Now this would be worth fighting for!
Monday, April 15, 2013
A new creative agenda for education required
Over the weekend thousands of teachers throughout New Zealand expressed their anger about their dissatisfaction about the government’s plans for education.
I wonder what the public think about it all?
Don’t get me wrong I am pleased that teacher have decided that ‘enuf is enuf’. The government 'spin doctors' have done a good job spreading the message that schools are failing with their simplistic ‘one in five failing’ – a claim that happily ignores the demeaning results ofpoverty on a growing percentage of New Zealand families. The government’s claim has created in the public mind an unfounded sense of crisis in education.
As well the Novapay teacher salary disaster, while it has gained public sympathy, has distracted attention from the real issue – teaching and learning.
Teachers, it seems, have woken up to the true agenda of the government which began with the introduction of ‘Tomorrows Schools in 1986.
The agenda is summed up in the acronym GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) - an agenda that will, when in place, will lead to the privatisation of education – the beginnings of which are to be seen in the push for Charter Schools. The corporate thinkers behind the GERM agenda see education as a fertile ground for private enterprise. As part of this agenda we have National Standards which will lead to National Testing and League tables all to allow for school comparison performance pay and parent choice. Choice, it seems, for only for those who can afford it. The trouble is that the standards will have the effect of narrowing the curriculum and eventually teaching to the tests.
Out the window will go creativity in other areas of the curriculum and the shaming of students whose abilities that do not have strengths in literacy and numeracy? Rather than an 'achievement gap' there is an 'opportunity gap' for those students from troublesome home environments. This is an issue of equity.
Instead of being forced into a defensive mode teachers need to put forward an alternative vision based on an educational, not a political, agenda
What I would like to see is for teachers to put forward a more positive agenda – one that places the side-lined 2007 New Zealand Curriculum at centre stage – with appropriate revision to place talent development central.
An alternative educational model should be seen as central to the development of New Zealand as a democratic creative innovative country. If we are ever to be seen as a creative country that keeps and attracts talented individuals then education is the key to achieving such a vision
Education needs to be premised on the development of every student’s gifts and talents – an ideal that has never been achieved. This focus on gifts and talents needs to become the focus of the New Zealand Curriculum and in turn all school programmes.
This would truly be a transformational vision and would require all schools to rethink how their programmes, which have increasingly been limited to literacy and numeracy and academic achievement, would be presented. This is not to devalue such important area but to ‘reframe’ them to provide the foundation skills for creating a personalised learning environment; an environment not based on identifying student failure but building on each individual’s unique gifts and talents.
Such an approach would place the challenge of presenting ‘rich, real and rigorous’ contexts to uncover the talents of students. Student inquiry, individually or in groups, would become central and success would be evaluated by what students can demonstrate, perform or exhibit – by showing they can apply what they have learnt.
This is the agenda teachers, and hopefully enlightened politicians, should be presenting to the public.
1 New Zealand needs to be seen as a democratic creative innovative country – a country whose survival depend on making use of the skills and ingenuity of all its citizens
2 To achieve this education needs to be transformed so as to focus on creating the conditions for all students to discover and amplify their unique talents – schools based democratic inclusiveness
3 Such a vision needs to reframe the current focus on narrow literacy and numeracy so that they are seen as vital foundation skills to ensure all students can ‘seek, use and create their own knowledge’ (New Zealand Curriculum 2007).
4 Such a vision requires all schools to change radically and for all citizens to contribute their energy towards achieving in contrast to the divisiveness being created by current educational policies.
Now this would be worth fighting for!