EDUCATION REVIEW Vol 8. Issue 4 2017 $10.95
Why are teachers leaving the profession?
Global citizenship are our students asia-ready? Teach International
kiwi teachers and agents tell it like it is
Every kid is one great teacher away from being a success story. Inspired by Josh Shipp
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Welcome to EducationCentral.co.nz By now, it’s safe to say you’ll have heard about our snazzy new website, EducationCentral.co.nz. Over the past six years as editor of Education Review, I have observed with interest just how much has changed in the finding, using and sharing of content. EducationCentral.co.nz is part of the next chapter in this change process. We’ve actually been planning it for a wee while now. Education Review sits among many publications under the vast NZME umbrella, and we realised that Education Review content could be supplemented with the news and feature articles appearing in other NZME publications and media, such as the Herald, NewstalkZB and regional newspapers, to provide educators with asit-happens aggregated news content all in one place. But we wanted the site to be bigger than that. So we’ve provided a home for exclusive and provocative opinion pieces; a place where educators can share and find examples of innovative teaching practice; a repository for teaching and learning resources; an education conference calendar; an information hub where schools can find grants and competitions and study awards for teachers – and much, much more. Of these sections, the one that excites me most is the forum for sharing innovative practice. If working on Education Review has taught me anything, it is how passionate, resourceful and collaborative New Zealand educators are. I hope Education Central is able to leverage this by giving teachers a place to communicate and discuss the issues. So please, check out our new site and let us know what’s working and what isn’t – and, importantly, what you’d like to see next.
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Exiting education: is there a teaching retention and supply crisis on the horizon?
First-hand experience: one Kiwi teacher’s account of teaching overseas
Agency answers: what are overseas schools looking for?
Then and now: Te Kura online – a history of change
Read more, hear more, see more
Sister schools: why are they are important?
Little diplomats in action
Eyeing up China (from outside Auckland)
Are our school leavers Asia-ready?
Is there room for overseas ece providers in New Zealand?
in defence of coeducation
what does the future of learning look like?
should we assess students’ international competencies?
how international students can enhance a school’s global citizenship
the role international students play in our schools and economy
building bridges and opening doors
behind Disobedient Teaching
feel brave: innovative pedagogy in emotional health
zero to hero: why we need phonics more than ever in the digital age
counterargument: is our main goal really to produce a generation of good spellers?
assess, report, teach, repeat… boring
Jude Barback 07 542 3013 firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Ogilvie-Lee 04 915 9794 email@example.com
production Aaron Morey
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Jack Boyle, Jaylan Boyle, Jenny Hay, Chris Henderson, Welby Ings, Chris May, Avril McDonald, Grant McPherson, Tom Nicholson, James Thomlinson & Antonia Wallace.
Fiona Reid 04 915 9795 firstname.lastname@example.org
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EDUCATION REVIEW Vol 8 Issue 4
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teach international 1
exiting education: is there a teaching retention and supply crisis on the horizon?
It’s been reported that just under half of secondary teachers joining the profession leave within five years of beginning their careers. Obviously that’s a worrying rate of attrition, particularly when there are concerns that a significant proportion of an aging workforce is approaching retirement age. And that’s just a small part of the overall supply and retention conundrum that the secondary teaching profession faces. Education Review speaks to president of the PPTA JACK BOYLE about just a few of the myriad factors he believes are contributing to looming problems.
Education Review: What can we say are generally the most pressing issues as far teacher retention and supply are concerned? Jack Boyle: The reality is that, as far as recruitment and retention go, there are a number of different factors feeding into the issues we have. The first is that if you look at advertised vacancies, that’s not the full picture. If you look just at vacancies, you could say, well, there’s this many jobs, but that doesn’t necessarily stack up with the number of positions that are required. You can break it down further to the number of permanent jobs advertised. That introduces more complexity, because the number of new graduate teachers coming into the profession is a real bone of contention, given the average age of the workforce, which is closer to 60 than it is to 50. When you talk about retention, you have to remember that, around the time of the global financial crisis, having a stable job probably made a percentage of the secondary teaching workforce hang on. That’s now not necessarily the case. We do have data on the number of graduates coming through ITE, and that number is steadily declining. So we’re not training enough new teachers, let alone training enough new teachers in the areas where lots of vacancies are coming through, because there is no workforce plan from the Ministry of Education. It’s great that Nikki Kaye has said that we need to look at that: too right we do! Something should have been done well before now. Even if you say, ‘people tend to stay in this profession’: if we assume for a moment that that’s true, we need, in order to cope with the increasing population, to backfill additional roles that will be
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required to release teachers to be able to go off and fulfill kahui ako roles, and we need to replenish stocks with regard to those teachers who will be retiring. The number we’ve got is somewhere between a minimum of 1400 and possibly up to 3000 people who are leaving the profession annually. At the moment ITE providers are turning out under 600. There isn’t really a focus on retraining; meaning getting people from other professions who might make good teachers in front of our kids. There’s all these financial and administrative barriers: if say, I’m a project manager with a level 5 qualification, then what I currently need to do [to become a secondary teacher] is I need to stop working, and go through initial teacher education. But before that I need to get a level 7 qualification, and then the Education Council and the Ministry of Education are saying ‘well actually, you need to have a postgraduate qualification’, and you can’t get student allowances for that. You’re out of work, you’re paying significantly more with no additional support, in order to get into a profession where you start on a salary of $26,000.
We know that a significant number of beginning teachers report struggling to find permanent positions. What impact do you think this has on retention? JB: For young people who aren’t going into ITE, when they go looking for jobs, two thirds of them are going to start their careers in temporary employment. A fairly significant chunk of those people are going to have multiple short-term contracts.
Why is that situation so prevalent?
JB: Firstly: we have a clause in the collective agreement that stipulates that short-term contracts can be used, but – and here’s the caveat – there have to be genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds. That’s because, say for instance you’re going to take maternity leave as a teacher, then there is a designation called an LTR, or long term relieving teacher, which is full-time for the period that the person is on leave. That should mean of course that a small percentage of beginning teachers find themselves in short-term or fixed term contracts, not two thirds. Unfortunately, there are a number of possible implications of that clause. Whether it’s being used mistakenly or for ulterior motives - schools taking on new teachers may think ‘we need to try before we buy’. Now that’s a bit grim, to make that as an allegation, but we have cases that we have been through where that’s been the practice. We have cases too where there’s a genuine reason [for employing a teacher on a short-term contract], but even though the school is working within what they think is the law, they don’t actually seek advice. Additionally, if you’re a first time teacher, sometimes you won’t know to go looking for the information either. That’s a barrier, and that’s why we launched an initiative this year, where we’re getting schools to sign up to a promise that says basically, ‘we are good employers of first-time and graduate teachers, and we are going to ensure that they have permanent jobs’, among other things.
“The bottom line is that teaching may not turn out to be what they imagined it would be!”
JB: There are a number of reasons why schools will employ practices like that. Every school will have different reasons for their practices. I don’t think we should go around saying ‘the problem is that schools are breaking the law’, but there are examples where that has happened, and what we need to do as a system is to make sure that employers understand not just the law, but the benefits of looking after staff. A lot of New Zealand schools do understand all that, and do a hang of a good job in that regard, but two thirds of new graduates starting in temporary employment is a major problem, and within five years almost half of those new graduates are gone.
As it’s probably safe to assume that schools aren’t using short-term contracts cynically, but out of necessity, what do you think is driving the number of beginning teachers employed on a non-permanent basis?
What effect do you think this has on beginning teachers themselves?
JB: When you have multiple temporary employment contracts as a new teacher, quite often you never get established in the team you’re working with, you never get the time and space to look at your practice and develop relational skills, you’re just sort of on a treadmill until you get spat out again at the end of the year.
What about the desirability of the profession?
JB: The second common story is the opportunity cost of going into the profession. Even established teachers are finding themselves struggling with the administrative and additional expectations outside of their teaching role. It could be unnecessary meetings, form filling, the use of non-contact time to provide relief cover and things like that. That’s an issue for the whole profession, but I think it affects new teachers particularly, because they might not have a whole pile of subject resources or established knowledge around the actual teaching and learning part. The bottom line is that teaching may not turn out to be what they imagined it would be! What do you think about the state of the registration process?
JB: In order to progress to full registration, you need to do two years of full-time teaching with induction and mentoring. That is quite an arduous process. Unfortunately in some schools, that process is not supported as well as it could be. That could take the form of expecting far too much, or it could be simply not providing the level of support that new teachers need. There is a very strong external accountability agenda – whether for good or ill - that the current government runs very strongly. When you talk about the job of secondary school teacher, it’s not just the Ministry of Education that creates that
external metric. You’ve got the Education Council, who are in charge of the registration stuff. The Education Council are not making it transparent to schools what effective registration processes look like, and they need to work on that. During those two years of registration, the job of the secondary teacher will include administration, delivery, marking, and moderation of NCEA. What we know is that our young people are doing twice as much assessment as they need to, because the Government said 85 per cent of young people need to get Level 2, and what has happened unfortunately is that has led to over-assessment, which impacts learners and teachers. There is no jurisdiction in the world that has high stakes assessment every year for three years in a row. If you look at the PISA wellbeing survey, our 15 year olds have among the highest rates of assessment-related anxiety in the developed world.
When the PPTA has raised some of these issues with the Ministry, what’s been the response? JB: When the new minister took up the reigns, we had formal acknowledgement the reports coming from the workload and teacher shortage and supply working groups had been received and had been read, and that there would be public release of those reports. That’s really positive, but tempered with some realities. We need to see more movement on the jointly agreed teacher shortage and supply recommendations.
teach international 3
First-hand experience: one Kiwi teacher’s account of teaching overseas Education Review asks New Zealand teacher JENNY HAY about what’s involved with teaching overseas.
Jenny Hay: My first experience teaching overseas was in 2001 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), where I managed a kindergarten that was part of a military hospital. I had completed my BEd as an adult learner and I had always intended to teach overseas once I graduated. This was a real culture shock and taught me some valuable lessons for working overseas. I returned to New Zealand and completed my MEd. before taking a kindergarten advisor’s position in 2007 with a New Zealand company that had obtained a contract with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) as part of the education reform that started there in 2006. I was part of an early childhood advisory team in a kindergarten with 15 teachers and 350 students. I worked in the UAE for four years in total; Abu Dhabi for two and a half years and then Al Ain for 18 months. During that time, there were many changes to the schooling system and we worked with three different curriculums. In 2011–12 I went to Kuwait with the same New Zealand company and I was the education advisor for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) teachers across three large, privately owned schools with Kuwaiti students. The schools ranged from foundation (KG1) to year 13 and used the Cambridge UK curriculum. There were 1,700, 800 and 600 students in the schools and 250 teaching staff. We were employed to improve student achievement, teach pedagogy and increase enrolments. I was asked to run a solo set-up programme in Qatar after leaving Kuwait, and as a senior education advisor I was responsible for developing a nanny training programme, with the first intake of students coming from Mauritania and the Comoros Islands. This was an initiative from Sheika Mouza, the Emir’s wife, who was hugely influential in education in Qatar. She wanted nannies who spoke Arabic and were Muslims. The programme is still going strong and they are also recruiting nannies from the Sudan and Eritrea.
