1998 was an interesting time for teacher education, as a change to the education legislation and a teacher education review opened the door for mergers between university education departments and colleges of education.
In 1998 the Education Act was amended to allow tertiary institutions of different types to merge if there were educational benefits. The amendment was made with some urgency, due to concerns about the legality of the proposed merger between Wellington Polytechnic and Massey University.
This was the same year a teacher education review got underway. However, colleges and schools of education became frustrated by the slow pace of the review. Issues like the funding of support services was up in the air for some time, making it hard for the institutions to plan for the future.
Following the aforementioned changes to the Education Act, the review saw the merger of many colleges of education with universities.
In 1998 Otago University and Dunedin College of Education were still running their own teaching degrees, although Education Review reported that a proposed merger was on the cards. While a working party report recommended the merger should proceed, there was a mixed reaction from the two institutions.
It was a similar story further up the country, as talks began about a possible merger in 1999 between the Auckland College of Education and the Massey University College of Education (formerly Palmerston North College of Education).
In June 1998 Education Review reported the Council for Teacher Education’s intentions to disband and reform as an advocacy body for the stand-alone colleges of education. At this point, the six colleges of education were down to four, and were expected to go down to three following the proposed merger of Auckland College of Education and Massey University.
As the market opened up for teacher education and providers began experimenting with flexible delivery modes, such as distance learning, there were some questions raised over the quality of some of the teacher education courses, according to Education Review, 1998. Concerns were made over the “newly competitive teacher education market” and the quality of applicants and graduates.
By the end of 1999, the Government was starting to panic about the quality of teacher education and Education Minister Nick Smith proposed to put all programmes under Education Review Office review. There were also talks to introduce a professional teacher body to oversee teaching standards and registration, which at that time was fulfilled by the Teacher Registration Board, established in 1990.
By 2000, the situation had worsened and the Government decided to put teacher training courses on hold, leaving many providers in limbo as they awaited approval for their teacher education courses. Education Minister Trevor Mallard said the Government was concerned about the standard of teacher education and the large number of courses. By this stage there were 32 providers of teacher education offering more than 100 courses – an increase from six in 1989.