TESOLANZ Professional Standards Project: Profile of the TESOL Profession

Project Officer

Surveys of the membership in particular professions are an important part of strategic planning for the growth, development and maintenance of that profession. The assessment of where a profession stands at present in terms of its member's status becomes an essential part of its ability to meet the present and future needs of its clientele. Determination must be made whether the present membership have the ability, experience and continued training options to meet future demands.

The teaching profession has recently undergone such an analysis. This profile was initiated by the realisation that although the education sector forms a significant part of the workforce in New Zealand, data on characteristics of this workforce which could better inform future planning in respect of teacher training, recruitment and retention are incomplete (Sturrock, 1998). Details on qualifications, gender and other variables were then gathered from:

  • the 1996 New Zealand census of Population and Dwellings
  • data collected by the Ministry of Education on the Early Childhood and Tertiary Sectors
  • the teachers' payroll administered by Datacom

This analysis will continue in 1998 through a specific census of all those in the state school sector workforce and will ask for specific information such as length of service, main teaching subjects and participation in professional development (Sturrock, 1998).

Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages is a profession which could only be partly analysed using the methods outlined above. Practitioners teach in an expansive range of sectors: early childhood to PHD candidates, refugees and migrants, fee-paying students, private tuition, exchange students, employment courses, on the job training. Instructional venues can range from home, community language schools, private language schools, refugee and migrant centres, as part of holiday tours, and the whole range of educational institutions available.

However the need to define the TESOL profession has become more pressing as the demand for English language instruction increases in New Zealand. For instance, over 21,000 primary and secondary Non-English Speaking Background students from 56 different first language groups are receiving funding from an additional allocation $5.7 million from the Ministry of Education package, 1997 - 2000. These students will need continued assistance as they progress through tertiary education, into the workforce, and learn to cope with social and legal demands. An estimated 30,000 international full fee students were in New Zealand in 1997 (Rose, 1998). Quota refugees, new immigrants, and family members requiring tuition at home must be added to the figures.

The steadily growing number of people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds requiring English language teaching is putting pressure on existing educational institutions and teacher training programmes. It is clear that there is a shortage of qualified and experienced ESOL teachers to meet the expansive range of learner needs.

This article analyses the results of a recent Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Association of New Zealand survey undertaken to define its membership in order to best meet future teaching and learning demands.


Profiling New Zealand TESOL

A certain portion of teachers of English to speakers of other languages in New Zealand would have been included in the Ministry analysis described above. However, it would appear that many in this specialised sector work outside the parameters of the state school sector workforce. To date, no information about this vital sector of the education profession has been gathered.

The need for information about ESOL teachers has developed as part of the push for professional standards. The professional standards sub-committee of TESOLANZ (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Aotearoa/New Zealand) developed the Core competencies Profile as part of its brief to "develop a concise, comprehensive profile of core, or generic competencies for the ESOL profession" (White, 1997a).

A natural outcome of the need to profile the TESOL profession in terms of what its members require in the way of "knowledge, skill attitudes and experience for the context in which they work" (White, 1997b) is to also define the profession in terms of age, gender, educational background, teaching experience, employment situations and participation in professional development activities (Sanaoui, 1997). The Professional Standards Project commissioned by the TESOLANZ executive also wanted to "develop a profile of the ESOL Profession in New Zealand as represented by the TESOLANZ membership". The survey was to include:

  • the sectors in which members work
  • community languages speakers who are also ESOL teachers
  • the range of qualifications held
  • the length of experience of members
  • the current professional support available to members
  • language learning experience of members

(White, 1997a)

Development of the Survey: Sector details

Along with the Core Competency Statements Booklet sent to all TESOLANZ members in May, 1998 was a brochure, "Profile of the New Zealand TESOL Profession". Recipients were asked to respond to 13 items. Added to the points specified in the project survey were: age, gender, present position, nature of position, and professional development avenues.