JH: I registered with True Teaching because I knew the owner from when she was in Abu Dhabi and later in Sharjah. When they started advertising the Flying Squad it appealed to me as a way of continuing to work overseas, but in short stints rather than year-long contracts. It was a straightforward process to become a Flying Squad member and I found the True Teaching staff easy to deal with and always accessible. Towards the middle of 2014, Nadine from True Teaching asked me about taking a role in Beijing as an associate director in a large group of privately owned kindergartens. In this role, I experienced the good and bad of international teaching. I was a lot more resilient and independent and found my own flat and driver within the first three days of arriving. But many of the things I had been told during the interview had been misrepresented and only one of the teachers was actually trained, and she was from New Zealand as well. I found my integrity challenged in my position as associate director of kindergartens and I emailed Nadine to tell her what was happening and to ask her advice. Nadine was very supportive, which I really appreciated, and had some good ideas about how to handle the situation.
Education Review: In which countries have you taught? What motivated you to consider teaching abroad?
4 teach international
What was your experience of the recruitment agency registration process and dealing with the agency in general?
Did you have a clear idea of where you wanted to teach?
JH: When I first enrolled with the Flying Squad, I didn’t really specify countries as such, but I preferred the Middle East because I had learnt a lot of Arabic and enjoyed working alongside Emiratis. After my experience in China, I wasn’t keen to go back, especially as they have some of the highest pollution levels I have ever seen and I needed an air purifier in my flat just to breath comfortably. Shortly after returning to New Zealand, I was offered a maternity cover position in Abu Dhabi for the last term of the 2014–15 school year in grade 5 as an English language arts teacher. I was a bit dubious about my ability to teach at grade 5
in primary school with an American curriculum but Nadine had faith that I would be just fine, so I went. It was a challenge. The class was all 10-yearold boys, but I also learnt that I could rise to the occasion. The next Flying Squad role I took was in Bangkok in 2016, where I was the learning support teacher in grade 5 with a UK curriculum this time. I loved this position as I have a background in special education and I was sad to leave the lovely group of students I had.
What was your experience of returning to teaching/working in New Zealand?
JH: When I returned to New Zealand at the end of 2013, I found it quite difficult to get work because I had been abroad since mid-2007. I even had one employer say, “You’ll just go back overseas again if you get a better offer”. It wasn’t true, but it was the perception. On a personal level, I did relief teaching in early childhood centres in New Zealand when I returned from Bangkok and found myself drawn to the children who had very little English. In one centre, there were four children from four different countries – none of them had much English and I had amazing conversations with them as they chatted away in Urdu, Turkish, Korean and French, completely oblivious to the fact that I didn’t understand a word.
How do you think New Zealand teachers are perceived at schools around the world?
JH: New Zealand teachers are well thought of across the countries and schools in which I have worked. The Emiratis saw us as hard-working and very respectful of their culture on the whole. In Bangkok, my learning support manager kept forgetting that I had never done the role before and would turn up at my classroom suddenly remembering that she hadn’t asked how I was doing. New Zealanders are very accepting of difference; maybe it’s the ‘number 8 wire’ mentality but we just seem to be able to get on with the job
“I still miss the beauty of the desert, the warmth of the Emirati teachers and the experience of working in different schools, with different languages and within different cultures.”
while forming and maintaining good relationships with other staff who come from all over the world.
What impact has working with other Englishspeaking teachers of different nationalities had on your teaching? JH: In most of my experiences working with teachers overseas, I have been in advisory positions. This can be really difficult, especially as it is often not discussed with the teachers before your team suddenly appears at school one day. You learn how to get onside with people and become expert at getting people to try out new things.
Was working in a different academic year difficult?
JH: It doesn’t take long to get used to the difference in the academic calendar and once I had left the Middle East I found myself missing the call to prayer. It was only noticeable when you came back to New Zealand for your summer holidays when it was the middle of winter in New Zealand and everyone was busy working.
How has your experience of the different cultural aspects been?
JH: I think if you want to have a real cultural experience in the countries in which you work, you need to step out of the expat lifestyle and make an effort to get involved in the local community – taking classes, attending functions (we attended a lot of weddings, but also, sadly, two funerals)
and learning about the culture, customs, language, food – anything that gives you insight into the way people live in that country. I met many teachers who had been overseas for years but they still lived and worked in compounds and knew nothing of the local culture or language.
Were your financial expectations met?
JH: We were paid very well when we were working in the Middle East, but often when considering an overseas post you need to have the big picture. If your flights, accommodation, utilities and health insurance are being paid, then a lower salary might be acceptable. There are lots of other considerations as well; in Abu Dhabi the school provided transport to work every morning and I had the same set-up in Bangkok.
If you had family members accompanying you, how did the experience affect them?
JH: I was on my own in all of my overseas work, which was difficult in KSA because women can’t drive so you are reliant on taxi drivers to go anywhere. Travelling with families can be a really enriching experience, but private education is expensive and some families found that one parent was working just to pay school fees. These are the questions that need clarifying before you sign a contract. Some companies pay for school fees, some don’t.
What advice would you give to New Zealand teachers considering teaching overseas?
JH: If you are going to go abroad to teach, the best thing you can do is to find out as much as you can about the country you will be living in and also to learn a few words of the language, even when it’s really difficult, such as Mandarin. Blogs from expats teaching abroad are available and these can give you real insights into the problems you might face. With Google, these days you can look at flats, schools, neighbourhoods and basically find out anything you want before you leave New Zealand. The characteristics that will keep you sane are being self-reliant and resilient and having the ability to hold your tongue! Losing your temper in the Middle East or China will not only get you nowhere, but will also be viewed as a lack of control on your part. It’s also important to adhere to the local laws; I am always stunned at the people who do things that are culturally offensive and then cannot understand why they are being deported. Remember the old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Being able to immerse yourself in another culture is so rewarding and I have friends all over the world. And even though I have work in New Zealand now and I am pleased to be near my family, I still miss the beauty of the desert, the warmth of the Emirati teachers and the experience of working in different schools, with different languages and within different cultures.
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teach international 5
Agency answers: what are overseas schools looking for?
Education Review asks international recruitment agency True Teaching what Kiwi teachers need to know before they apply for an overseas teaching position.
ducation Review: What are overseas schools generally looking for?
True Teaching: International schools in all regions seek professional, committed, qualified teachers who are caring, kind, culturally sensitive, very knowledgeable and flexible, with a good sense of humour. They are also concerned that teachers have interests that can transfer to other living environments so that they can create a healthy work/life balance.
What do recruitment agencies need from prospective teachers?
TT: Agencies operate in different ways. True Teaching has quite a number of ‘A-list’ international schools registered who are demanding when it comes to the vetting. We have developed a fully automated system allowing candidates to build a comprehensive online profile that includes video and CV uploading as a preference. We require candidates to upload scanned copies of personal and professional documents and we ask for confidential references. We also require scanned copies of recent police clearance certificates as this is a requirement of most immigration authorities worldwide before a work permit is issued. True Teaching also conducts the first interview for schools and will arrange for an informal Skype interview with candidates prior to profile authorisation. Schools must comply with government regulations in respective countries and criteria for work permits are becoming stricter across all regions. It is expensive to bring a teacher to a new country and provide accommodation, healthcare and so on; schools are cautious, and rightly so.
What are the most common misconceptions about teaching abroad?
TT: There are ‘swings and roundabouts’ with any new experience and teaching abroad is no exception. Living overseas is wonderful, but there are stresses and strains to living in a foreign country so it’s important to keep communication channels open with your colleagues and family, to take advantage of what a new learning and living environment has to offer, and to reach out if you are feeling overwhelmed by the experience, especially in the early days. Schools will not appreciate a teacher whose main objective is to fund travel by international teaching. Backpacking teachers will not be hired by the best international schools, which look for teachers who have a three- to five-year commitment to a school
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and are clearly not moving from school to school or country to country in quick succession. You will severely limit your choices if this is your goal. Expectations of teachers in international schools are high. Most international schools are proprietary owned and students in the main head off to the top universities worldwide. Competition is fierce for international schools in many cities overseas, so you will find that your time at the school, within both the classroom and after-school activities, will be very busy! First and foremost, international schools seek teachers with a genuine commitment to students, the school and its curriculum and a solid teaching track record in schools.
“Teaching overseas is potentially life-changing and candidates need to be prepared for this.”
On what grounds do teachers usually miss out on positions abroad?
TT: Most governments mandate that teachers require a degree, teaching diploma/PGCE/licence and at least two years’ experience. This is the norm and not the exception. International schools are all different, with a huge diversity in terms of the constraints under which they operate. They are also seeking a balance in terms of gender, experience, age, curriculum experience, etc, and while a teacher may tick one or two of the boxes for any given vacancy, they may not tick all in that particular regard. It’s not about whether you are a great teacher or not – it has more to do with whether you are a ‘match’ with a particular school and vacancy, given the specific requirement criteria.
What should Kiwi teachers be prepared for when they teach abroad?
TT: Teaching overseas is potentially life-changing and candidates need to be prepared for this. In most cases, amazing experiences are beyond what is expected and the interaction with different people and cultures opens minds and, more often than not, hearts. It provides the opportunity to demystify cultural perceptions and develop a standpoint based on personal experiences. Beliefs, attitudes and opinions change, but this is not always without its personal and professional struggles. True Teaching directors have lived overseas for 40 years or more so, while there have
been challenges, these have clearly been very positive choices and ones they would make again – every time!
Is the money generally better than in New Zealand?
TT: Most schools we work with offer a competitive or highly competitive package that includes accommodation, annual airfare and healthcare as a baseline benefits package. Salaries vary considerably from school to school and may be tax-free. We talk more in categories rather than country or region; an ‘A-list’ school in any country will provide incoming teachers with an excellent salary and benefits package, support throughout the relocation process, and comprehensive advice on living overseas and what to expect. Depending on the category of school, your remuneration and relocation experience may vary dramatically. As part of the True Teaching informal interview, we aim to provide first-hand advice to teachers about what to expect, and we are available to answer questions, no matter how trivial they may seem – every question is valid. Depending on personal circumstances, salaries can fulfil a teacher’s need to live comfortably, travel during holiday breaks both locally and internationally, and to save. Some schools offer packages that will provide for exceptional savings potential, but consideration must be given to the cost of living in the country in which you’re working, your own budgetary needs and lifestyle preferences, and the need to factor in that you have no accommodation costs, no healthcare costs and airfares are covered, giving you a level of disposable income perhaps not experienced in New Zealand. Money is not ‘tight’!
