The sector speaks up: the future of New Zealand education

February 2016

 

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Education Review’s outstanding ‘Sector Voices’ special e-edition was published at the end of 2015, bringing together the varied and considered opinions of leaders, principals and teachers to reveal the key issues
New Zealand education faces going forward. Here is a taste of some of the topics and views that emerged.

 

The Education Act Review

Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education

Hekia Parata

“We need to make changes to our education system to ensure impediments to learning are dealt with as they arise, rather than waiting till near the end of a student’s schooling. And those changes need to be sustainable over time so that we are not constantly in fix-up mode. And so that those students already doing well are supported to do even better.

“The process is under way. We have almost doubled spending on early childhood learning since 2008 to ensure our early learners start school better prepared. We have introduced National Standards to help teachers identify student strengths and weaknesses more quickly and to do something about them. We have established the Education Council to raise the quality and status of the teaching profession. We are investing about $700 million in digital infrastructure to ensure every child is able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by technology. We are refocusing teacher professional development on key priorities. We are bringing schools together in Communities of Learning to work collaboratively to raise achievement because the skill and professionalism of our teachers and principals is our greatest resource.

“We are updating the Education Act 1989 for 2016 and beyond. And we are reviewing the education funding system to ensure it supports schools to focus on the things that make the greatest difference to kids’ learning. None of these measures have been without debate – and nor should they be. We all want the best for our children and a good Kiwi education is a passport to a better future.”

 

Tracey Martin, NZ First

Tracey Martin“... it is time to have meaningful, open and transparent consultation about the review of the Education Act 1989. This would take place in a similar manner to that which developed our world-leading curriculum documents. Consultation alongside wider public conversations; robust discussion between all stakeholders across all sectors – early years, early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary and trade training, adult and community education; discussion that includes the voice of students, parents and caregivers, support staff, teachers, school leaders and school trustees.

“This Education Hui would develop a collaborative 30-year strategic plan for New Zealand education. This plan is timely after 25 years of Tomorrow’s Schools and would set an agreed direction and a shared vision for our nation’s education that is free from changes in governments and ministers. It would include the development of regional educational strategies and enable seamless transitions between and across sectors. In order to make and embed positive change, politicians must recognise that they are not educational experts. It is the job of legislators to make sure that all citizens’ rights to education are enshrined and protected by practical appropriate laws.”

 

Catherine Delahunty, Green Party

Catherine Delahunty“[We] believe that education is at a turning point and that the review of the purpose of the Education Act is a critical opportunity to affirm public quality education and reverse competition and inequality in our schools.”

 

 

 

 

Louise Green, NZEI Te Riu Roa

Louise Green“New Zealanders have been given a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have a say in the direction of education, with a review of the Education Act. The legislation that comes out at the other end of this process will have a massive effect on the future shape of public education.

“It is crucial that education not be framed as a set of ‘goals’. We need more than goals for our education system; we need a clear purpose. This purpose must be enduring, inclusive, student-centred, and embrace the breadth of desired student outcomes. It needs to focus on more than narrow, data-driven student evaluation, and build on the vision outlined in the curricula of confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners.

“To achieve this, all educators, parents, whānau and communities need to engage with the Education Act review. They also need to be fully involved in their local communities to determine the needs of the learners and how best to meet them. Whenever there are changes proposed to the education system, educators need to be involved in the debate. We can influence change when we get involved and speak out.”

 


Investing in Educational Success

Patrick Walsh, SPANZ

Patrick Walsh“The establishment of the Government’s Investing In Educational Success policy (IES), at a cost of more than $360 million, has the potential to mitigate the destructive, competitive nature inherent in the Tomorrow’s Schools regime, allow for the sharing of best practice between schools and ultimately provide a conduit to raise achievement of all learners across the schools with additional resource. Regrettably a ‘good concept’ is being sucked dry by bureaucratic red tape, squabbling by unions and unreasonable delays in implementation. The Government will have a small window early in 2016 to get some runs on the board with IES or it runs the risk of failure by inertia.”