As most of the variables required in the survey were of an objective nature, e.g. age and gender, consultation for the survey was limited to ESOL sectors in which members worked. It was felt that more information was needed in this area of the survey to ensure that the diversity of the profession was represented clearly in the choice of options offered.

The selected sector representatives were asked to complete a trial form of the ESOL Sector sheet by circling one or more of seven options.

Please read the following suggested ESOL Sectors and circle the sector(s) you belong to:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Tertiary
  • Adult and Community Education
  • Home Tutor Association/Migrant Issues
  • Teacher/Education/Advisory Services
  • Other


Sector representatives were also requested to add or delete from the list.

As part of the consultation process, TESOLANZ Branches were sent a handout with the following instructions:

Please brainstorm the following question and send the results to the Project Director before 23 February 1998.

What official ESOL Sectors should be listed as part of the Teacher Profile within New Zealand? (e.g. Primary, Secondary, Tertiary, Home Tutor Association)

As a result of this consultation process, the final sector choices were:

  • Advisory Services
  • Community Education/Home Tutor Association
  • Early Childhood
  • Polytechnic
  • Primary
  • Private Language School
  • Secondary
  • Teacher Education
  • Tertiary
  • TOPs Courses/Employment based Education
  • University Language Centre
  • Other

The consultation process resulted in a comprehensive list of TESOL sectors with only a few options being listed for 'Other'.

Results: ESOL Sectors

The Profile of the New Zealand Profession was completed by 191 respondents. Fourteen distinct sectors were identified. Many listed two areas of employment as shown by the total number of responses, 255. This indicates that 33.5% of members either work in more than one area, or that some of the sectors were not clearly defined and respondents felt they had to circle two choices.
The graph below shows the distribution of members across the various sectors.


(Note: some respondents work in more than one sector. Total positions listed = 255)

The largest bulk of the members teach in secondary schools, polytechnics or tertiary institutes. Several points need to be made about this situation:

The number of primary teachers and early childhood teachers registered in the membership survey is minuscule. Yet there are over 15,000 primary NESB students receiving ESOL resourcing and more beyond eligibility for funding who still need assistance being taught by teacher aides and trained teachers in primary schools (Lee, 1998). There are primary schools on "Assisting NESB students" contracts throughout the country emphasising the obvious needs of these schools to develop effective teaching and learning strategies. In primary schools in particular there are some teacher aides lacking teaching or ESOL qualifications working with NESB children.Clearly, the organisation must encourage increased membership from the sector which will continue to teach large numbers of NESB students.

Branch contacts are almost exclusively at the tertiary, polytechnic or advisory levels. Of the 10 TESOLANZ Branch Contacts listed only three names are linked to the state sector, one at primary and two at secondary. The others are all of representatives based at Polytechnics, Universities or Colleges of Education. Given the number of secondary teachers who are members, why do so few of them appear in these management roles?

Three other sectors which seem under-represented in the membership survey are the Home Tutor Association, Community Education and Private Language School Tutors. These groups form an important part of the ESOL profession. What can TESOLANZ do to encourage increased membership and contact with these areas?

Age Range

The majority of ESOL teachers surveyed are in the age range of 44-55 years old with a mean age of 47.3 years. In the general teaching profession, 35% of teachers are in the age group of 40-49 years, whereas this age group comprises 45.5% of the TESOL profession.

In the general population, the proportion of all people in paid employment in the 20-29 age range is 23% compared with 16% of general teachers and 4.1% in the TESOL survey (Sturrock, 1998).

Even though the TESOL survey was based on a small sample, there are a number of clear implications from the sample. ESOL teachers are older than the rest of the teaching population and there are fewer younger teachers involved in the profession. As noted in the Profile of NZ teachers "there will be few experienced teachers coming through to replace the bulk of teachers approaching retirement".

How can younger teachers be attracted to TESOL? What part can TESOLANZ play in this recruitment issue? The number of students at all ages needing English Language instruction is increasing and at this point the profession seems ill-equipped to cope with these demands.


Of those surveyed, 87.4% of ESOL teachers were women and 12.6% were men.

