Monday, May 30, 2016

world class education - NZ documentary

Probably required viewing for anyone in NZ who works in education or is a parent trying to understand the complexities of the educational system. The documentary - World Class - Inside NZ education : A special report fronted by Bryan Bruce  - provides for much food for thought.

In a short 45 minutes, the various initiatives undertaken by successive NZ governments though the last 30 plus years is overviewed and discussed. Comparisons to countries  / cities (Finland, Shanghai) successfully featured as 'world class' as per testing regimes like PISA are trotted out.

Usual reviews were usually positive in the NZ media via stuff - summary,  'does not disappoint' , and opinion piece. In short, there is call - supported by much research - for early (pre-school) learning to be better supported and for parent 'education' / support where needed. As a child learns much in the first years of life, parents as 'first teachers' are an essential component of any 'educational outcome'. Given NZ's rising disparity between the haves and the have nots, there is mounting need to support those who struggle. Otherwise, the gap between the educational outcomes of the better off and the less better off, will be always difficult to bridge.

One interesting comment struck me as worth thinking through. An American academic urged NZ to NOT be focused on tests scores (ie. PISA and similar). His question was apt. Why should a small country like NZ, concentrate on producing learners who could just 'pass tests'. Surely, it is more important to ensure a small country like NZ, prepares future citizens to be ready for the future. To be creative, innovative, thinkers who lead the world, not drones to work in repetitive, mechanised and conformist organisations.

Ditto therefore relevant to the vocational education sector. We currently have a very important mechanism for changing the focus of voc, ed, in NZ. The NZQA targeted review of all qualifications in NZ has shifted qualifications from emphasis on 'unit standards' and a rational (quantitatively) approach to delivery and assessment of vocational skills to graduate profiles. In this article, I argue for leveraging off the opportunity provided by a shift to graduate profiles, to recognise more relationally (qualitatively), the skills, knowledge and attitudinal voc. ed. attainment through concepts like 'becoming' - as per occupational identity formation which formed part of my PhD thesis.

Much work still be be done to shift industry training and pre-trade / on-going voc. ed, through polytechnics and institutes of technology (NZ ITPs). However, the opportunity has now be provided and it is up to the 'users' to make the most of it.

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