 


Preparing students for the future workplace

Claire Amos, Hobsonville Point Secondary School

Claire Amos“All around us are examples of businesses and industries that have made the transition – think about how you used to book travel, book a taxi, do your banking or share written communication. There are so many examples of change, because industries have to change; if they don’t, they simply lose customers – in business, it’s evolve or die. However, compulsory schooling doesn’t seem to work that way. For many, there is what is perceived as an intellectual argument for change that might make them feel a little uneasy maintaining the status quo.

“However, as long as we have a system where schools can be positively antiquated yet publicly lauded as educational successes for hothousing students, focusing on little more than assessment and ‘results, results, results’, then we are unlikely to see any sizeable change in the near future.”

 

Chris Hipkins, Labour

Chris Hipkins“Our education system needs to prepare our young people for a workplace we can’t yet imagine. They will need to be resilient, creative, adaptable, have great communication and interpersonal skills, and be prepared to work collaboratively as well as independently. Far from having a ‘job for life’ they can expect to chop and change careers on a regular basis. They will probably undertake a range of different types of work; some salaried, some contracted, some in a workplace, some from home.

“Subject-specific knowledge will be a lot less important; transferable skills will be essential. Attitude and aptitude will be just as important, if not more important, than qualifications. That poses enormous challenges for the education system and here, as around the world, we’re only just beginning to grapple with those.

“The current focus on standardisation and measurement works against adapting the education system to the needs of the modern world. Those policies seek to refine a system that was well-suited to the last century, but simply won’t cut it in the future. Our focus has to be on a much more personalised learning experience, one that brings out the best in each and every individual. No two people are built exactly the same so we should stop forcing the education system to treat them as if they are.”

 

Denise Torrey, NZPF

Denise Torrey“At the time of the industrial revolution, the nation did have a ‘purpose of education’. It was to prepare the people to be work-ready for the factories and the fields. This meant standard mass education, including the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic and socialising children for social conformity. Teaching punctuality, obedience, knowing one’s place and respecting authority were critical. The purpose was economic and socially controlling.

“Leap forward to today and we are immersed in the ‘Information Age’ where children are preparing to be globally connected citizens facing very different issues from earlier generations. They might change jobs several times during their working lives as different careers are created. So what is the ‘purpose of education’ now?

“We might agree that education is for children to acquire skills, knowledge and values. However, most would argue that today’s students need to be empowered to be lifelong learners and manage their own learning so that they can adapt to the rapidly changing landscape. The skills they might need to do that are more likely to be creativity, problem solving, communication, being a team player and critical thinking. Teaching these skills requires a personalised, not standardised, approach to learning and teaching.”

 

Colin Dale, Murrays Bay Intermediate

Colin Dale“The Government has recognised that we need to work with all sectors of the pathways a child will proceed through the educational journey from early childhood to 24 to 35-year-old citizens who need to sustain jobs in the workforce and so will need appropriate, future-focused qualifications and skills.

“So the skills, in the education sector, of collaboration and critique, innovation and growth in leadership and pedagogical skills will have the most impact on our future educational arena.”

 

John Morris, Morris Consulting

John Morris“My ideal would be for our future education system to produce people who are confident, creative, knowledgeable problem-solvers who have had the benefit of an education that has engaged and inspired them and prepared them well for the 21st century. This requires a curriculum that is knowledge-based; of course, a curriculum must incorporate skills but our current curriculum is unbalanced and ‘knowledge-free’. Such a situation does nothing to improve the current achievement gap that exists in New Zealand, and which contributes to the economic and social disparities that blight our society.”

 


Inequality

Angela Roberts, PPTA

Angela Roberts“... education is completely tied up with broader social and economic policy. As Jonathan Boston demonstrated in an important paper in 2013, simply focusing on raising the quality of the education system without also tackling child poverty won’t be enough to address our achievement gap. As long as we have kids coming to school from overcrowded, unhealthy homes where parents are stressed from insecure, poorly paid jobs, and some schools where this is the norm rather than the exception, we’ll be struggling with this challenge.”

 

Chris Hipkins, Labour

Chris Hipkins“The modern education system needs to address poverty and the enormous effect it has on student achievement, improve targeted support to those students who need extra help either because they are struggling or due to special needs, and shift emphasis back to a broad curriculum.”

 

  

 

Catherine Delahunty, Green Party

Catherine Delahunty“We are committed to the goal of equity and inclusion in education rather than the mechanistic and limiting focus of National Standards and NCEA targets. Poverty and inequality are undermining the potential of many children but an equitable education system can create more opportunity for everyone.”