Historically the teaching profession has been predominantly female. The gender proportions of all teachers in New Zealand are as follows:

  • Tertiary: 45.9% female, 54.1% male
  • Secondary: 56.2% female, 43.8% male
  • Primary: 83.6% female, 16.4% male

The ESOL figures determined by the survey relate closely to the proportions shown in primary schools. However, this proportion changes as the age of students in each sector increases. ESOL teachers are strongly represented in the secondary, polytechnic and tertiary sectors yet the change in proportion shown in general teaching sectors is not reflected. It appears that this is an area for further research. The Ontario Study reflects the same proportions: 87% of instructors were women and 13% were men (Sanaoui 1997).


As in any profession, practitioners should be qualified. In the case of TESOL, students deserve the best possible instruction. The TESOLANZ Philosophy of Professional Standards makes this clear as it emphasises that those in the field need specialised teacher education courses and that only qualified, experienced professionals have the skills to address issues relating to ESOL learners (White, 1997a).


Members have achieved a wide range of qualifications. The key qualifications and numbers achieving those were:

  • Dip SLT (Massey) - 42 members
  • RSA Cambridge CELTA - 35 members
  • MA Applied Linguistics - 23 members
  • Dip TESOL - 20 members
  • Cert TESOL - 15 members
  • Dip TESOL (Victoria) - 15 members
  • Cert TESOL (Trinity) - 9 members
  • Dip ELT (Ak Uni) - 7 members
  • CLTA (AIT) - 5 members
  • Dip Slt (Waikato) - 4 members
  • PACE Cert TESL - 4 members
  • ESOL Cert (Otago Poly) - 4 members
  • Home Tutor Group Training - 3 members

Various other qualifications were listed for 1 or 2 respondents.

Important points to note:

 29 respondents or 15% listed no degree.
17 respondents or 9% listed no ESOL qualifications
14 respondents or 7% listed no Teaching qualifications.

91% of those surveyed had an ESOL qualification.

The percentage of those without ESL training is comparative to a study of 1200 instructors teaching non-credit Adult ESL in Ontario, Canada where 90% of instruction have received ESL training and 10% have not (Sanaoui, 1997).

76% of members held the following ESOL qualifications:

  • Dip SLT (Massey)
  • RSA Cambridge CELTA
  • MA Applied Linguistics
  • Dip TESOL
  • Cert TESOL
  • Dip TESOL (Victoria)

Of the almost 200 members surveyed, 17 members or 9% had no ESOL qualifications.

While many of these possibly possessed other academic or teaching qualifications, this percentage seems too high for a specialised profession. The Philosophy of Professional Standards is quite clear on this matter when it states "that native speaker competence in English does not of itself qualify an individual to assume the role of an ESOL professional" (White, 1997a). All post-graduate TESL diploma courses require a degree for admission. The teaching and learning of a second language is complex and those assuming an instructor's role must be suitably prepared.

Qualifications: Teaching

89% of those surveyed did complete a teaching qualification.

The profession is at least in a strong position regarding teacher training. Some respondents argued that a New Zealand primary trained teacher had enough of a qualification to deal with first or second language learning. Unfortunately, second language learning and teaching strategies form a small part of the course at Colleges of Education. Many of these teachers will have classes which include a large number of NESB students but have received little practical instruction in this specialised field.

Qualifications: Academic
78% of respondents had obtained a Degree, 7% obtained an Education Qualification below degree and 15% of respondents did not have a degree.
This compares favourably with the New Zealand teacher profile across three sectors:


  • Tertiary - 65% held a degree, 10% held an Education Qualification below degree level
  • Secondary - 67% held a degree, 24% held an Education Qualification below degree
  • Primary - 28% held a degree, 65% held an Education Qualification below degree.

In the Canadian study cited previously, 46% of instructors in non-credit adult ESL held an undergraduate degree, 9% held an MA/MSc, 33% held an Ontario Teacher's Certificate (Sanaoui, 1997). Non-credit in the situation described must equate to ESOL Community Education, Home Tutor Programme and Night classes in New Zealand. Teaching Experience The survey has shown that the average number of years ESOL experience was 9.6 years with a range of 1-30 years experience.