Why should Kiwi teachers consider teaching abroad?
TT: Kiwi teachers are highly respected in the international school sector. They are particularly adaptable, hard-working, knowledgeable and well-trained, with a strong work ethic. There are opportunities to experience new curriculums and classroom environments in completely different cultural contexts. New Zealand teaching/learning practices are cutting-edge and Kiwi teaching backgrounds transfer easily to new international teaching environments. They deliver best-practice teaching strategies and these complement the expectations of some of the best international schools.
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History of Te Kura
Then and now: Te Kura online – a history of change
From 100 isolated primary kids to 23,000 enrolments, Te Kura Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura) – formerly The Correspondence School – has a long tradition of adapting to meet the changing needs of the New Zealand school system.
he education sector‘s increasing focus on the possibilities of digital online technology and Communities of Online Learning (CoOL) signals an exciting era for the state distance education provider. The Correspondence School was established in 1922 to provide lessons to approximately 100 isolated primary school children scattered throughout New Zealand. By 1938 the school roll had grown to about 1,800 primary and secondary students and there were radio broadcasts to students. There’s a perception that the school has continued to mainly serve geographically isolated students, but in fact it has long provided learning for those students who may otherwise be underserved by the education system and for students seeking more flexible learning options. In 1936, the Special Education Service began, followed two years later by services to adults and support services to secondary schools. In 1948 the government announced that all schools would be closed due to the polio epidemic and The Correspondence School prepared lessons for every student in New Zealand, and broadcast lessons from January to April. A course in te reo Māori began in 1949, and a 1956 film shows courses for adults. The school also provided lessons for inmates of the Department of Corrections, which continues today. In 2016 geographically isolated students made up about 1,000 of the school’s 23,000 enrolments. Approximately half of the school’s annual enrolments are dual registrations, where Te Kura supports schools to provide a full and balanced curriculum. Chief executive Mike Hollings recognised the need to be innovative, flexible and able to
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individualise the school’s teaching and learning to every student, given its large and diverse roll.
Te Kura online
In 2014 the school began the shift from being a predominantly paper-based distance education provider to online provision to most of its students by the end of 2018. Te Kura board chair Dame Karen Sewell highlighted that while digital technology represented new vehicles for teaching and learning, it wasn’t a proxy for learning itself. “High-quality online learning uses technology as a tool to help in providing learning programmes that address learners’ individual needs and promote their engagement and achievement – it’s a medium, it doesn’t guarantee learning, that’s where the overall education approach is crucial and Te Kura delivers that.” Before this move online, Te Kura went through another big change in placing more teaching staff in regional offices. This was to support online learning with more face-to-face meetings with students and the development of stronger local connections. Mike Hollings says using online technology is a far more effective and interactive way of teaching and learning. Online is a more efficient way to deliver a variety of engaging resources, and it allows more interaction between teacher and students, and for students to collaborate more with one another. Online learning and teaching also gives students essential skills for life, he says.
The student at the centre
Each Te Kura student has the guidance of a teacher, or subject teachers for secondary, and a learning advisor who coordinates their learning at Te Kura. Te Kura staff work with a student
supervisor, often a member of their family or whānau, to support the student’s learning. The school has a strong focus on ‘authentic learning’, also known as ‘big picture learning’, and the online provision includes individual learning plans that place the student and their interests and passions at the centre, to develop individualised learning goals. Online technology makes anything possible and classes and advisories can be done in groups and individually. Hollings says many teachers new to Te Kura say they enjoy more one-to-one conversations with students. As the use of online develops, it’s also becoming apparent that students’ families and whānau can be more involved.
New Zealand’s first CoOL
The recently legislated Education (Update) Amendment Act has particular relevance for Te Kura with the establishment of Communities of Online Learning (CoOLs). The term ‘correspondence’ to describe a school has been removed from legislation so, effectively, Te Kura is New Zealand’s first CoOL. However, no changes have yet taken effect, with the timeline for the establishment of a regulatory framework for CoOLs scheduled from January 2020 at the latest. It’s anticipated that the education sector will offer more flexibility and learning options for students and their whānau, including a potentially contestable environment with other CoOLs. These anticipated changes will be welcomed by Te Kura. “To get learning to all who need it we need to create new ways to learn, new skills outside formal schools and spaces where they are needed,” says Dame Karen.
History of Te Kura Now and then: (top), Technology provides new possibilites for distance education; (bottom right), Mail day for a Correspondence School student; (bottom left), Catherine Forde, announcer and producer of the Correspondence School broadcasts 1944-53.
Hollings says the demand for more flexibility for learners is evident in the increase in enrolments in Te Kura’s summer school, effectively a fifth term, for students seeking extra NCEA credits to complete a qualification or to get an early start on the school year ahead. This kind of flexibility is an exciting proposition, and necessary for a sustainable education system, says Hollings.
Communities of Learning
The development of Communities of Learning (CoLs) is another area of great interest and potential to Te Kura. With over 20,000 students across New Zealand, the school estimates at least one Te Kura student is located in the geographical area of every CoL, and in many areas those figures are in the hundreds. Te Kura is exploring how it can work with CoLs to ensure the best outcomes for all of the young people in the community.
Values and vision
Mike Hollings also notes the National Education Objectives issued by the Education Minister. These include focusing on helping each child and young person to attain educational achievement to the best of their potential; promoting the development of attributes such as resilience, creative and critical thinking, and the ability to form good relationships; and instilling in each child and young person an appreciation of the importance of things such as the diversity of society, cultural knowledge, the Treaty of Waitangi, and te reo Māori. Hollings sees these objectives reflected in Te Kura’s own values and goals and says it’s an exciting time for a school with a long history of providing innovative ways to meet the changing needs of New Zealand’s education system.
Read more, hear more, see more When finances are limited, as they are in most schools, teachers often rely on technology to copy and share the materials they need to support teaching and learning. But how do you ensure that the person who created the work you’re using gets paid for your use of their work?
he New Zealand Copyright Act 1994 allows teachers to provide students with copies of up to 50 per cent of a poem, or up to three per cent or three pages from a ‘work’, such as a textbook. It is difficult to see how schools could operate without exceeding these limits. So how do schools stay on the right side of the law while making the copies they need? That’s where the annual licences come in. Copyright licences enable access well beyond what is permitted by the Copyright Act. For example, a school’s Copyright Licensing New Zealand (CLNZ) print licence means that when a teacher runs a class poetry clinic, they can provide copies of a poem in its entirety to students to help them understand different types of poems and inspire them to write their own work. And when the school wants to perform or play music during assemblies, their OneMusic Licence means they can do this without needing to seek permission. Taking up a Screenrights Television and Radio Copying Licence lets schools record whatever they like from television and radio.
“Our school has been licensed for many years and I can’t imagine not being licensed. It provides our staff and students with greater access to a variety of work, and in particular, New Zealand content.” This is exactly why being licensed is so important to Deidre Shea, principal of Onehunga High School in Auckland. “Our school has been licensed for many years and I can’t imagine not being licensed. It provides our staff and students with greater access to a variety of work, and in particular, New Zealand content,” says Shea. As copyright-conscious schools across New Zealand Get Licensed (www.getlicensed.co.nz) this term, they ensure their teaching staff can access the print, music and audio visual content
they need to plan creative lessons and help students learn. At the same time, income received from licence fees is rightfully paid to the owners of the teaching materials that licensed schools use in their classrooms. “Being licensed is the right thing to do in every sense of the word,” says Shea. “Not only for our students and teachers to access and share more content, but what’s equally important is supporting the people that create the work. Because without those people creating content, we wouldn’t have the resources to teach the youth of New Zealand.” CLNZ, OneMusic and Screenrights are continuing to collaborate to make school licensing – and teachers’ access to resources – easier. This is now the fifth year the three agencies have worked together to offer pickand-mix licensing solutions to help schools understand which licences best match their school’s usage of copyright material. For more information, please go to www.getlicensed.co.nz.
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Sister schools: why are they are important? This year 10 Kiwi schools received funding to strengthen their China sister school relationships. Education Review looks at how these relationships were formed, how they have been nurtured, and the value they bring to the schools and their wider communities.
n May this year Education New Zealand (ENZ) recognised the importance of existing partnerships between schools in New Zealand and China by awarding 10 schools grants from the New Zealand-China Sister Schools Fund. Each school received up to $5,000 to help deepen their China sister school relationship. The recipients included five primary schools (Owairoa Primary School, Blockhouse Bay Primary School, Cambridge Primary School, Howick Primary School and Wakaaranga Primary School), two intermediate schools (Glenfield Intermediate and Kirkwood Intermediate) and three high schools (Whanganui High School, Fairfield College and Onehunga High School). Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith said most of the schools are planning to take groups of students to visit their sister schools in China. Many have indicated this funding will subsidise some students who would not otherwise be able to access this opportunity, he said. Among these schools is Cambridge Primary School. The Waikato school is planning to take 13 students to visit its sister school ShenLong Primary in October. Its sister school partnership is relatively new, being formed at the beginning of this year. They will look to take their extension Mandarin language students and are keen to incorporate cultural elements into the students’ learning. Cambridge has taken a community-wide approach to learning Mandarin. The Cambridge Fusion programme has used the Ministry’s Asian Language Learning in Schools (ALLiS) funding to help provide a language learning pathway for Cambridge kids from primary right through to secondary school. Cambridge Fusion’s Nicola Adams says the goals of the programme are wider than just learning the language. “The idea is to build a more global outlook in our community and bring an awareness of where it could take students in the future,” she says. Kirkwood Intermediate is also hoping to build on its relationship with Chengdu BiLingual Experimental School in the Sichuan province of China. Principal Phil Tappenden signed a sister school agreement with the school last year, with the hope of providing opportunities for a sister school exchange trip for staff and students. Kirkwood has already had a visit from an English teacher from Chengdu.
