Dear Chris Hipkins:
I am writing to you in an attempt to bring your attention to the level of dissatisfaction parents are experiencing with ‘modern learning’ in our state education system. Since the Ministry of Education introduced Modern (or Innovative) Learning Environments eight years ago, open-plan areas have been implemented in primary, intermediate and secondary schools where two, three or more classes learn together in one space with multiple teachers. Consultation with school communities was initially rare and the few ‘disruptive thinkers’ that revolted against this model were told they were backwards facing.
The large class sizes and the self-managing nature in which students are meant to learn in these spaces come with many problems. Some younger children need significantly more guidance when learning and would benefit from once more being taught directly by their teacher. Most children will function better with less distraction and a calmer ‘learn environment’. Due to zoning, families are no longer able to choose a school that will best support their child and this had led to major frustration. You will be aware that many families have moved house, chosen to pay for private schooling or have started homeschooling in order to avoid Innovative Learning Environments, but there has been no commitment from the MoE to record such data. The dissatisfaction with our current ‘modern’ model is only made worse by the overuse of devices in schools. But how else are teachers supposed to manage 60 different learning journey’s or keep up with the strengths and weaknesses of 90 students? Have you considered that our teachers’ shortage could be due to the fact that teachers are not enjoying being ‘facilitators of learning’ from behind their laptop? That they miss building relationships with a manageable amount of students and that you might attract more to the profession if you gave them the option to teach what they know to 20 or 25 students per year?
In some instances, purpose built (or even award-winning!) learning environments were created where collaborating teachers are happily facilitating the learning of self-managing students. But even after all these years, the research to support the ’21st-century learning movement’ is absent. Was it worth being an obedient participant in letting the MoE experiment on our children? You must have some solid proof by now on which you are basing your education strategies. And how do you explain why so many children in NZ are now missing out on a seat and table to learn at when at school? Our children are wasting valuable time at school, multiple times a day, trying to find a comfortable spot to sit before they can finally start concentrating on learning.
I have spent the last 18 months trying to find answers as to why this ‘modern learning’ is being pushed for 100% of state schools and have not been able to come to any plausible explanation. However, what has been loud and clear is that the majority of Kiwi families are not favouring these spaces when choosing a school for their child. I strongly believe that parents’ common sense will prevent a good ‘buy in’ no matter how hard you try.
A lot of parents have filled out your many surveys this year, but are not feeling heard. I have taken it upon myself to create a survey in which parents could share their experiences and opinions on open-plan classrooms and device use in the school of their oldest primary-aged child. The survey was distributed on the ‘My Child Is Not a Guinea Pig’ page, various parent groups and also on the Education Central website and was answered by 257 parents.
71% of parents would prefer to avoid open-plan classrooms for their primary aged child and 17% of these have already removed their child from such ‘environments’ or plan to do so in the near future.
Over half (51.75%) of respondents said that they have concerns about their child’s screen use at school and 17.58% have children learning on a screen for more than two hours a day while in class.
Nearly 70% of parents would like to have more of say when it comes down to their school’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy and be given the option to opt out. 44.92% of parents indicated that not all children in their child’s class are given a place to sit that supports their physical wellbeing (e.g. posture) while using devices and pen and paper.
I hope these survey results will drive you to acknowledge that forcing 100% of state schools to adopt ‘modern learning’ or Innovative Learning Environments is not the best way forward for our education system and that you may find the courage to make positive changes that truly benefit each student.
Thank you for your time and I look forward to your reply.