The survey has shown that the average number of years of other teaching experience as 8.6 years with a range of 1-36 years experience.

The profession has an experienced, well-qualified base of expertise. The future planning must involve maintaining this core while constantly securing the services of new and preferably younger teachers.

The survey did not establish clearly the link between these two areas. For example, how many ESOL teachers began teaching without first teaching other subjects? Perhaps subject teachers have moved into language teaching after a few years. These processes and developments in teaching careers are considerations for further studies. If the profession is to continue serving its clientele effectively then an understanding of career paths is needed.

Recruitment and Retention
The primary school sector and to a lesser extent the secondary sector has been supported by a recruitment drive for teachers since 1996, aimed mainly at the younger age group. This has been necessary to cope with an increase in student numbers and a change in school staffing policy resulting in more than 1000 new teaching positions in state schools (Sturrock, 1998).

Many sectors in TESOL exist outside these recruitment drives organised by the Ministry of Education and are subject to wider international economic, social and educational forces in terms of foreign fee-paying students, immigration, refugee quotas, etc. The lack of co-ordination or support by a government funded agency (although NZEIL is currently involved in the maintenance of standards regarding fee paying students) means that TESOL in New Zealand has developed its own infrastructures and policies especially in those areas outside the state or tertiary sectors. Qualification programmes through universities, polytechnics and colleges of education have assisted in providing trained ESOL teachers but there is still a lack of knowledge about these recruitment and retention issues.

As stated by one respondent in the core competencies profile, "almost all of these competencies are important for ESOL teachers developing a "professional approach". If only there was a commensurate recognition for such professionalism in NZ TESOL! I only have to cite the poor status of ESOL teachers in secondary schools and the increasing casualisation of work Polytechnics and Private Language Institutions."

The concerns expressed reflect a degree of dissatisfaction in the profession and the need for support and development in TESOL sectors.

Job Nature

The employment status of respondents was divided into: Permanent, Contract, Casual and Other.

Job Nature

Job Nature

One fault with this model was the omission of "part time" as a separate category and as an option in the Permanent category. Only 4% listed part time as an option under 'Other' whereas a further analysis of the data reveals that part time was listed as part of the response to "Please give the title/details of your present position". The responses to this item also revealed that a number listed two or more positions of a different nature or ESOL sector which indicated the part time nature of these options.

As a result of this adjustment, part time employment increases to 9% and those working in two or more positions grows to 10%.

The transitory nature of TESOL employment becomes apparent when the casual option of 10% is added to the above figure and the fact that a further 26% are on contract.

Job security is the overriding issue here. Given the revised analysis above, 55% of respondents are in part-time or contract positions and 45% are in full time permanent positions. The quality of teaching may be affected by a more piecemeal approach to educating English language learners. TESOL is subjected to economic priorities and the perceived status of the subject to a great extent especially in specific sectors and these factors may serve to undermine professional standards.

Community Languages Spoken and Language Learning Experience

One of the aims of the project was to determine the number of community languages speakers who are also ESOL teachers. A clearer definition of community languages should have been provided with more than two examples, e.g. Samoan, Chinese. A few respondents questioned whether this included Maori which is an official language of New Zealand. Item 8 also asked if respondents were speakers of a Community Language. The question should have read the same as number 10, e.g. "Have you had the experience of learning another language?" The graph below highlights the fact that there are few ESOL teachers who speak a community language.

Community Languages Spoken


The core competency statement related to this issue of learning a community language rated last with a mean of 2.46/5. Surveyed members strongly feel that this attribute is not necessary to be an effective ESOL teacher.

However, all those surveyed answered affirmatively when asked if they had the experience of learning another language. The specific language in this case was not asked for but this was an oversight. 86% felt that it was very to extremely useful for an ESOL professional to have had the experience of learning another language. It is vital for language teachers to have undertaken language learning and many argue that ESOL teachers should continue to learn other languages to enhance their understanding of the processes involved and to enhance their effectiveness as teachers.