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Whanganui High School is planning a trip for students to visit their sister school in Xuzhou in October next year. Principal Martin McAllen is keen for the delegation to include a diverse group of students. In addition to those learning Mandarin, the trip will also be offered to students with an interest in other subjects, including te reo Māori and technology. The ENZ funding will allow the large decile 4 school to consider taking students from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Above everything else, says McAllen, the students need to display an interest and willingness to take part and be of good character,. Whanganui High School’s ties with Xuzhou go way back to 2001, thanks to a strong relationship with Chinese agent Charlie Ding Yujun. It has since formalised sister school partnerships with Xuzhou No13 and No1 junior middle schools, providing the platform for many successful long-term and shortterm visits to Whanganui. Whanganui High School’s international director Alexandra Ferretti says the partnership has since gone from strength to strength. It is now so strong, in fact, that the schools are pushing for the city councils of Whanganui and Xuzhou to consider a sister city partnership. “You can’t separate Whanganui High School from this community,” says McAllen. Indeed, the arrangement has extended to involve other schools in the cities. Other schools in Whanganui have formed sister school partnerships with schools in Xuzhou. Mandarin language teaching assistants teach classes at Whanganui High and other schools, as well as to adults. Last year, 43 primary students from Xuzhou visited Whanganui and attended a mix of school activities, ESOL lessons and after-school programmes at the Whanganui schools. Charlie is keen to establish an agency in Whanganui, to keep the connections strong between the schools and their wider communities. The agency would also help to facilitate staff and student exchanges. The impact of the partnership, particularly for those students who get the opportunity to visit the other school, is long-lasting for many. McAllen gives the example of one such student who is now studying at AUT and has bought a home and business in Whanganui. Charlie’s own son attended Whanganui High School and recently finished his education at the University of Auckland.
Benefits of a sister school partnership The Australia–Asia BRIDGE School Partnerships Project, which connects Australian teachers, students and school communities with their counterparts across Asia, evaluated the effectiveness of the partnerships. This research found that the partnerships can contribute significantly to increased intercultural understanding within the school community, as well as opportunities to better understand one’s own culture. A nurtured partnership can also deliver opportunities for enhancing language learning and sharing pedagogies. In the research, teachers reported that their sister school partnerships gave students a sense of accomplishment when they found they could effectively communicate with their sister school classmates. The real-life communication provided them with a sense of purpose for learning another language. As one New South Wales teacher reported in the China BRIDGE evaluation, “Real-time conversations have motivated my students to try very hard to improve their language skills. We have all realised that we are alike, even though we speak a different language. We have bridged a gap in our understanding of one another.”
Recipe for success For a sister school partnership to be successful, each school should: have one or more committed members of staff who drive the partnership be supported by school executives, the board of trustees and admin keep parents and community informed about the partnership embrace discussions about a shared understanding of what both schools are committing to and common expectations of the partnership maintain regular contact with the sister school; interactive classroom activities and ongoing learning initiatives can help with this establish early respect for each other’s culture and ways of working, living and learning.
sister schools Oropi School students test out their Mandarin with their peers in China.
Little Diplomats in action JUDE BARBACK talks to Oropi School principal Andrew King about the Little Diplomats programme, which has helped its students to build their intercultural competencies and the school to build its relationship with its sister school in China.
n a small rural school 20 kilometres out of Tauranga, young Kiwi students are talking to their friends (or e-pals) at a school in China using WeChat on their iPads. They are testing out their Mandarin. The Chinese students are testing out their English. They explore what is different and what is similar about their cultures. This is the Little Diplomats programme in action. Oropi School is a world away from its sister school Xianghu Campus of the Nanchang Modern Foreign Language School. One is a 300-student primary school in rural Bay of Plenty. The other is in China’s Sichuan Province and has more than 2,000 students. Yet despite their differences, the schools have forged a true partnership, helped by initiatives like the Little Diplomats programme. Principal Andrew King believes that interculturalism should be an important part of school life. In fact, he made this the subject of his master’s research, exploring how interculturalism – as opposed to multiculturalism – requires a deep level of interaction between cultures to enable genuine learning and understanding. He looked at how school leaders could better integrate interculturalism into their schools. King shares the view that Asia – and China in particular – is going to be very important for New Zealanders and is keen for his students to learn more about the language and culture. “We need to increase the capacity of New Zealand teachers to teach Chinese,” he says. In 2013 the school appointed a Mandarin teacher; she now has Mandarin teaching assistants as well to help students learn about the language and the culture. With the help of Asian Language Learning in Schools (ALLiS) funding from the Government, Oropi School collaborates with nearby Tauriko School and Tauranga Boys’ College to deliver a Mandarin curriculum from years 0 to 13. This partnership means there is a local team of New Zealand-trained teachers working together on the second language programme, which helps to ensure its sustainability. King is keen to see the intercultural dimension woven into all aspects of school life. “What are we doing to enable our kids to have empathy, to think divergently?” he asks The Little Diplomats programme is for students in years 4 to 8. The students involved are apparently “flying” with their Mandarin learning. It also stretches beyond language learning and encourages the students to learn about each other’s cultures.
King believes there is huge potential within the programme. He’d like to see Oropi students working with their peers in China on online collaborative projects. Both schools are learning about sustainable gardens, for example. A project on this could lend itself to discussion of environmental issues, climate change, crop differences and so on. Other Bay of Plenty schools are set to follow Oropi School’s lead, with Tauriko, Greenpark and Tahatai Coast schools all having shown interest in the Little Diplomats programme. The programme can be adapted for schools that aren’t as far along with learning Mandarin, so that groups of New Zealand students can prepare English lessons for their Chinese counterparts, and vice versa. In addition to promoting global citizenship values, initiatives like Little Diplomats serve as active advertisements for schools that would like to encourage more international students to consider them for their long- or short-stay visits.
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Eyeing up China (from outside Auckland) JUDE BARBACK looks at how schools outside Auckland have a point of difference when it comes to attracting Chinese students.
ith China’s controversial onechild policy now over, the country is experiencing a baby boom, putting further strain on an already overcrowded education system and resulting in increasing numbers of parents wanting to give their children a taste of education abroad. In recent years there has been increasing interest in short-term stays at the primary school level. Accompanied by a parent, a student will typically visit during their summer holiday, meaning that they get a holiday, a new experience and a chance to learn English, all without missing school in China. Auckland has a lot of appeal for visiting Chinese. New Zealand’s largest city is the closest thing we have to the hustle and bustle of hugely populated Chinese cities; it has a vibrant and established Chinese community, more employment opportunities and an international airport with direct flights to China.
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Yet for those parents wanting their children to have a true Kiwi experience and an opportunity to really grasp the English language without the distraction of so many native Chinese speakers around them, looking beyond the City of Sails is becoming a more desirable option. Alison Xie, international co-ordinator for Kirkwood Intermediate in Christchurch, says she understands the appeal of Auckland; however, she says places like Christchurch have a different offering. “Auckland has more opportunities for jobs, study and a more established Chinese culture; however, the appeal of somewhere like Christchurch is that there are fewer people and it is considered more Western.” Lynne Mossop, international director for Greenpark School in Tauranga, agrees. Having recently returned from a trip to China with a delegation of school representatives hosted by local agency Education Tauranga, Mossop said one of the strong messages they received was that there were too many Chinese students in Auckland schools. “They appear to be reaching saturation points in Auckland,” she says. This opens the door for regions like Tauranga to offer a point of difference. The key is working out that what Kiwis value in places like Tauranga – namely the beaches and the relaxed vibe – might differ from what Chinese value in a place. It may resonate more to emphasise
the area’s safety, friendliness and its proximity to Auckland and major tourist destinations like Rotorua and Taupo. The promise of fewer Chinese students in a classroom will also appeal. However, Xie says English is only part of it. “They are interested in experiencing New Zealand culture and the lifestyle here,” she says. Having taught in a Chinese high school for 12 years, Xie understands the extent of the differences between the two education systems and cultures. She says Chinese teachers, students and parents were amazed to see pictures of New Zealand school children climbing trees and on couches in classrooms. Comparatively, a Chinese school might have 74 classrooms, with each of those classes holding a huge number of children. Mossop says regional schools are not in direct competition with Auckland, or even with schools in New Zealand. Their biggest competition is with other English-speaking countries; New Zealand typically ranks fourth, after the UK, USA and Australia. Mossop believes New Zealand appeals to those families who seek a better lifestyle and see their New Zealand visit as a chance to suss out another country. “What’s popular at the primary level is the mother and child come for a short-term visit – typically between two and four weeks. This is their vacation, but also the chance to improve their English and look at potential options for later down the track,” says Mossop.
International Students in New Zealand schools: trends and numbers
Subsequently, primary, intermediate and high schools all work closely together. Mossop places huge emphasis in being part of an agency like Education Tauranga. “Collectively, we can create quite an impact.” In China, the bigger the numbers, the bigger the impact and the more credibility you have, she says. And then once you have a success story and key relationships formed, Mossop believes you’re on the right track, although she stresses
Short-term stays are a good way for schools to demonstrate to agencies that their wider school communities have a good understanding of Chinese culture and what is involved with hosting a student. Anecdotally, some schools struggle with finding homestays for their short-term visiting students. However, Mossop says it isn’t hard finding homestays at Greenpark, although she often shoulder-taps parents who she knows will be keen.
“Auckland has more opportunities for jobs, study and a more established Chinese culture – however, the appeal of somewhere like Christchurch is that there are fewer people and it is considered more Western.” the importance of developing and nurturing those relationships. She says 70 per cent of referrals come from word of mouth. Mossop shares one of Greenpark’s success stories. The school had a student and parent come for a two week short-term stay. After they returned to China, they sold up and came back to live in New Zealand permanently. Xie agrees that word of mouth is incredibly important. She found that she gained credibility with agents by sharing her son’s experience of Kirkwood Intermediate.
“Most parents go the extra mile to show off their home, taking them to Rotorua or to local attractions.” Some of Greenpark’s students are learning Mandarin, so it can be a good chance to improve their language, says Mossop. And the international student programme feeds into what they’re doing at school to cultivate global citizenship.
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According to Education New Zealand (ENZ) figures, nearly 3,000 international students attended New Zealand primary and intermediate schools last year, a 16 per cent increase on 2015. Around 16,350 international students attended New Zealand secondary schools, an increase of six per cent. The primary school sector increased dramatically, with 26 per cent more students attending. The vast majority of these students came from China. Just under 1,300 students came from China, and of these, 1,055 were primary students. This was followed by Korea (948 students) and Japan (184 students). The Korean market has been gradually declining in recent years and ENZ puts this down to the Korean economy and improved domestic English teaching capability. In the secondary school market, China continued to grow, with 5,966 students, representing 36 per cent of the sector. Japan followed with 2,533 students, 15 per cent of the sector. Germany (1,806 students) and Korea (1,304 students) both stabilised following previous declines. The main growth was unsurprisingly in Auckland, with 1,951 primary students – a 13 per cent increase on 2015 – and 8,931 secondary students. Bay of Plenty saw the next biggest growth in the primary school sector (315 or 11 per cent), followed by Wellington (188 or 6 per cent) and Canterbury (181 or 6 per cent). For the secondary school market, Canterbury had 1,613 students and grew five per cent and Wellington had 1,287 students and grew 11 per cent.
