Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Learning in New Zealand- being kiwi.

Education in New Zealand

In the 1970’s / 80’s New Zealand was seen as a leading light in education.  Visiting educationalists from around the world visited our shores to investigate the work of Marie Clay and the Reading Recovery Programme or the innovative work of Gwen Gawith in information literacy.  Now, despite New Zealand teachers and leaders still being in demand around the world politicians and decision makers in the New Zealand system are looking overseas for answers to challenges.  

This short reflection is going to consider whether initiatives from overseas are relevant in a New Zealand context and what implications this has for leaders.  

Masters Level Teachers
The Finnish education system has been under the spotlight in recent years for it’s stunning PISA results. How did a country with an undistinguished education system in the 1980s surge to the head of the global class in just few decades?  As a result countries have been dissecting their programme in a bid to replicate these results.  

An example of this is in Finland the entry requirement for permanent employment as a teacher in all Finnish basic and high schools today is a master’s degree.  This has resulted in New Zealand experimenting with one-year qualifications for post-grad students.  It is too early to say whether this attempt to replicate the Finnish System is going to be a success or not- however it is important to note that in Finnish culture teaching is a highly valued occupation.    Normally it’s not enough to complete high school and pass a rigorous matriculation examination, successful candidates must have the highest scores and excellent interpersonal skills. Annually only about 1 in every 10 applicants will be accepted to study to become a teacher in Finnish primary schools.  As a result the decision New Zealand initial teacher education providers have made to ‘fast track’ masters level students may not address the major reason why Finnish teachers are so successful (the Finnish Masters students study educational theory and practice over five years).  

National Standards have have been in existence in New Zealand since 2010.  The introduction of standards follows the ‘No child left behind’ model in the United States, key stages and league tables in Great Britain and Naplan in Australia.  This model of educational reform concentrates on a narrow view of the curriculum, usually focused on reading, writing and mathematics and in forming stages that children should be achieving within at a particular age.  

There is no evidence across all nations mentioned above that this initiative (and hundreds and millions of dollars) has made a difference.  An example of this is analysis completed by Lester Flockton of three years of standards in New Zealand (below).  

Community of Learning
I look forward to providing a detailed commentary of this after my trip to Toronto, where their community of schools model has been in operation for a number of years.  New Zealand’s Community of learning ideas is in a formative stage with many leaders questioning whether a collaborative model can fit on a competitive framework.  

What we can learn from Sport!
When things go well-  Kiwi’s as Kiwi’s

Late in 2014, Australian cricketer Phil Hughes was hit on the side of the head by a bouncer and killed sending world cricket into mourning.  At that time Brendon McCullum’s Black Caps were preparing for a test match versus Pakistan in Dubai.  The New Zealand debated for a period of time as to whether they should pull out of the game, with many of the team losing a friend.  It was decided that the game should proceed, with McCullum encouraging the team to relax and play ‘as kiwis’....  This became a watershed moment with the team playing excited, unrestrained cricket sending the team on a trajectory that finished in the final of the one day World Cup.  Up until that point the Black Caps had always modelled their game on the Australian model of competitiveness, intensity and sledging….. Phil Hughes taught them to play cricket as kiwis.  

The All Blacks are recognised as being one of the most successful sporting organisations in the world with a winning ratio of approaching 80%.  

This success has been based on the premise that the All Blacks play for the pride in the black jersey, developed over one hundred years of tradition, blood, sweat and tears.  The national team takes the strength of individuals, the weaving of Maori, Pasifika and Pakeha into a truly formidable team.  Kiwi’s playing as kiwis…..

Can New Zealand Education learn from these sporting examples?  Do we truly consider the New Zealand context, our learners and community before introducing ideas?  I look forward to debating this issue in the coming months.  

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