All respondents answered that learning another language was useful.

Language Experience

Personal Professional Development

Eight choices were listed as avenues which ESOL teachers could use to continue their professional development. 93% listed TESOLANZ as the main PD vehicle. Membership in the organisation does provide some of the other options listed: Conference (Biannual), Journal subscription (English Teaching Forum) and at least three of the branches hold regular Language Expos.

The graph which follows shows the distribution of member's choices for Professional Development. Those surveyed are active in their pursuit of upskilling and many are attempting additional qualifications (46%). The importance of professional reading is illustrated in the fact that Journal Subscriptions was ranked second with 60% selecting this option.


Professional Development Avenues

Various other examples of professional development were listed by respondents.

Employer Support for Professional Development

90% responded that their employers provided assistance for Professional Development while 10% reported little or no support. Support was provided through seven key options with payment of conference and course fees and provision of time off being those most likely offered. Employers appeared to offer a flexible packaging of choices to employees in order to continue their professional progress.



Professional Development Support


Various other support options were listed by respondents:

There was a wide range of support provided with some receiving 10 days of paid leave for PD per year and others just being offered in-house team meetings. Advanced qualification fees were paid for by some institutions while other employees were having to use their own time and finances to continue PD within restricted budgets. Comments provided on the survey brochure indicated that universities generally offered the best level of support while secondary schools struggled to provide adequate support packages.

The Ontario survey revealed that 98% of ESOL instructors were offered professional development activities by their employers. 72% indicated that they also participated in PD programmes independently from their employers.

Perhaps a standardised development package should be specified for all TESOL sectors. This will encourage a firm commitment to the concept of Professional Development and in turn let employees know what to expect.


The membership profile of NZ TESOL has established baseline data which will enable future decisions in terms of recruitment and retention, professional development, training and qualifications to be grounded in the distinct characteristics of the profession. There are many issues resulting from this analysis which should be dealt with by TESOLANZ, the Ministry, institutions and employers.

From the study, a picture of the ESOL professional in New Zealand emerges as someone who:

  • teaches in a secondary school or polytechnic
  • is female and 47 years old
  • has ESOL qualifications of a Dip SLT (Massey), RSA Cambridge CELTA,
  • MA Applied Linguistics, Dip TESOL, Cert TESOL or Dip TESOL (Victoria).
  • has a BA or MA
  • has general teaching qualifications of a Dip Tchg, Dip Ed, Dip Secondary Tchg
  • has taught ESOL for 9.6 years, has taught in other sectors for 8.6 years
  • has a part-time job
  • does not speak a community language but has had language learning experience and feels that it was an extremely useful experience
  • continues professional development through TESOLANZ, Journal Subscriptions, courses and conferences
  • obtains employer support through payment of conference fees, paid leave, papers paid for, payment of course fees



Johnston, B (1997) Do EFL teachers have careers? TESOL Quarterly 31/4, p 711

Keevil, Harold, D (1995). Accreditation/Certification for Adult ESL Instructors in Canada: An Overview TESL Canada Journal, 13/1, 37-63.

Lee, L. (1998). Fact Sheet and Questions/Answers on 1998/1 ESOL Allocation, Ministry of Education.

Rose, E.S. (1998) Source Countries and International Full Fee Students in 1998. NZEIL

Sanaoui, R (1997). Characteristics of Instructors Teaching Non-Credit Adult ESL in Ontario: A progress report on TESL Ontario's research study. Manuscript.

Sturrock, F (1998). A Profile of Teachers in New Zealand. The Research Bulletin, Number 8, May 1998, 9-22.

Williams, L (1995) Policy on language teaching and learning in secondary schools New Zealand Association of Language Teachers.

White, C.J. (1997a). TESOLANZ draft philosophy of professional standards TESOLANZ Newsletter, 6/2, 15.

White, C.J. (1997b). Professional Standards Project, TESOLANZ

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