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Are our school leavers Asia-ready? A new report from the Asia New Zealand Foundation reveals that fewer school leavers think Asiarelated skills and knowledge are important – a trend that experts describe as “alarming”.
he Asia New Zealand Foundation has released the results of its 2016 school leavers survey Losing Momentum – School Leavers’ Asia Engagement, which looked at the Asia-readiness of our year 12 and 13 students. This survey is a follow up to an initial survey commissioned by the Foundation in 2012. According to the report, although the majority of New Zealanders, both students and adults, acknowledge that Asia is important to New Zealand’s future, less than four in 10 (37 per cent) of school leavers believe Asia-related knowledge and skills will be important for New Zealand’s future workforce, down from 46 per cent in 2012. As in 2012, a little over half said they feel they are not prepared for engaging with people and cultures of Asia. Almost one in five (18 per cent) either ‘do not believe Asia is important to our future’ or they ‘have no interest in Asia or Asian cultures’. Only eight per cent are classified as ‘Asia-ready’ based on the Foundation’s Asia-readiness Framework. “This is alarming. If this trend continues, our kids will likely miss out on the opportunities brought about by the rise of Asia’s influence,” says Simon Draper, executive director of the Foundation. “New Zealand’s present and future – economically, culturally and socially – are tied to Asia. In fact, New Zealand businesses are increasingly saying they are looking for employees who have Asia-related skills and knowledge. Developing these competencies will open doors to opportunities for our young people,” he says.
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More don’t know much about Asia
The survey indicated general knowledge of Asia has decreased. Students were asked nine general knowledge questions about Asia in the survey. The average student answered 3.37 questions incorrectly, up from 2.94 in 2012, which represents a statistically significant increase. Twenty-two per cent of students surveyed said they ‘don’t know much about Asian cultures, practices and customs’, up from 13 percent in 2012. The proportion who said they acknowledge differences in culture, practices and customs and try to consider these when interacting with Asian people has decreased to 25 per cent from 31 per cent in 2012.
Fewer students learning Asian languages
Languages are one pathway to learning about Asia – but the signs are not positive. The learning of Asian languages fell 29 per cent in the decade to 2015. This survey shows that there has been a further decline since 2012. The survey also showed that students are accessing language learning outside the classroom. Students who identify with an Asian ethnicity, for example, learn through personal connections, including family, being on holiday or living in that country. Students with little or no involvement with Asian cultures rely on a variety of sources, including schools, TV, books, magazines and the internet. Over half of students who do not study Asian languages indicated they would be interested in studying an Asian language in the future.
What needs to be done
“We cannot deny that Asia will play a defining role in young New Zealanders’ careers, their personal relationships, and their life experiences. We need to help them understand and be prepared for that,” says Draper. “This report tells us that stakeholders including education officials, schools, parents, students
and those in the community, need to have a conversation around how we can help young people to be equipped to succeed in the Asian century,” he adds. “As with the broader public, a lot of this comes down to confidence in engaging with Asia. Our annual Perceptions of Asia survey tells us that this is a problem going beyond our school leavers – indeed, we know it is an issue for educators. Many of us are not backing ourselves in what we already know about Asia, and this is inhibiting our ability to ‘give it a go’. The opportunities for our school leavers are there for the taking.”
What the Foundation is doing
Since the initial 2012 survey, the Foundation’s education programme has undertaken various initiatives to increase students’ Asia awareness. Last year it ran workshops for over 100 school leaders throughout New Zealand, produced additional Asia-focused teacher resources (more than 50 downloadable teacher resources are now available on its website), organised eight ‘Asian Language Learning in Schools’ workshops across the country, funded more than 50 Asiafocused events in schools, and led two trips to Asia involving 27 educators, with two more planned in 2017. The Foundation has an Educator’s Network with over 700 member schools. For information on how to join the network, visit the education programme’s webpage at www.asianz.org.nz/ about-us/our-programmes/education. The Asia New Zealand Foundation is the pre-eminent non-profit organisation in the country on Asian issues, with the aim of ‘equipping New Zealanders to thrive in the Asian century’. For a complete copy of the report, visit www.asianz.org.nz.
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“... it is clear the challenges in trying to ensure high-quality education for children are very, very similar.”
Is there room for overseas ECE providers in New Zealand? As massive United States ECE provider Primrose Schools considers expansion into New Zealand, JUDE BARBACK looks at the implications for local ECE providers.
rimrose Schools is not a household name in New Zealand, but according to Primrose CEO Jo Kirchner it could be in five to 10 years’ time. The ECE provider recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. In that time the company has seen massive growth and now has 350 centres throughout the US. And they haven’t stopped growing. Kirchner tells Education Review that Primrose is looking to expand its operation into other countries. Englishspeaking countries are high on the agenda, and New Zealand could be on the list. Kirchner gave the opening address for the 2017 World Forum on Early Learning in May in Auckland. “Listening to the delegates from around 70 countries, it is clear the challenges in trying to ensure high-quality education for children are very, very similar,” she says. “There is more commonality than difference.” Kirchner says the biggest challenge facing early childhood education from a global perspective is equity. She says a successful ECE programme needs affordability, accessibility and quality – yet all governments grapple with how to fund early education appropriately.
What does the Primrose approach entail?
Unlike New Zealand, the US doesn’t have an overarching national curriculum framework. Instead Primrose has developed its own curriculum, the Primrose Balanced Learning curriculum, which is predominantly play-based and child-led. It combines the wisdom of early learning philosophers such as Montessori and Vygotsky with more recent child development research. Its premise is that introducing a skill when a child is truly ready leads to mastery instead of frustration. As such, the curriculum is structured so that in each learning area, whether it be literacy or art or physical education, there are clearly defined levels for children to work towards at their own pace. The challenge for Primrose as it rolls out its approach across so many states is how to make a one-size-fits-all approach work for a diverse range of communities. Each US state has its own set of high-level guidelines and standards. Kirchner says they review every state’s standards and ensure their curriculum meets the highest standards among those. The beauty of having so many centres spread across the country is that Primrose can collate the data at each child level to identify any areas in which children are not mastering skills and concepts as expected. This allows Primrose to look into what areas need to change. It could be that better
equipment or more staff professional development is needed, or a change to the curriculum. It operates on a franchise model, and Kirchner says most franchise owners are parents whose children attended a Primrose centre. The franchise model lends itself to great engagement with local communities.
Would it work in New Zealand?
But would Primrose be able to operate within the New Zealand ECE system with its unique curriculum and framework? Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds says foreign ownership of ECE centres is not bad per se. “There are overseas-based investors operating in New Zealand already, so foreign ownership is not a new thing for us.” But he does outline two key concerns. The first is around the competition that overseas providers would bring, and the impact this would have on local providers. “Increasing the scale of foreign ownership is likely to increase competitive pressure on some good but small ECE providers, many of whom are struggling already with deep government cuts to per-child subsidies and sharp competition from larger providers. “Government has cut $105,000 a year in funding from the average ECE centre since it began ongoing per-child funding cuts in Budget 2010. It is no surprise, therefore, that some small centres are doing it tough. And it is likely some would be unable to survive a ratcheting up of competitive pressures driven by an increase in foreign ownership,” he says. Reynolds says the Early Childhood Council also has some concerns around the ability of foreign providers to deliver ‘quality’ in a New Zealand context. “All New Zealand ECE providers must comply with a substantial number of very specific government regulations,” he says. “Foreign providers need to get their heads around a compliance regime that may differ substantially from the one to which they are accustomed.” Reynolds points out that our ECE curriculum Te Whāriki is “uniquely New Zealand”. “Foreign providers need to understand this, and the implications this curriculum has for the manner in which they deliver education and care.” He says that foreign providers must comply also with the expectations of New Zealand families, which may well differ from those of families in their countries of origin. “It is our view that the impact of foreign ownership depends on the ability of individual foreign owners to address these quality concerns and to deliver highquality care in the New Zealand context.”
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in defence of coeducation
In this second instalment of a two-part series looking at single- and mixed-gender secondary schooling, JAYLAN BOYLE speaks with principals of two South Island coeducational schools. While both believe wholeheartedly in the model, they are also conscious of the bigger picture – good schooling.
ne thing that’s striking about the principals to whom Education Review has spoken over the course of our twopart series on gender in education is the breadth of experience they all seem to have: most have done enough time on both sides of the fence for their opinions to matter. And that’s what we’ve sought to do with both stories; we’re less interested in academic bickering or the well-oiled media output of the various lobby groups than we are in accessing just a fraction of that knowledge. The process of creating these stories has in many ways surprised us here at Education Review, in the most positive way possible. For instance, we expected to face at least some vociferous fingerpointing from principals of both gendered and coeducational environments – but in actual fact, we received none at all. While each principal has made a conscious decision to be where they are – a decision that’s been taken according to where each believes they can make the biggest difference – every single contributing principal has been anxious that we represent their views as they would explain them. Not one has advocated for the abolition of the opposite model; all believe that the opposite model serves the needs of some students. In addition, all have been at pains to impress upon us that collegiality among schools and principals is a delicate edifice, painstakingly constructed over years of goodwill and so easily damaged by simplistic misrepresentations in articles seeking easy answers that don’t exist.
The evidence of experience
Some commonalities have emerged, however. Perhaps not surprisingly, one overarching viewpoint is that people arrive at different conclusions based on the same evidence of experience. It’s helpful for parents and students to consider both conclusions when making a decision as important as which gender environment they think is of most benefit. For example, leaving aside the raw data of academic achievement, which, as we alluded to in our article ‘The Kardashian effect’, seems to do little to unmuddy the waters (much of the
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published research on the matter has attracted accusations of inherent flaws – such as socioeconomic bias), each side sees the value their environment has for students at vulnerable phases in their development. A number of the single-gender principals we spoke to seem to consider that a learning environment where the opposite sex is absent makes for an ‘oasis’ in which young people can develop confidence before they’re subjected to the big, bad world. On the other side of the fence, coeducational principals almost universally regard the presence of both sexes in the classroom as having a moderating effect on each other.
“I believe we need to think about friendships. Boys and girls ... form friendships that aren’t romantic, or not necessarily – they’re just relationships with other human beings.” Judith Forbes, principal of Bayfield College in Dunedin, is one of the latter. She’s spent years in all three gender environments, although the majority of her lengthy career has now been in coeducation, after she decided that’s where she felt she could help to prepare students most effectively for the world after school. She thinks that coeducation helps to check certain behaviours that groups of boys and girls are in danger of developing when they don’t have the benefit of the other. “My experience has been that you can create a very positive environment in coed schools, because the two genders tend, I think, to have a moderating effect on each other. “I think that the presence of boys, for example, can tend to calm down certain groups of girls who otherwise might get ‘catty’ toward each other. And vice versa: the presence of girls tends to settle some of the more overtly macho behaviour among certain groups of boys.
“I don’t want to stereotype either gender. But there are some girls who tend toward cattiness and boys, I’ve found, won’t tolerate that, or at least won’t support it. There are some boys who tend toward macho, aggressive behaviour, and girls won’t tolerate that. Forbes also believes that, far from being a time to shield girls and boys from each other, teenagehood is an age at which two-dimensional gender caricatures can become entrenched. The modern world, says Forbes, is one in which stereotypes will be further broken down, and therefore we must allow kids to continue that most important work. “I believe we need to think about friendships. [In a coeducational environment] boys and girls are people, as opposed to just drivers of hormonal reactions. They form friendships that aren’t romantic, or not necessarily – they’re just relationships with other human beings.”
Christine Leighton is principal of St Andrew’s College, Christchurch, a decile 10 coeducational high school. Like every other principal spoken to by Education Review for this story, Leighton believes that we’re wasting time and energy by endlessly debating whether one gender model is ‘better’ than the other and we should be concentrating on making every environment better. Also, like most other principals spoken to for this story, she says it therefore comes down to personal choice – for teachers, parents, principals and, most importantly, students – and therefore we should be celebrating the fact that New Zealand is one of the only countries in the world that offers that choice to all, not just the wealthy. Having said all that, of course, Leighton is at St Andrew’s because she believes that coeducation is the best choice for the most students. “I don’t really buy into the argument about whether coed or single sex schools are better, because that’s been a discussion point for decades. For me it’s way more about being a good school. “Ten years ago I made a deliberate choice to go back into coeducation. I wanted to go back into an environment that, I think, is very exciting.
“... why are we separating boys and girls when their natural working environment is going to be working together, both at university and in the world beyond?”
I think coeducation is very real; it’s obviously representative of life before and after school, and it seems a little bit strange that people decide that there’s some advantage in separating boys and girls during the most influential years of their development. I think that’s a bit difficult to understand. “However, I do know, having taught in an all-girls and an all-boys setting, that it works perfectly fine.” It’s not a new argument, but it’s one that Leighton feels should be reiterated every time we media feel like rehashing the gender in education discussion: the argument that, while there are, of course, differences in the way boys and girls learn, treating either as a homogenous group ignores individuality, and is therefore a dangerous oversimplification, or at least one that can be used to push an agenda. “Obviously I keep up to date with research; with what is being said about all girls’ or boys’ education. One of the things that’s said time and time again is that most students fit in more easily in a coeducational environment. I don’t know the specifics of the data behind that, but that is what I’ve experienced. “Kids fit in more, they find their friendships more easily.”
More than two kinds
Judith Forbes at Bayfield has a chuckle to herself when Education Review asks her opinion on the stance of single gender advocacy groups who argue that differences in learning and development between girls and boys are self-evident truths, made needlessly opaque by politically correct thinking.
“I think that’s like saying that there are only two kinds of people in the world. I would say that at Bayfield, and at other coeducational schools that I’ve taught at, teachers plan educational programmes to meet the needs of a broad range of young people, a wide range of interests, abilities and learning styles, regardless of their gender. “I believe that treating young people like a group of individuals, rather than a group of males or females, is really critical to their educational success. There are many more differences within either gender than there are between them. Of course there are differences between boys and girls! But there are differences between one girl and the next girl as well. “Teachers have to be skilled enough to respond to the wide variety of learning needs within the classroom. That’s a tough ask, but in my experience it’s no more difficult in a coed school than it is in a single gender school. I think, unfortunately, in a single gender environment, we can kid ourselves that there is ‘a way’ that girls learn or that boys learn, and I do not see that the research bears that out.” Christine Leighton believes that the range of opportunities on offer in a coeducational environment is, by nature, generally going to be more diverse. “For example we have girls here who thrive in the hard materials area. Now, maybe there are some girls’ schools that have hard materials workshop, but for an all-girls school to set themselves up in a subject area that perhaps not many girls will take is a bit unusual I think.”
The future of success
Back at Bayfield, Judith Forbes says that her lengthy career has convinced her that the coeducational environment better prepares students for the modern world: a world that will be centred increasingly around collaboration. “Our observation of students here – and I would say it would be the same at Whanganui High, where I was for 12 years – was that young people coming out of a coeducational environment approach a given situation with more confidence than those from single-gender schools. They’re less likely to feel uncomfortable, or hesitate, or feel awkward in the presence of the opposite sex. “That means that they’re more comfortable sharing ideas on a range of topics, they’re more willing to offer and accept help from others, they work better in teams, they feel more comfortable about who they are.” Christine agrees that it simply makes no sense to restrict the collaborative opportunities our young are given to model the world they will be working in. “You go into the modern working environment and offices don’t exist. Those teams are going to be male and female together, and I’m thinking, why are we separating boys and girls when their natural working environment is going to be working together, both at university and in the world beyond?”
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Ways of learning
What does the future of learning look like?
If the purpose of education is to ready young people for the life ahead of them, what should the future of learning look like?
Schools were designed in the 19th and 20th centuries, where the focus was on selecting the top 10–20 per cent of ‘clever’ students to go to tertiary institutions to learn how to manage and tell the remaining 80 per cent what to do. The 80 per cent mostly worked in poorly paid, tedious jobs in factories, administration, service or manual work environments. In the 21st century that landscape has changed dramatically with software-driven, automated, robotised, prefabricated solutions created using 3D printing processes, ordered online, while our personal lives are often lived out in a hyperconnected environment, resulting in further complexity. We are quickly heading to a point where our personal lives and 80 per cent of jobs require creativity, competence, initiative, high levels of conceptual understanding, complex decisionmaking skills and most importantly knowing how to learn… anything. The Global Curriculum Project has been working with schools across a range of countries over 15 years to answer a ‘big’ question: “Why is it that everyone can learn to drive a car equitably in under 40 hours, while learning to read and write takes 3,000–5,000 hours and the
Author of The Future of Learning, MARK TREADWELL, says we need to embrace learning systems that have proven over thousands of years to be far more equitable and successful than rote learning has proven to be over the past 200 years.
outcome is highly inequitable and, from a cognitive perspective, it should be the other way around?” This question required a scientific model for how the human brain learns. This emerging neuroscientific model identified unique but integrated learning systems. Four of those systems are equitable for everyone and one is not, as per the table below. The ‘answer’ to our question is that we have been using four of our learning systems for tens of thousands to millions of years, but learning by rote is something most humans have only been doing lots of, for the past 200 to 400 years, courtesy of reading and writing. This intense process of rote learning how to read and write requires us to remember the shapes and sounds of 26 letters that make up randomly spelled ‘words’ that we then sequence into a specific order. From the 15th century onwards the increasing demand for everyone to learn to read and write required our most inefficient and inequitable learning system to dominate the learning landscape in schools. For our first four learning systems, the genetic improvements in efficiency accrued over thousands and tens of thousands of generations, resulting in them being relatively equitable. The equity of learning to drive a car demonstrates how successful and equitable our conceptual learning system is. This is not true though for our rote
Timeframe of application
Efficiency and equity of application
Sensing our world
Millions of years
Sequencing for speaking, listening and apprenticeship learning
Ideas and concepts
Sequencing for learning via rote
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learning system, which previous generations have demonstrated is not for everybody. If we give learners the option of learning via watching video and then creating videos of their understanding, the disparity in learning almost disappears. We are turning to YouTube to learn how to do … well, almost anything – especially if we are not fluent readers and writers, which, according to 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, accounts for 70 per cent of learners. Why YouTube? We have been processing and interpreting visual imagery and sound for millions of years so it is equitable for almost everyone. As educators, this is just one of our many challenges.
The shift to greater learner agency requires learners to develop the necessary competencies and have an effective language of learning so we can have effective learning conversations. Learners also need to know what the learning process looks like and how to apply that independently. We need to shift to a conceptual curriculum and have learners learn in the same way they learn to drive! As educators, we need to become researchers of our own practice. We need to ensure that assessment drives learning deeper rather than being the end-point of the learning.
The transformation of schooling is not a simple task, but rather it requires a well-planned implementation programme that will take between three to five years. So, the final question: Are we bold enough to make these changes or do we sit back and watch our profession increasingly become irrelevant? As a profession, we only have one choice. References available on request. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Should we assess students’ international competencies? Growing good global citizens is becoming an increasingly important focus for schools. But how do schools know if they’re hitting the mark? JUDE BARBACK looks at the many ways in which schools are encouraging their students to be internationally capable and the scope for measuring this.
round 160 different ethnic groups and over 126 languages are spoken in New Zealand’s schools. But while an Auckland classroom may be a picture of diversity, classrooms in other parts of the country – such as Otago and Southland, for example – are largely European. Some schools are well-equipped with English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programmes, Māori immersion classes, Mandarin teachers, Muslim prayer rooms and so on. But other schools are not. In 2015 the Education Review Office found “limited evidence” that cultural diversity was understood in many schools, even though it is supposed to be incorporated into the curriculum. So how do schools enhance their students’ understanding of cultural diversity? How do they incorporate global citizenship and an intercultural perspective into students’ learning, regardless of the diversity of their student population?
At a recent PwC Herald Talk in Wellington, speakers suggested our schools should be equipping Kiwi kids with better entrepreneurship and language skills. Nick Mowbray, founder of innovative and award-winning toy company ZURU, said digital, social and entrepreneurial skills were the new requirements for success. New Zealand Story Group director Rebecca Smith added to this the importance of learning a different language. “We need to be teaching our children more about the opportunities that are in the world, creating global citizens, ones that understand different cultures and the diversity of what the world has to offer,” she said. However, many New Zealand schools already embrace language learning, with a growing emphasis on Asian languages. Outside the main urban centres, primary and secondary schools in Cambridge, Whanganui, Tauranga and other parts of the country, have taken a collaborative approach to teaching Mandarin, through the help of programmes funded by the Government, such as Confucius Classrooms and Asian Language Learning in Schools (ALLiS).
Should we assess students’ international capabilities?
