Education Minister Chris Hipkins has today announced major reforms to New Zealand education focused on replacing standardised assessment with an inclusive, personalised learning experience for each student.
“A focus on standardisation and measurement over the past few years has worked against an ability to future-proof education,” says Hipkins, “It was backward looking and simply won’t cut it in the future. Schools say there is too much red tape that has stifled creativity and innovation.
“We need to change that. We need a system – from the cradle to the grave – that is inclusive, that can adapt to the needs of the modern world. It needs to engage every learner – in a much more personalised learning experience. We need our people to be resilient, creative and adaptable, able to work collaboratively as well as independently.”
The three-year work programme includes the NCEA review, a review of Tomorrow’s Schools, developing a future-focused Education Workforce Strategy, a continuous focus on raising achievement for Māori and Pasifika learners, an action plan for learning support, an early learning strategic plan, a comprehensive review of school property.
It will also include a programme of change for vocational education, a full review of the Performance Based Research Fund and better support for the research aspirations of our tertiary sector.
Hipkins says each workstream will consider the impact for Māori and Pasifika learners and those with additional learning support needs.
Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis says too many Māori students are disengaged from the school system or not progressing to tertiary education.
“Remedying this situation is a key focus of our education work programme over the next three years.”
Work being undertaken to lift Māori achievement includes a refresh of Ka Hikitia (Māori Education Strategy); strengthening the Māori-medium education pathway; providing long term solutions for the supply of te reo teachers; and improving the transition of students from school to further education and training or work.
Hipkins is keen to engage with the sector and wider community, saying achieving successful change “will not happen by dictating what ought to be done”. He says an Education Summit will be held, likely in May, to have a national conversation around what New Zealand’s education system should look like.
“I want children, young people and adult learners, their parents, whānau, communities, Māori and Pasifika, teachers, researchers and education leaders at all levels, disability organisations and employers and industry to participate in the events we will be organising, both at the Summit and afterwards.”
However, National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye is anxious that the reforms won’t be truly collaborative.
“We have already said we would be keen to work with the Government on areas where we can get cross-party agreement, such as the 30-year plan. However the process matters and it needs to involve collaborative decision-making rather than tick-box consultations with the Opposition and other stakeholders,” says Kaye.
Kaye says it is “unfair and disruptive” to students, parents and teachers that every time there is a new Government, there are major changes to the education system.
“We know there are areas that need improvement but we shouldn’t make change for change’s sake. The Government must recognise that there are areas of education that are working very well. For example, Maori and Pasifika achievement has increased significantly in the last decade so we must continue that momentum,” says Kaye.
On the other hand, primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa has welcomed the reforms.
President Lynda Stuart says there are “huge and pressing issues” that need resolving including teacher shortages and the ability to attract and retain teachers, sufficient release time for teachers to teach and lead, early childhood education funding and other issues, principal burn-out and stress, and more support for children with additional learning and behavioural needs.
“We want a world-leading curriculum and an education sector that fosters children’s love of learning and allows teachers to the freedom to teach and engage children in the learning that motivates them,” says Stuart.
Stuart agrees the reforms will only be successful if teachers are meaningfully consulted in the development of the new programmes.
The Cabinet paper about the education portfolio work programme is available here: http://www.education.govt.nz/education-portfolio-work-programme