 

 


Teaching profession

Barbara Ala’alatoa, EDUCANZ

barbara AlaAlatoa“The status of the teaching profession needs to rise. The Education Council’s mandate is to change perceptions about the teaching profession. We want to grow respect for the profession so it attracts the brightest and the best and they stay because of the professional opportunities afforded, and the rewarding and challenging environments they experience. We look forward to developing standards with, and for, the profession. We will be ensuring the progression of these standards support career development. We will work with our peers and colleagues to build rich evidence and exemplars of the standards.

“We know in countries where teaching is held in the same esteem as the medical or legal profession the outcomes for learners are better and teachers are more committed, fulfilled, and connected to the education community. Teachers are lifelong learners – it’s not a one-way process.”

 

John Morris, Morris Consulting

John Morris“Our future education system will also require, most importantly, a teaching workforce of exceptional quality, which means attracting the top tier of graduates to the profession. This is vital as New Zealand will only get a sufficient number of quality principals if we have a predominance of quality teachers. Attracting the best and brightest into teaching remains a current and future challenge for New Zealand and one that must be met and won by innovative government policies that raise the status of the profession and make teaching an attractive proposition for our most capable young men and women. The performance of a school system essentially rests on the quality of its teachers. It is the teacher that makes the difference.”

 


Digital assessment

Dr Karen Poutasi, NZQA

Karen Poutasi“Today’s young people are growing up with technology. It’s an integral and very natural part of their lives. Teenagers don’t know a world where information isn’t at their fingertips in one way or another. Digital pedagogy is becoming commonplace in the classroom. That means it makes sense that current learners, and those in the near future, should also be assessed using digital technology. Already, many schools are using digital processes for internal assessment and submitting assessment to NZQA digitally. By 2020 NZQA will offer a wide range of digital assessment. We are taking small and considered steps towards this goal, running trials and pilots to ensure we get it right. And we are very aware that we need to take everyone within the education system with us.”

 


Modern Learning Environments

Melanie Taylor, Golden Sands School

Melanie Taylor“I have some concern about the new emphasis on converting traditional schools into MLE or, as known now, ILE. We get a large number of tours through our school from schools who want to change to an ILE or a school with flexible spaces. Unfortunately, all too often they visit wishing to find out about the spaces and the furniture, not the pedagogy or the collaboration of teachers. I am regularly surprised that schools haven’t considered key elements of visioning, good practice, teacher skill and knowledge, and student needs. These are the foundations of any successful change – not the furniture or the layout!”

 

Catherine Delahunty, Green Party

Catherine Delahunty“The state has a responsibility to invest in equity as a goal in every school. A modern learning environment is not technology and open plan, although they are tools we might embrace. Modern learning is building a pedagogy of learning rather than of testing. We must value the teaching profession to get on with teaching.”

  

 

 

Shane Kennedy, Manukau Christian School

Shane Kennedy“The Ministry-driven promotion of ‘modern learning environments’ is just another expensive, unnecessary, passing educational bandwagon and fad, and will not make the significant impact required to improve learning outcomes for students.

“Rather, future success in any educational endeavour should be built on a solid foundation of highly trained, innovative and inspirational teachers who are passionate about teaching, training and nurturing students. It is and always has been about great teachers and teaching.”

 


ECE special education services

Peter Reynolds, Early Childhood Council

Peter Reynolds“Centres tell stories of teachers with no access to assessment services and therefore no idea what’s wrong with children or how to deal with them; of other children punched, kicked and bitten as a consequence; of teacher-child ratios distorted because one teacher has to stay one-on-one with an especially difficult child; of parents pulling their children from services because they believe children with special learning needs are disrupting their centre, and of parents of children with special learning needs suffering ‘loss of belonging’ as a result of this.

“If surrealism is the positioning of objects not normally found together, then the situation is surreal. There is the happy Wellington world with an early childhood curriculum that requires children with special learning needs to be taught within the same strands as all children, and a Human Rights Act that prevents discrimination on the grounds of disability… and there’s the real world in which a government early intervention teacher advises an early childhood centre NOT to enrol a child, because the centre is unlikely to receive help any time soon.


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