An Education Counts research paper on New Zealand students’ international capabilities
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showed some interesting perceptions among teachers and students. Surveyed teachers believed their schools supported the development of students’ international capabilities through “a strong focus on learning languages and a schoolwide focus on celebrating and recognising cultural and linguistic diversity”. The research showed that many New Zealand schools are also looking beyond language learning programmes to encourage global citizenship. Overseas student trips, service programmes with an international connection, international student programmes, and sister-school partnerships feature in many Kiwi schools. Interestingly, teachers raised some questions about students’ equity of access to intercultural learning opportunities, both within and between schools. They also discussed whether students’ international capabilities could and should be assessed. Students felt that their international capabilities could be assessed by looking at what international or intercultural opportunities students had been exposed to at school and at home, by keeping a record or portfolio of students’ activities and experiences that contribute to international competence, and by evaluating students’ knowledge of languages.
Being internationally capable
One interesting theme to emerge from the research was the significance of the highly multicultural social interactions and friendship groupings students experienced in their schools. In parts of New Zealand, many students are “growing up internationalised” in ways that their parents and teachers may not have experienced. “This suggests value in continuing to involve young people in shaping a New Zealand discourse on what it means to be internationally capable, as their lived experiences might offer insights on international or intercultural capability that differ from those of adult policymakers or teachers,” the report states. Auckland Girls’ Grammar School student Scarlett Parkes believes global citizenship could be better incorporated into New Zealand education. Earlier this year she represented New Zealand and Oceania at a UNESCO forum in Canada, where she worked alongside students from 10 other countries
to spread awareness about global citizenship in education at the forum. “We want more critical thinking and new school structures that allow for understanding complexity and diversity,” she told Stuff. “I’d love to see less competition within school systems.”
Ensuring a quality education for ESOL students
For a school to truly foster an understanding, inclusive culture, it needs to provide a quality education and positive school experience for students who don’t speak English as their first language. The Government recently acknowledged New Zealand’s increasingly diverse student population with a $9.4 million injection over the next two year for the English for Speakers of Other Languages programme. The number of students receiving support from the ESOL programme has increased from 32,000 students in 2012 to 39,000 in 2016. Education Minister Nikki Kaye said schools are using their ESOL funding to provide support in a range of ways. She gave the example of an Auckland school that uses digital tools to support students and their families who are learning English, and the example of a Wellington school whose ESOL teacher maintains a calendar of festivals to help celebrate the diverse cultures of the students. NCEA achievement data also shows that students who have received ESOL support achieve NCEA Level 2 as often as English-speaking background students do. On a recent visit to Freeman’s Bay School in Auckland, the Education Minister met with students and staff who are benefiting from ESOL funding. “The school has a strong focus on ensuring that children are well-supported as they settle into school, and on making community connections. There are strong bicultural practices, and the school celebrates cultural diversity in a range of ways. “In addition to ESOL funding for supporting students, additional funding has been used to support staff with training for teaching English as a second language, and there are several bilingual tutors working at the school. “For them to be truly successful in their education, they need more than a basic grasp of the English language. Just attending class won’t
give them the level of English they need, which is why ESOL funding is so important.”
The value of international students
Many schools will count short-term and long-term hosted international students among their ESOL students. Indeed, a strong and well-supported international student programme is another way to nurture global citizenship within a school. Murrays Bay Intermediate’s thriving international student programme (see side article) is a shining example of this. Such a programme is not possible without significant input and effort from school leadership and dedicated staff. It’s common knowledge that international students bring in a hefty chunk of revenue for schools, but schools need to think bigger than the balance sheets, if they want to truly flourish as a result of hosting international students. A Deloitte report on New Zealand school income and expenditure looked at the financial information it had available for 101 schools that had either 20 or more international students or where international students made up five per cent or more of the total school roll. In 2015 these schools had a total revenue from international students of $84.3 million and a net international student revenue of $42 million – a margin of 49.8 per cent. Additional income generated from international students creates opportunities that benefit all of a school’s students. However, most agree
that if schools are running their international student programmes solely because they want to make money, and neglecting the opportunities to leverage global citizenship and intercultural learning, they are going to run into trouble. Oropi School principal Andrew King believes a successful international programme must run much deeper than the school’s accounts. “If it’s purely financially driven, it’s going to fall over or you’re going to have issues,” he says.
Everyday global citizens
Global citizenship can be enhanced in schools in so many ways. Well-supported international student programmes, learning languages initiatives and quality ESOL programmes are only the beginning. With the help of digital technologies,
Kiwi kids are collaborating increasingly with overseas students in an effort to learn languages, make friendships and understand our complex and diverse world. Whether students’ international capabilities will one day be assessed remains to be seen. In any case, all evidence shows the importance of incorporating an understanding of cultural diversity and global citizenship into our everyday education.
Deloitte report on school expenditure and revenue: education.govt.nz www.educationcounts.govt.nz/publications/ international/144533
Global Citizenship Education and Youth Leadership Development Leading research from the OECD and Harvard’s Fernando Reimers positions young people as a driving force for promoting the values, skills, and competencies that inform Global Citizenship Education. In urban centres, young people learn and develop in culturally diverse, globally connected, and multidisciplinary classrooms. Increasingly, access to technology and social media gives young people from rural and isolated settings this opportunity, too. Wherever learning takes place, teachers have an important role to play as they support young people to make meaning of the world around them. Teachers guide young people’s connections and collaborations with other places, cultures, and systems, and they use the outcomes of these interactions to solve complex problems and create social, environmental, and economic value for our communities.
This is not necessarily a future-focused endeavour, however. This is also about our present. Our economy and employers need young people who can create and lead initiatives that build resilience, develop soft-skill competencies, and establish new forms of enterprise. New Zealand has some exemplary young leaders who have paved the way. The Inspiring Stories Trust, Student Volunteer Army, and the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network are full of such examples. How do we, as teachers, inspire and challenge all students in their pursuit of innovative solutions for presentday challenges? This is a question on which Cognition Education, as a global organisation, is passionately focused. And it’s why we see Global Citizenship Education as an ideal vehicle for youth innovation and leadership development.
Chris Henderson, a principal consultant with Cognition Education, has developed an inquiry-based workshop to explore Global Citizenship Education and youth leadership development in New Zealand schools. Through a review of current practice and the introduction of place-based and global learning tools, Henderson supports teachers and leaders to establish innovative and integrated approaches to Global Citizenship Education and youth leadership development. Over the past 10 years Chris and Cognition Education have worked in New Zealand and internationally with United Nations agencies, not-for-profit organisations, and companies such as Google in the field of youth development and global learning. Chris’ energy and engaging facilitation approach guarantees an impactful professional learning experience for teachers and school leaders alike.
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How international students can
enhance a school’s global citizenship Murrays Bay Intermediate in Auckland is a good example of a school that actively demonstrates global citizenship, with its international student programme playing an important role in this.
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he Global Citizens’ Initiative suggests that being a global citizen is someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community’s values and practices,” says dean of international students Janene Levett. “In accepting both short- and long-term students from a variety of countries, our school embraces this concept.” Murrays Bay Intermediate has a flourishing international student programme. The school has strong relationships with the established Korean, Chinese and Japanese markets, as well as emerging markets like Taiwan and Hong Kong. It has several sister schools – one in Japan and two in Ningbo, China, which transpired as a result of Auckland Council’s sister school scheme. Levett says it is a “win-win” from an educational perspective. “Students share their knowledge regarding their culture and heritage with each other. Our students are excited about hosting students and learn a variety of information, from knowledge regarding a typical Chinese school day, to the art of calligraphy. “The real learning occurs however, when they communicate in each other’s language and demonstrate respect and see implicit value of each other’s culture.” The school provides first language support staff to ensure the welfare of students. English language programmes are taught at appropriate levels. Levett says it is so important to tailor the learning to support students. “Due to the intensified focus on learning languages at school, students seem to be more aware of the impact they will make on a global stage.” The school has Chinese and Korean international student leaders to help support the short- and long-term students. Levett says it is important to empower students by encouraging student agency. “The reality is that in the ever-changing world our students are in, they will be travelling, they will be employed and communicating daily with many people from a variety of cultures, and we need to embrace this. Starting early, we feel, is the key.”
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The role international students play in our schools and economy GRANT McPHERSON, chief executive of Education New Zealand, says international students do more than just fuel our economy.
he growth in international education is a global phenomenon. Currently five million students leave their homes to study in another country each year. By 2025 this figure is expected to reach eight million. In New Zealand, international education is already our fourthlargest export industry, valued at $4.5 billion and responsible for more than 33,000 jobs. In 2016 more than 131,600 international students were enrolled in our schools, universities, institutes of technology and polytechnics, as well as private providers of many types. We can take pride in the increasing number of these bright young people heading to our shores. International students are bringing fresh perspectives, new international connections and cultural diversity to campuses and communities across New Zealand. When students from different countries choose to study in New Zealand, they can also become lifelong ambassadors for us. In the last two months, for example, we’ve heard about a Danish teenager learning Māori art and carving at a te reo school, a WITT graduate from Rio de Janeiro who is now a project oceanographer and marketing coordinator in New Plymouth, and an Indian design student balancing his master’s study at UCOL with professional game design. Then there’s the 16-year-old Austrian student at Feilding High School, who said, “New Zealand will always be an unforgettable part of my life and will stay in my heart forever”, and the Brazilian student who said her time at Heretaunga College is “a different way of studying, more practical. It’s not just on the theory”. International students also support innovation and research excellence in our universities, and this is reflected in the quality and impact of New Zealand’s research output. Since 2005 the number of international PhD students in New Zealand has increased from fewer than 5,000 to more than 9,000 in 2015. In this time the rate of citation of New Zealand research has risen to 1.26 times the world average, and all eight universities are now in the top 450 in the 2018 QS world university rankings, compared with only three in 2005. These people are talented and ambitious and they want to build on their education and work towards a prosperous future. New Zealand has positioned itself as an ideal study destination for them.
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International students look to New Zealand for a rich learning experience, and it’s not hard to see why. All our universities rank in the top three per cent in the world. Our private training providers and ITPs offer a broad range of practical courses that produce ‘work-ready’ graduates. At school level, New Zealand students score above OECD averages in reading, maths and science. Many international students, accustomed to a knowledge-based education approach, are attracted to the Kiwi approach that develops students’ skills and competencies so they can apply knowledge with innovation and creativity – not just recite it. Best of all, New Zealand offers all of this in a safe, welcoming and beautiful environment.
International students are highly sought after, and New Zealand competes with the US, UK, Canada and Australia, as well as less traditional markets such as China, Malaysia and Germany, for their attention. To stay at the forefront of the industry, we need to ensure international students receive an excellent level of pastoral care here and that there is highquality assurance and oversight of the education they are receiving. The International Student Wellbeing Strategy was recently launched to help protect and enhance New Zealand’s reputation as a safe and welcoming study destination. The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Paul Goldsmith has allocated funding from the Export Education Levy for new local and national initiatives to support the outcomes of the strategy. It’s important to note that the vast majority of students who come to New Zealand have a positive experience. The recent closures of several tertiary education providers do not reflect the wider industry – in fact, they are proof that the system is working. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority actively monitors tertiary providers and takes strong action where it finds evidence that quality education is not being delivered. Minister Goldsmith also recently launched the Government’s new draft New Zealand International Education Strategy for consultation. The strategy outlines a series of proposed principles and actions to ensure that international education will continue to contribute to a vibrant and prosperous New Zealand, and consultation will close at the end of August.
