Monday, October 29, 2012

Developing a twenty first century education system – a system that realises the gifts and talents of all students

'I was appointed for a purpose!"
The Secretary of Education Ms Lesley Longstone, in presenting her report on education, states that New Zealand does not have top performing education system because far too many students leave with little to show for their attendance. She refers to Maori and Pacifica and special needs students in particular.
Appointed by the current government Ms Longstone seems dedicated to pushing the government’s agenda by developing a need for other means of educational provision – the privatisation of learning. Ms Longstone previous experience was as an educational manager in the UK with responsibility for introducing ‘free’ schools – in New Zealand charter schools.  As an aside ‘free schools’ in the UK   and charter schools in the US have shown little success.

That New Zealand ranks in the top echelon in international benchmarks is conveniently ignored by Ms Longstone. Ironically both the UK and the US, countries leading the educational privatisation agenda, do not rate at all.
This, as mentioned,  is more about a privatisation agenda than  an educational one.
Unfortunately the responses from teachers unions are predictably defensive but agree that improvement is necessary for ‘failing’ students.
The simple fact is that our current education ‘system’, with its genesis in the pastindustrial age, is in dire need of transformation. The current government’s solution is improve the situation by imposing standards  enabling comparison and competition between schools. As an approach this, as in other countries, will result in a narrowing of the curriculum, teaching to the tests and the side-lining of creativity but is vital to achieve the business/privatisation agenda by providng doubtful data for parents to make ‘informed’ choices.

Something wrong with our industrial age system!
Rather than defending the status quo it is time to consider the 'shape' of education needed to provide students with the dispositions and skills to thrive in increasingly uncertain and unpredictable times. Rather than standardising, testing, and sorting students what is now required is the personalisation of learning; learning tailored to the needs of individual students; an education predicted on developing every students talents and gifts.
Such a personalisation of learning is the key to ensuring equity in education.
Time to celebrate differences

Personalisation is not a new concept and is  seen in the way the very young learn. In the formal education system it is  best seen in early education provision and early primary but is side-lined as students move through schooling until. By secondary schooling, education is largely standardised – ‘one size fits all’ – students graded by ability and increasingly contributing to the failing of the students Ms Longstone is concerned about. The ‘one in five students failing’ mantra repeated endlessly the Minister of Education Ms Parata. The current system ends up by being successful only for the academic students.
At this point I join the ‘schools are failing’ critics but the solution I back is personalisation rather than standardisation or privatisation.
Years ago I read that Honda (of Honda cars) said that every problem needed three or four why questions to be asked.

The problem seems why it is that Maori, Pacifica and students with special needs fail to engage in the current school system?
Why aren’t students engaged? Answer: students do not see schooling as relevant and attendance does more harm than good.

1in 5 young live in poverty - 1in 5  failing, ?
Why don’t students see school as relevant? The student’s parents, and older siblings, found their schooling less than fun.
Why are parents not totally able to be supportive of the students? Many families are finding it hard to feed and clothe their children; many work long hours at menial jobs for low pay; and many are unemployed – particularly older siblings. A combination of the above leads to students arriving at school with poor entry skills and lacking the ‘social capital’ other more fortunate students have. Add this to the fact that 270000 students in New Zealand live below the poverty line. It doesn’t take much intelligence to see that this fifth of all young people equates to Ms Parata’s ‘one in five students failing’.
So what could be done to ensure all students succeed at school?
First there is a need to clarify the purpose for schooling , the disposition and skills all students need to thrive in what some are calling a new age of creativity or ideas – a  post-industrial unpredictable era. Ironically such answers are implicit in the 2007 New Zealand Curriculum which the current standards agenda has side-lined. UK educationalist Guy Claxton, in his book ‘What’s The Point of School’ talks about ‘learnacy being as important as literacy and numeracy while Sir Ken Robinson says schools shouldsee creativity as important as literacy and numeracy.

Education for standardisation
Secondly education needs to be personalised – tailored to develop the talents and gifts of all students. Such an approach challenges the use of demeaning ability grouping and assessing students narrowly on literacy and numeracy abilities in primary schools and the streaming and subject fragmentation of secondary schooling. Such an approach is the antithesis of the current move towards standardised education.

Education to develop talents
Finally schools need to be developed as community centres providing parent with access to health facilities. Seeing schools as neighbourhood schools was one of the unrealised advantages of self-managing schools. Schools need to be seen as the key to developing democratic values ( see John Dewey) and the empowering of students, teachers and parents. Every school a ‘charter school’!

Jonn Dewey not Henry Ford
Such solutions are of course not compatible with the current government’s privatisation and standardisation ideology. And it moves well away from teacher organisations defending the status quo only seeing room for improvement.



Anonymous said...

Glad to see you haven't given up Bruce. You are right in that we need to move beyond away from 'them and us' arguments and begin a dialogue about how to transform education. Personalisation, tapping students' interests,making learning relevant all need to integral to a twenty first century education.

Bruce Hammonds said...

I think I have all but given up on current schooling - what is required is some fresh thinking and questioning of all current processes.

berufsbegleitend studieren said...

the increase in direct costs for students is cause for concern among some people. Some people are looking at this relationship between globalization and education and defining it as a technique the government is using to unitize education across the world.

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