Friday, May 6, 2016

Learning in New Zealand

This week has seen a sustained attack on education and teachers in New Zealand.  After twenty years involved in a range of teaching and leadership roles in New Zealand education I thought that it was important to form some response.

Firstly, bringing education to the forefront of New Zealander's consciousness is positive.  Everyone has been through the system themselves and has an opinion about what worked (or didn't) for them. Opening up debate about what a quality education system is (and all the components that make it) is worthwhile, as without sounding to corny-  our children are our future!....

Recently education in New Zealand has been focussed on 'so called' National Standards in which success for our children is based upon reaching NCEA Level Two by being presented by milestones to reach from entry to school at five.  This idea is flawed for three simple reasons:
-Children of different backgrounds, cultures, interests, genders and maturity don't come to school at the same stage.
-Children don't learn at the same rate and in easy bite sized chunks.
-Reading, Writing and Mathematics provide an essential base, but are by no means representative of what learners need to be successful in their lives.  See Gavin Clark's blog post on this

Above are two excerpts from Mark Treadwell's book Learning (2014).  Both graphs display real data from both the United States of America and Australia.  These countries, despite hundreds of millions of dollars invested in education and a sole focus on reading, writing and mathematics have done nothing other than speed up the rate in which students learn, with the end literacy and mathematics levels being almost identical.

What am I suggesting?
-The way we teach, how we teach and what we gauge as success needs to change.
-The way we connect with our parents and whanau needs to improve..... from engaging with the community to involving them in the learning life of their children.  I will cover this in my next blog post.


  1. Well said Stu. Imagine how those overseas data sets could have been if the money invested went into the sciences and arts? Narrow focus educational investment only gets narrow benefits!

  2. This is an interesting post. Just yesterday, I was talking to my class about the need for systems thinking for a sustainable lifestyle. The essence of systems thinking is to stop looking at a problem in isolation and to always approach issues with respect to the bigger picture. One of most wonderful examples of systems thinking is the Finnish education system. They want to raise and educate strong individuals and so they have stopped narrowing it down to grades and marks and standardised tests and instead look at nurturing and engaging students outside these limiting brackets.

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