Primary Teaching - College of Education, Health and Human Development - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

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Primary Teacher Education

What is Primary Teacher Education?

Primary teachers work with children in Years 1 – 8 (ages 5 – 13) in primary, intermediate, middle and area schools. As a Primary teacher you introduce children to the world of learning, and start them on their road to reading, writing and mathematics. It’s a very rewarding and satisfying career where you can make a real difference in children’s lives.

Is Primary Teaching for me?

Primary Teaching

Primary teacher education students:

  • are interested in working with children and their communities
  • want to teach all school subjects
  • are organized and well prepared
  • are nurturing and enjoy cultivating a love of learning in others.

If that sounds like you, read on to find out more about taking these programmes at UC.

What and how will I learn at UC?

    Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Primary)

You'll learn about the theory, practice and management of teaching, including the place and role of education, the characteristics of learners and the teaching-learning process. You'll also learn about the curriculum taught in schools today to prepare you for the profession of teaching. This includes English, Māori language, mathematics, science, technology education, social studies, art, music, drama and dance, health and physical education and learning languages.

You will spend time working in a classroom where you can trial and refine your planning, teaching and management skills. By the end of your studies at UC you will have learnt and practiced all the teaching skills required of teachers in New Zealand primary, intermediate, middle and area schools.

There are four qualification pathways for primary initial teacher education.

    Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning (Primary)

  • As an initial degree through the three year Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (BTchLn) programme. This is full-time or part-time on campus in Christchurch, full-time in Rotorua and Nelson or, full-time or part-time by distance through the Flexible Learning Option (FLO).
    Download the BTchLn course structure (PDF, 331KB).
  • The Bachelor of Teaching and Learning with Honours is a four year qualification. The first three years of the BTchLn can be full-time or part-time on campus in Christchurch, full-time in Rotorua and Nelson or, full-time or part-time by distance through the Flexible Learning Option (FLO). Upon completion of the BTchLn with B+ average at 200 and 300 level you may complete your fourth year either full-time or part-time on campus in Christchurch.
  • If you already have a Bachelor degree you can enrol in the one-year (Feb-Nov) Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning (Primary) (GradDipTchLn). This programme can be undertaken full-time on campus in Christchurch and full-time or part-time by distance through the Flexible Learning Option (FLO). This option is suited to those looking for a well-respected pathway to teaching, including practica in schools and research-based coursework. It is the recommended pathway for International students
  • Master of Teaching and Learning

  • If you already have a Bachelor degree you can enrol in the Master of Teaching and Learning. You will complete a 180 point master’s degree within one calendar year (Jan-Dec) of fulltime study on campus in Christchurch.
    The MTchgLn programme is a qualification that is leading-edge in its focus on classroom practices that cater for diverse learners needs for the New Zealand Aotearoa context. Research and theory will develop your understanding of learning processes, providing you with a robust academic backdrop to apply in working inclusively with Maori, Pasifika and other priority learners. This option is suited to those looking for the challenge of post-graduate level study (a B+ average in your major 300 level courses is required), that is practice-based and research-informed. The rewards of this more intensive programme include the opportunity for year-long engagement with local partner schools, and a higher entry point salary on entering the teaching profession. The Journal of Initial Teacher Inquiry showcases 2015 MTchgLn students' research articles which relate to a mix of both primary and secondary school-based contexts.

Successful completion of any of these pathways lead to eligibility to apply for NZTC registration. However, there are differences in the duration, focus and qualification awarded. Specifically, the BTchLn is a three-year undergraduate programme whilst both the GradDipTchg and the MTchgLn are one-year programmes for those with a Bachelor degree. Below is a quick overview of the differences between the the GradDipTchg and the MTchgLn programmes.

  BTchLn BTchLn (Hons) GradDipTchg MTchgLn
Level of qualification Undergraduate Postgraduate Graduate Postgraduate
Qualification Duration 3 years full-time or up to 6 years part-time 1 year full-time or up to 3 years part-time 1 year full-time or up to 3 years part-time 1 year full-time
2017 Course dates 13 Feb - 16 Nov 2017 20 Feb - 19 Nov 2017 FLO 7 Feb – 24 Nov 2017
Campus 13 Feb - 24 Nov 2017
16 Jan- 8 Dec 2017
Fees* $5,900 $7,100 $8,060
Loans Yes Yes Yes Yes
Allowance Yes Yes Yes No
Starting salary point – primary** Salary Group 3 Salary Group 4 Salary Group 3+ Salary Group 5

* These are domestic fees are for 2017.

** Source -

A range of first year education courses are offered to Year 12 and 13 students through the STAR programme. These courses are designed to provide a challenging and stimulating opportunity for secondary school students and a chance to experience the varied programmes offered at the College of Education, Health and Human Development.

Why is UC the place to study?

The UC College of Education, Health and Human Development has a national and international reputation for producing high-quality primary teaching graduates based on over 130 years of experience.

The UC Education campus in Christchurch has well equipped buildings and teaching rooms. These are complemented by Collective, the student cafe, and the Education Library which has plenty of study space and provides support for all students.

At the beginning of each year orientation activities enable you to meet other students studying Primary Teaching and UC offers plenty of social and recreational activities for you to choose from when you need a break from studying.

We offer flexibility for our distance and regional students – they receive strong support from their lecturers and have a great online network with access to lectures, coursework, staff and other students. It means that they can study part-time or full-time in some programmes whilst they continue work, meet family responsibilities and pursue other interests.


The GradDipTchLn (Primary) has one intake each February. Applications open in July and are due four weeks prior to commencement of the programme.

The MTchgLn programme begins in mid January. Applications need to be received by early December.

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What should I take at school?

The Bachelor of Teaching and Learning (Primary) is open to any student with University Entrance. However, the following subjects are recommended:

  • English
  • Maths.

If you are 20 years of age or over, recent tertiary study is desirable. For example, you may want to consider the Certificate in Learning Support (CertLS) which is available by distance or the Certificate in University Preparation (CUP) prior to applying.

Selection for entry is not automatic and is based on:

  • academic ability
  • involvement and interest in working with children
  • community involvement
  • communication skills – you need to be able to communicate your ideas clearly, confidently and coherently, and to listen and respond to others appropriately
  • a police check and an interview.

Students for whom English is an additional language who are applying for the Graduate Diploma or Bachelor programmes must provide evidence of their English language ability as follows:

  • IELTS (Academic) 7.0, with no individual score below 7.0; or
  • at least two years of successful study in a New Zealand secondary school, with at least eight Level 2 NCEA credits in English (four reading and four writing) or equivalent; or
  • a degree from a NZ or Australian tertiary education organisation where the medium of instruction was fully in English.

Note that satisfying these criteria does not guarantee entry to the programme.

Entry requirements for the Master of Teaching and Learning are available here.

What jobs do Primary Teaching graduates do?

Graduates of the degree or graduate diploma programmes will be eligible for provisional registration as a teacher. This enables you to apply for teaching positions in New Zealand. Please contact the relevant authorities for international requirements.

Our graduates have gained positions in primary, intermediate, middle and area schools in New Zealand and overseas. Some have also gained positions in secondary schools, government departments, recruitment and human resource management, universities, as well as in private academies and agencies.

For more information about the skills you will learn and the jobs and activities our graduates do visit the UC Careers Hub What can I do with a degree in Primary Teacher Education?

Current and past students' experiences

Further study

Postgraduate options include: