By: Simon Collins

Almost 9000 people so far have taken part in an online “education conversation” aimed at developing “an ensuring 30-year approach to education” that will survive political changes.

The online survey asks four open-ended questions:

  • If you were the boss of education in New Zealand, what would you do first?
  • What does a successful student of the future look like to you?
  • What will they need to know and be able to do?
  • What things need to be in place to make sure every learner is successful?

The survey was due to close at the end of May but Education Minister Chris Hipkins told an education summit in Auckland at the weekend it would be extended until “at least mid-June”.

“To achieve change, we need to do it together,” he said.

“I’m absolutely committed to working in a way that respects, engages and draws in the views and ideas of our young people, parents and whānau, iwi, employers and the wider community.”

The Herald asked 10 of the 800 people at the summit what they would do first if they were the boss of NZ education. Here are their answers:

The high school student

Hāwera High School student Shaun Fowler says the key to a good education is good relationships between each student and his or her teachers. Photo / Simon Collins

Shaun Fowler, Year 12, Hāwera High School

It’s all about relationships. It’s always key that the teacher gets to know the students. If you get to know them as more than a teacher, it’s not them just always telling you what to do.

In primary you could always talk about stories and talk about their personal lives. Even at teacher interviews you could do it before you go to school – have a one-to-one with the teacher that is going to be teaching you to discuss their goals for the year. At the moment you have your teacher interviews after the first term.

The tertiary student

Grace Stratton: ” If we don’t have enough support for disabled children in early childhood, then we won’t progress.” Photo / Simon Collins

Grace Stratton, AUT law and communications student who climbed Rangitoto in a wheelchair

I would put more money into early childhood education (ECE) because I believe that ECE is the foundation of all education and it is where we first build up those views of ourselves and of learning, and those views are what will serve us as we proceed through school and tertiary. If we don’t have enough support for disabled children in early childhood, then we won’t progress.

I think we just need to look at ways that we can equip team members and early childhood centres to understand different kinds of disability and to be supportive in helping those learners to learn.

The parent

Frian Wadia: “We need to improve the resourcing system for children with moderate needs.” Photo / Simon Collins

Frian Wadia, West Auckland mother of three children with autism and other learning needs

I would increase funding to make sure our children’s teachers and teacher aides are well resourced and well educated, providing them with more time and resources. Definitely funding teacher aides centrally and taking out the competition between schools, between children, for resourcing.

We need to improve the resourcing system for children with moderate needs – a new funding system for children to access learning support based on their needs, and not based on what is available or what is convenient.

The board member

Steve Collier: “Education needs to be more inclusive.” Photo / Simon Collins

Steve Collier, Youth Hostel Association area manager and chairman of Glendowie College Board of Trustees

Education needs to be more inclusive. We live in a multicultural society. What would work with one group wouldn’t necessarily work with another group, therefore we have to try to meet the needs of as many people as possible.

[When recruiting for the youth hostels] we are looking for people who can talk to people. They may have the best degree in the country, but if they are not able to hold a conversation with a person we don’t take them. We can teach them how to use the computer system, but they need to be able to hold a conversation.

The preschool teacher

Tiffany Te Moni: “I would also make te reo Māori a core subject.” Photo / Simon Collins

Tiffany Te Moni, owner of Te Pākārito Māori-immersion preschool, Rotorua

I would give all teachers a pay rise and I would make sure that there was pay parity and equity between early childhood and school. At the moment early childhood is the least funded of them, yet we are expected to deliver the same outcome as all other teachers.

I would also make te reo Māori a core subject, and with te reo comes ngā tikanga – Māori history and whakapapa. I feel that is a huge learning path that gives me confidence in who I am. I’m growing resilient learners and they are resilient because they are confident in who they are.

The principal

Robin Staples: “I would recruit proven educational leaders into the leadership of education of the country.” Photo / Simon Collins

Robin Staples, principal of Southern Cross Campus, Māngere

I would recruit proven educational leaders into the leadership of education of the country. I can think of some very experienced people whom I would definitely recruit.

I’m heartened by some of the people chosen to do the reviewing that is going on, like Bali Haque [retired principal leading a review of Tomorrow’s Schools]. We have to get people in there who can see the breadth of education and actually implement something that will work right through the education system for a democratic society.

The community educator

Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan: “I would be talking to the young people, asking them how they’d like to be taught.” Photo / Simon Collins

Hinewirangi Kohu-Morgan, who runs a programme for men at Waikeria Prison

I would be talking to the young people, asking them how they’d like to be taught, empowering them to have some control over the way they want to be taught. I would have a lot of elders and youth conferences, with some employers or educators, and I’d have the bigwigs sit in silence and listen and watch.

In the Reggio Emilia schools, they teach 3-year-olds through projects. We have a school in Hamilton where their project for their junior class was to make a film. They had to write the story and make the film.

The employer

Philip Matthews: “I would get a lot more connection between education and employers, because I think there is a huge disconnect between them.” Photo / Simon Collins

Philip Matthews, owner of Universal Engineering in Gisborne and deputy chairman of Makaraka School Board of Trustees

I would get a lot more connection between education and employers, because I think there is a huge disconnect between them. From my experience today [at the summit] a lot of the educators seem very institutionalised and they are all focused on trying to get the students’ perspective of what they want, but not the employers’ perspective of what we want, and the two have to go together.

In Gisborne we’ve had “big days out” for forestry, horticulture and engineering where all the employers opened their doors and we invited all the schools to come through. We just need to keep it rolling and be more aware of the future that is there for trades.

The Pasifika leader

Jeanne Teisina: “Teachers should at least build an understanding of what Tongan culture is.” Photo / Simon Collins

Jeanne Teisina, manager of Akoteu Kato Kakala Tongan-language preschool, Ōtara

We need more diverse ways of thinking about education.

Going from a Pasifika environment, when they go into primary they are not supported, so they are failing. Research shows that they need to be speaking their language and be strong in their culture until the age of 8 so they don’t forget it. Teachers should at least build an understanding of what Tongan culture is because for the child that enters that class you need to build that relationship.

The Asian leader

Jonathan Gee: “It’s about personalising learning and realising that every individual is different.” Photo / Simon Collins

Jonathan Gee, NZ-born Chinese/Indonesian, president of NZ Union of Students’ Associations

I would recognise that when learners come into the system they bring their whole selves. They bring with them their mental health issues, their cultural backgrounds, their identity. I think we need to acknowledge that more.

It’s about personalising learning and realising that every individual is different and learns in different ways. I got involved in a lot of community stuff at high school and university; I felt I learned more there than in the formal educational system, but that was not acknowledged in the formal education system.

Source: NZ Herald

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