A Vision for New Zealand Education 2020

By Michael Edmonds 10/06/2012 9


The Pounamu game run last week alongside the Transit of Venus Forum got me thinking about the future of science and education in New Zealand so I offer the following as a series of snapshots of education in New Zealand in 2020.

Snapshot 1 – Jenny age 16

Jenny is doing work for school on her computer. She has just watched a video about genetic variance in plants and is answering a series of questions about the video. The questions get harder as Jenny answers correctly, but when gives an incorrect answer they get easier, assessing how well she has understood the material. A built in AI (artificial intelligence) program directs Jenny to additional information to assist with problem areas. If a problem area persists a electronic note is directed to her teacher indicating a problem. If other students have problems with the same area an electronic note goes to the designer of the teaching program, so that they can reconsider the resources associated with this learning module.

The AI’s, having a running record of Jenny’s interests and abilities, suggests that Jenny might want to consider doing her history assignment on Gregor Mendel, and also notes the links between genetics and mathematics in terms of probabilities and proportions (Jenny loves mathematics).

Jenny’s homework takes less than an hour, giving her time to do some recreational reading. She is looking forward to tomorrow afternoon, as Wednesday afternoons focus on future careers. Students can carry out tests, linked to the AI, which suggest careers that might suit them, they can sit on on university lectures, or they can visit workplaces. Tomorrow Jenny is visiting an architect, as her interests in mathematics, ecology and working with people have indicated this might be a career she would enjoy. Jenny can also choose to investigate other career options independent of the career advice programs, and has already investigated being a nurse, doctor, mathematics professor and mathematics teacher. Jenny’s 17 year old friend, Maree, who is a much more hands on, practical worker is spending her Wednesday afternoons completing an electrical course at the local polytechnic. By the end of the year she already have some of the course credits she needs to become an electrical and network technician by studying at the polytechnic next year.

Snapshot 2 – Tane & Hemi (11 years old)

The twins are working in class on projects based on the Christchurch earthquake. Each student must produce three projects which tell something about the Christchurch quake of 2011, but they can produce it in a range of ways. Tane is making the most of his preferences for group work and art to direct a play with classmates and work on a group mural, while Hemi is building a model of Christchurch and writing a report. For their third project students are encouraged to develop one on their weaker “preferences”. For Tane this means writing a report, and for Hemi this means working on a group project to prepare a website.

The teacher moves from group to group, facilitating learning and occasionally arbitrating disputes. There is time for him to make notes about the progress of each student, which can be sent to the parents electronically at the end of each week outlining highlights, progress, and challenges that their child has made during the week.

Snapshot 3 – Minister for Education

The results of a report on educational achievement has just arrived on the Minister’s desk and she is pleased. Although the development of the seamless new education system cost were high initially, the success rates at schools and tertiary institutions are higher than they have ever been in New Zealand’s history. Furthermore, career satisfaction figures coming from recent graduates is almost 100% due to the intensive career advice now being carried out in schools. Australia, the UK and the USA have already made approaches to not only purchase the innovative new system, they also want to network it in order to share resources on an international scale. New Zealand is a world leader in educational technology and pedagogy.

Perhaps readers might consider this an overly optimistic, maybe even naive vision for the future. But many of the technologies and ideas are already available in one way or another.

What is YOUR vision for science and/or education in New Zealand?



9 Responses to “A Vision for New Zealand Education 2020”

  • Re Snapshot 1, See Khan Academy.

    Integrated online learning (& free!) package with video support for each lesson. Primarily focused on mathematics but other areas including physics, chemistry, history etc being developed. Recent collaborative association with Google Art presenting virtual gallery tours and commentaries.

    Structured lesson progression, self paced, live mentor support functionality, completed as individual or class group. Detailed stats available on all aspects of learning progress. Built in award/merit system for achievements. Crowdsourced problem solving and assistance available on request (via comments). Active global support community.

    Snapshot 2 –

    Secondary school – Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti
    Primary/Intermediate – Seven Oaks School
    Primary – Tamariki School

    All schools are less teacher focused that example given. Teachers as Learning Advisors/Facilitators. Student focused learning which breaks down traditional classroom power differentials.

    Each of these schools welcome visitors so go and have a look.

    • Thanks JoanG,
      I think a visit to those schools is a great idea. No point reinventing the wheel 🙂

  • Snapshot 1: sounds a bit like the Mastering Biology on-line tutorial system, except that their answers don’t change in the way you describe. Yet. Uni level, though, rather than school.

  • Or it could be like this (from today’s Daily Telegraph):
    “Ministers will this week announce key tasks pupils are expected to master at each age under wide-ranging plans to counter more than a decade of dumbing down in schools.

    A draft mathematics curriculum suggests that five and six year-olds will be expected to count up to 100, recognise basic fractions and memorise the results of simple sums by the end of the first year of compulsory education.

    In the second year, they will be required to know the two, five and 10 times tables, add and subtract two-digit numbers in their head and begin to use graphs.

    The proposals are intended to ensure that children are given a proper grounding in the basics at a young age to prepare them for the demands of secondary education and beyond.

    It represents a dramatic toughening up of standards demanded in English state schools in a move designed to benchmark lessons against those found in the world’s most advanced education systems, such as Singapore, Hong Kong and parts of the United States.

    At the age of nine, pupils should know all their times tables up to 12×12 and confidently work with numbers up to 10 million by the end of primary school, the Government said.

    Currently, children only need to know up to 10×10 and familiarise themselves with numbers below 1,000 by the age of 11. ”

    Plenty of visionary thinking there…

  • Great stuff Michael…wet snapshot 1 being so individual focused (:)), perhaps by 2020 our integrated system will no longer group students according age (if it will group them at all).

  • John,
    The age grouping is an interesting point. It is something very entrenched in our current education system, but not necessarily beneficial for the education of children (typically it is a convenient way to “organise” schools)

  • The point about age divisions is a pertinent one. In a similar vein it could be argued that knowledge introduced should also be presented experientially rather than within the artifice of subject delineation.

    Certainly there are knowledge precursors, foundational concepts upon which further understanding is built. However the strict Cartesian separation of subject while taxonomic friendly, is not always amenable to natural learning.

    Learners at all ages generally find it easier to assimilate concepts in a manner contextually relevant to their experiences, synthesizing relational constructs intuitively. There is a place for theoretical learning but as a means to an end or as a step in the progress to original thinking.

    Much of what passes for education at present is more related to a Drucker style industrial efficacy and bureaucratic conformity. It has a greater tendency to stifle the natural desire to acquire new skills and knowledge than foster confidence and creativity in enquiry.