Reforming education. Is NZ heading in the right direction?

By Michael Edmonds 06/11/2010 7

Most people are probably aware of the debate amongst educators over the governments push for national standards in schools, with a strong focus on assessing literacy and numeracy.

What less people are probably aware of is that, as of next year, polytechnics and other tertiary providers are required to assess the numeracy and literacy skills of all new students entering courses at level 3 or below. (First year university papers are the equivalent of level 5 so this is probably less of a concern for them).

So what we are seeing from this government, is a strong focus on assessing students, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What I have not seen so far is any resourcing of educators so that they can respond effectively to the results of these assessments. Surely this is the most important part of education – teaching the students what they need to know! Assessment provides a great starting point – but where are the resources to take this information and actually TEACH the students?

There is an excellent RSA animate “talk” by Sir Ken Robinson, discussing how he thinks education needs to be reformed. If you are not familiar with RSA animates check them out, they are brilliant.

Sir Ken Robinson is a British author, speaker and international advisor on education, particularly in the arts, though his views, in my opinion, translate across all areas of education.

7 Responses to “Reforming education. Is NZ heading in the right direction?”

  • That is the thing that most worries me about this whole push for ‘national standards’ at primary & intermediate school. Leading aside the fact that schools already have & use perfectly good tools for assessing the progress of individual students, we’ve heard absolutely nothing about how any perceived deficiencies in student performance & achievement are supposed to be fixed.

    • I share the same concerns Alison. Although politicians go on about needing standards, I think the underlying driver is financially driven, hence the commonly used phrases “efficiency” and “value for money”. We are currently putting in place the procedures to administer the “test” to check where each student stands with regards to numeracy and literacy, and we have been training our tutors how to deal with those with lower levels of numeracy and literacy but I’m not convinced how easy it will be for tutors who are confronted with the fairly detailed outputs of these assessments to translate into teaching, particularly when this government wants students to progress as fast as they can through their degrees typically learning the bare minimum they need to know – so much for learning for life or a knowledge economy!
      Ooops, excuse the rant.

  • One of my major problems with “efficiency” measures is that they quite often come at the expense of true _effectiveness_. The bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy, and less of our resourcing go into actually getting the job done.

    My grandmother was a teacher. I recently read in a letter of hers from the 1940s that she felt one of the most important things a teacher could instill in a student was a passion for learning. It’s as true now as it was 70-odd years ago, I feel.

    Sir Ken Robinson has some very interesting – and useful -ideas. For those with a slightly longer attention span, the longer talk he gave (which the RSA Animate piece essentially summarises) is also worth a listen:

    • Thanks for the link to the longer talk, Dr Curiosity. Ken Robinson’s book “The Element” is a good read as well.
      The good core teaching methods never change – a passion for learning (or anything else) is key, in my opinion, to enjoying and achieving in life.