respect of the teacher and a student from school can only but help in the students’ progression to university. Tim Dare generally responds positively to this question but notes, however, that “school teachers in New Zealand have never been paid very well (their salaries have improved a bit quite recently) and I think that has created a general view that teachers are not very ‘successful’ people: that they have gone into teaching because they weren’t ambitious or good enough to go into a more respected profession. (I’m not defending this view: just reporting it.)” As for university teachers he thinks they are for the most part well respected: “People think those who teach at University are successful, probably clever, fairly well paid and so on. There is probably also a view that University teachers a bit removed from the real world; that what they do is not particularly important. That will vary from area to area. I suspect most farmers in NZ think the basic agricultural research done in NZ is valuable. It’s widely known, for instance that some very successful sheep breeds were developed in our agriculture universities. That said there is a lot of scepticism about things like climate science, and people probably think ill of Universities for that. Finally, though, it’s been clear during Covid, I think, that most people have thought well of the academics who have contributed to the debate.”
QUESTION 2: Do university teachers do something more than their main functions? Do they need to open and set up the lecture rooms themselves, including setting up technology and applications, etc.? ANSWER: This is difficult to imagine in foreign universities in many countries. In particular, New Zealand universities have support staff who are responsible for the maintenance of the lecture halls, etc.
QUESTION 3: In Russia at present the Federal Educational Standards are being changed often without explanation of why the new standards are better than the old ones. The process of making all educational and methodological programmes constantly falls on the shoulders of university teachers. Is this the situation with universities in New Zealand? ANSWER: I do understand what you are talking about and I am convinced that current trend in Russia undermines the educational base of universities. As a result, the quality of education is getting worse which consequently impacts on the Russian society. I always had a question: “Who makes the Federal Educational Standards?”. The curriculum, including standards, for universities in New Zealand is not determined by the state or descended from the top. In some cases it is specified by professional organizations. Professor Tim Dare explains: “The professional bodies of some professions (the NZ Law Society, for instance) specify particular subjects which someone aiming to be admitted as a lawyer must pass. In effect that sets at least the central parts of the curriculum in law schools. I’m familiar with law, but I think the same will be true for many degrees leading to admission to professions entry to which is controlled by professional bodies: medicine and accounting, and the like. Those professional bodies are not ‘the state’. There is not ‘state specified’ curriculum for the Universities. There is an inter-University body, CUAP — the Committee on University Academic Programmes which approves new programme initiatives. Universities don’t have to take new course (i.e., single papers) to CUAP, but when Auckland introduced a new Bachelor’s degree in Communications, or Waikato a new Bachelor of Arts in Law, they both went through CUAP for assessment and comment by other interested academics. So, I was asked as someone at Auckland with an interest in law to comment on Waikato’s Bachelor of Arts in Law.”
QUESTION 4: What can you say about the students, especially when comparing their academic achievements, their knowledge and academic skills, etc. ANSWER: New Zealand is a diverse country and therefore it is difficult to compare the audience of Russian students and New Zealand students, which includes students from dozens of different countries. But in my opinion, Chinese and Russian students are more focused on studying and achievements.
QUESTION 5: What can you say about the workload of university teachers? Teaching hours have increased considerably in recent years. Russian active teaching workload is up to 800-900 hours per year. How does this compare with New Zealand? ANSWER: As a rule, the duties of a full-time university teacher include teaching, research, administration. As Tim Dare notes, “There will be quite a lot of variation across and within NZ Universities. However, in my experience our teaching loads are low by international standards. It has been common at Auckland for most of my career for everyone in my Department to teach 3.5 courses a year, so to teach two courses in one semester and to teach one and share one in the other in a two-semester year (and not to teach in the third or summer semester.) That is a teaching load designed to promote research. It might be useful to know that, pretty universally across NZ, people who have standard university teaching jobs (like me and Justine) will be expected to spend 40% of their time on research; 40% on teaching; and 20% administration. There are exceptions. There are some ‘Teaching’ positions, which might not have a research component (they might be 80% teaching and 20% admin) and more rarely there are research only positions though these will usually be temporary while someone has a external research funding which buys them out of their teaching.” Justine Kingsbury adds, “per week, during the 24 weeks of teaching, I do about 5 hours of teaching per week. Across the year, about 120 hours. That’s just class time — there is also marking, and office hours (when students can come and talk to you in your office) — office hours are about 30 hours per year, marking hours are extremely variable. My teaching load is probably at the low end for a university job in New Zealand – I think that in some disciplines there are a lot more contact hours.”
QUESTION 6: Many Russian teachers have to work in several universities to get a higher salary. What is the university teacher’s salary in New Zealand and how much of it goes to everyday needs? ANSWER: University teachers’ salary depends on academic ranks. Academic ranks are categorized into five general levels, although the names of these levels may vary from institution to institution: Level A — Mentor / Assistant Lecturer / Research Fellow Level B — Lecturer / Researcher Level C — Senior Lecturer / Senior Research Fellow Level D — Associate Professor Level E – Professor These levels correspond to an annual salary range from 87,000 $NZ to 165,000 $NZ In comparison, the average salary for IT Specialist is NZ$82,686 per year in New Zealand, so universities teachers are fairly well paid.
QUESTION 7. What are the general working conditions of employment? What are the terms of the extension and the duration of the contract? ANSWER: I want to draw your attention to the employment protection of university teachers in New Zealand and Tim Dare shares, “I think we don’t usually work under what you mean by a contract here. All employment in NZ is under contract, so we do have contracts, but they give us something like tenure: provided we are not fired or made redundant (and the University has to show very clear grounds for doing either) we have jobs until we retire or resign. We can be fired (very rare — has to be serious misconduct) or made redundant if a University restructure. Many Universities have stopped teaching some languages, for instance, including Russian and Indonesian at Auckland. The staff in those areas would have had a non-time limited contract, like ours, and would have been eligible for a redundancy payment of some sort.
QUESTION 8: Does the university have a really functioning system for the distribution of graduates, or are they left to their own devices? ANSWER: Universities do not guarantee employment for their graduates. However, there are Career Centres at the universities, where students can get advice and help with finding a job in their specialty. They obtain assistance in writing a resume, interview skills and recommendations on how to successfully pass an interview, etc.
QUESTION 9: Do you see any advantages in the Russian system of higher professional education? ANSWER: I think that the Bologna Process, Russian universities went through several years ago, significantly reduced the quality of education and undermined the education system itself, without achieving the goal of creating international higher education area within the European countries that signed the Bologna Declaration and with countries that joined later. The more I learn about the education system abroad, the more I am convinced that the Soviet education system was the best, consistent, systemic, fundamental, methodologically well-grounded and balanced at all levels. The most important thing historically is that the Soviet education system gave knowledge and brought up a comprehensively developed personality. It did not deliver education services.
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Интервью на русском языке: