The effects of occupational licensing on New Zealand early childhood education and care workforce: the perceptions of early childhood education and care (ECEC) teachers and other stakeholders

2017-02-27T00:05:07Z (GMT) by Tan, Peggy
In 2012, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD), the International Labour Office(ILO) and the World Bank have observed how nation states might best develop the teaching workforce that can deliver high quality ECE services competently, is an issue that is much contested. In this thesis the contribution that occupational licensing can play a role to this process is discussed. In brief, the thesis examines New Zealand’s attempt to utilise occupational licensing to construct a workforce, capable of delivering a high standard of early childhood services. The licensing strategy initially embraced by the government failed to fully generate a highly qualified early childhood education and care (ECEC) workforce as was intended, but what was achieved was a workforce that by international norms is trained to a high standard. This thesis examines this effort and more specifically aims to clarify: (i) ECEC teachers’ perceptions of how licensing has impacted on their work situation and on the quality of early childhood education, (ii) Education Review Office (ERO) reviewers’ evaluation of the impact of licensing on ECEC settings, (iii) and how managers of ECEC centres evaluate the impact of licensing. To realise these goals, quantitative and qualitative data was collected in New Zealand over an eleven months period. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise the characteristics of 119 survey questionnaire respondents and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 licensed ECEC teachers and unstructured interviews were conducted with 6 Education Office Reviewers and one representative each from the New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa (NZEI Te Riu Roa), the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) and one management representative from a community-based trust operating three ECEC centres. The findings show that teachers almost unanimously agree that licensing an ECEC workforce has a positive effect on their work, their status and their ability to provide for children and parents. However, they also acknowledge that initially the licensing process created a highly unstable ECEC workforce. In brief, while the licensing of ECEC teachers had positive outcomes, the manner and pace in which the process was introduced and subsequently amended, created severe difficulties. It did so first by creating an environment in which there was a dramatic increase in staff turnover and the state’s response to this development subsequently generated a marked oversupply of licensed ECEC teachers. This study demonstrates the effectiveness of licensing as a means of increasing the proportion of qualified ECEC teachers in a context in which other agents that have traditionally played this role have weakened. It also demonstrates the value of using financial incentives to shape the character of the workforce, a practice that governments may apply in relation to other desired worker characteristics. Finally, the thesis highlights the need for regulators to be sensitive to labour market volatility when introducing a licensing regime. The thesis fills a gap in management scholarly research by documenting how key stakeholders understand how licensing an occupation can affect wages, status, work conditions, turnover and other issues of concern to teachers, their employers and the state.