“Every day, international students look to take their ideas, energy and talent around the world. It is something worth celebrating that so many students want to start that journey with us.” Kiwis going offshore
As an island nation in the Asia-Pacific region and one that depends on international trade, New Zealand’s future success relies greatly on our ability to build relationships with people from other cultures. Simply put, the students of today will live in a world that is far more globally connected than ever before, and global perspectives are needed in order for them to thrive. Successful New Zealand businesses increasingly need cosmopolitan people who can navigate international business cultures and languages, understand disparate markets and can effectively manage diverse teams – all this on top of specific technical skills. Welcoming international students to New Zealand offers an initial opportunity for Kiwis to develop these skills at home. We are also seeing growing numbers of New Zealand students heading offshore to further develop their global perspectives and experience the benefits of international education for themselves. Since 2013 the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia and Latin America have enabled more than 1,100 Kiwis to travel and study in Asian and Latin American countries. Likewise, the China Sister Schools programme is helping pupils from across the country spend time with their peers in China – many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have this opportunity. Every day, international students look to take their ideas, energy and talent around the world. It is something worth celebrating that so many students want to start that journey with us.
Auckland study part of the curriculum at Korean college Auckland is set to welcome a new group of Korean international students, thanks to an agreement that sees the inclusion of studying in New Zealand’s largest city as part of the curriculum at the training institute, Koguryeo College. Under the agreement, 120 Korean tertiary students from the college will come to Auckland each year, beginning in 2019. The students will spend 12 months studying and gaining practical experience in the region as part of their three-year training course. Koguryeo College teaches a range of courses covering sectors including aviation, food science, natural energy engineering, tourism and hospitality. The college has chosen to include Auckland because of the region’s ability to provide hands-on international experience to students on top of a great study lifestyle. The students will attend either the Auckland Institute of Studies (AIS), Academics College Group (ACG) or Cornell. Korea is currently the fourth-largest market for the international education sector in New Zealand, with 7,500 choosing to study here each year and 5,000 of these students basing themselves in Auckland. The Korean market contributes $167 million a year to Auckland, while this new agreement will deliver an additional $3.5 million per year to the regional economy. Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) international education manager Henry Matthews says the new partnership eventuated after ATEED hosted a group of visiting principals from Korea earlier this year as part of a professional development programme. “The Korean principals were so impressed by the warm welcome they received in Auckland and the high standard of education institutes on offer, and great Kiwi lifestyle, they suggested to the college that Auckland would be the ideal study destination,” he says. “For Korean students, gaining international work and study experience can put them ahead of other candidates when they’re looking for employment after their studies.” As part of the agreement, Koguryeo College will also have two scholarships for New Zealand and international students based here to go to Korea and learn the language and take part in the college’s various training programmes.
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Building bridges and opening doors CHRIS HENDERSON believes global competencies are the foundations for our future.
s a 17-year-old on Auckland’s North Shore, I was desperately unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. My wiry frame was not All Black material and I needed a new direction. Thankfully, a teacher handed me an application for a year-long AFS Intercultural Exchange and helped me to write it, and six months later I was living with a Muslim family in an isolated region of Malaysia. They spoke no English, I spoke no Malay. We were from opposite ends of the Earth. More recently, Cognition Education supported my participation in the Future of Learning Institute at Harvard University. A key question driving the Institute was “how can our schools best nurture global citizenship?” Principal investigator Veronica Boix Mansilla introduced three forces within which we framed our inquiry: global media, global migration and global markets. Global media is represented by the ubiquity of information and the utility of social media in young people’s lives. Global migration is defined by the flows of people across borders; because of conflicts, environmental crises and economic opportunities, people’s movements are redefining nation states and creating new communities and cultures unlike ever before. And the global market is characterised by the speed and distance with which money, materials, products and ideas are exchanged. In an interconnected world, young people are influenced by these forces in all aspects of their lives. Their future employment will be defined by these forces too. As such, teachers and schools play an influential role in the development of young people’s global competence. This is the ability to make critical sense of these forces, have the skills to successfully navigate the impacts that these forces have, and to develop the intellectual wherewithal to embrace the vast opportunities (and risks) that these forces offer. From Boston, I reflected on New Zealand’s geographic isolation and the extent to which our schools have embraced these forces and translated them into connected, current, and
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relevant learning experiences for young people. The future-focus principle of The New Zealand Curriculum encourages us to “look to the future by exploring such significant future-focused issues as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, and globalisation” (p9). I think exploration is an important starting point, but I’m curious as to how well we’re genuinely equipping young people with the skills to excel as globally competent citizens. This is the underlying question that drives my professional inquiry. My experience in Malaysia was transformative. I quickly learned the language; I came to appreciate the routines and rituals of Islam; I became a part of the community and I learnt to respect the divisions and alliances defined by gender, age, and ethnicity. Through new ways of interacting and communicating I developed competence in another culture and in the process formed a stronger understanding of my own.
“Teachers and schools play an influential role in the development of young people’s global competence.” When we talk about global competency, it is about making meaning, creating connections, and building relations across cultures and contexts. When we also understand and act upon the global forces that define our lives, we come a little closer to being able to call ourselves global citizens. As presented by Harvard’s Fernando Reimers, a competent global citizen can: communicate in more than one language communicate appropriately and effectively with people from other cultures or communities comprehend other people’s thoughts, beliefs and feelings, and see the world from their perspectives. How do we create learning experiences and outcomes that resemble those of an intercultural exchange without leaving the confines of our communities?
Using the forces of media, migration, and markets to our advantage, contemporary classrooms are diverse and connected microcosms of the world around us. We can develop young people’s global competencies within our very own communities. To do this though, our pedagogy needs to be creative and critical and we need to be connected authentically to learner and community needs. We also need to embrace the fact that many of our young people are already multilingual and multicultural, and can offer us important guidance on what it means to be a global citizen and globally competent. Further guidance also comes from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2018 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will evaluate global competencies for the first time. And as an introduction, the OECD has published Global competency for an inclusive world, which clearly defines a range of global competencies and provides a strong structure for designing engaging cross-curricular learning programmes in our schools. Through my work at Cognition, I have collaborated with teachers and learned from diverse systems across multiple education contexts around the world. At a personal level, global competencies have allowed me to build bridges and open doors with confidence. Inspired by how my teacher ignited a world of possibilities for me, it is no coincidence that I now ignite similar possibilities for New Zealand’s teachers through professional learning and development. Although New Zealand is small, our exposure to global media, migration, and markets means we’re not as isolated as we think. I believe global competencies are our foundation, as a country, for future peace, sustainability, and prosperity. Chris Henderson is a principal consultant for Cognition Education.
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Behind Disobedient Teaching
t was a Wednesday night and raining. I had driven into town with one hand wiping the interior windscreen and the other anxiously trying to manoeuvre the steering wheel as I navigated the oncoming traffic. My ute is so old that it doesn’t have a demisting facility. I had been asked to do a presentation about my book Disobedient Teaching at an after-school session for teachers. During the day they had all been through wet lunch hours, assessment deadlines, staff meetings and seven hours of teaching, but 120 of them showed up. Some came from early childhood centres, some from primary and intermediate schools and some from secondary institutions. It struck me when I walked into the room that this kind of commitment never makes the papers. It never appears in the analysis of schools’ rankings based on NCEA results or in politicians’ speeches. It is invisible, voluntary – and ubiquitous. As I fiddled around trying to get the sound working on the amp, I kept glancing back over my shoulder at a room full of lives I didn’t know. The only thing I knew for certain was that we were all teachers and, if I afforded myself a modicum of audacity, perhaps, I thought, for a lot of us teaching was more than our profession – it was our calling. After all, it was cold and dark outside and we could all have been at home with hot soup and our families. In situations like this I always feel proud to call myself a teacher. It is not a term I use lightly, because it permeates my whole life. I bore people at parties by telling them about the students I am working with; I get swept up in the enthusiasm of their ideas and breakthroughs and I despair when regulation and fashion damage the structures around them that would help them to reach greater levels of potential. I feel the same way about my colleagues, many of whom are gifted, highly educated professionals who are forced to become micromanaged performance providers. These are people whose insights tell them that we need something more as a nation than a second neo-liberally constructed generation of kids who have learned strategy and risk aversion instead of creative risk-taking.
DR WELBY INGS provides an insight into his inspiration for writing what has become the most popular book in education circles at the moment, Disobedient Teaching. I am not trying to beat a drum here. The situation, it seems to me, is very simple. Attempting to lock learners into an anxious regime of comparative testing against presumed standards or the performances of others results in a terrible squandering of potential. We are a small country. Innovation is not a god-given cultural gift. Such a thing has to be consciously grown and it falls to us as teachers to be part of this. Without the ability to originate, innovate, fail, recover, and uniquely position, we can’t compete with nations that politically and economically have far greater resources. We edge our way towards a very powerless place in the scheme of things. But growing creativity requires space and teachers and learners need time and flexibility to do this. This situation worries me very deeply; as does the under-critiqued obsession we currently have with measuring performances when they are not the substance of learning or teaching. Learning and teaching are processes, not products. So, out of concern, I wrote Disobedient Teaching. The book took me a career to develop and four years to craft. It doesn’t set itself up as an ideological bible; it’s just a thinking tool and perhaps an arm around the shoulder of teachers and principals who try to change things for the better. I have huge respect for people who refuse to give away their professional agency. When I began writing the book, I tried to imagine that I was in the staffroom with 10 minutes left before the bell. I imagined a colleague I admired – perhaps someone like you – who was slumped into the seat beside me with a cup of tea. I suspected that, undeservedly, you felt isolated. Then I wrote in short chapters, which meant you could put the book down and pick it up again when you got a moment to do so. I also tried to illustrate the book with real stories, with all of their rough edges, failures and sometimes heartrending beauty. These were real situations that we all recognise from our own teaching – stories that come from our intimate working relationship with other human beings. So the book became physical, but what happened after its release I could never have imagined. I thought perhaps if the first edition got
into the hands of 1,000 teachers, that would be a great thing, but within two months it was already into its third reprint. The publishers had orders coming in from the US and Europe and I was being asked to open conferences for international defence forces, leadership forums, teacher unions and, perhaps more touchingly, local communities of parents in small places such as Kāwhia, on the North Island’s west coast. The book went crazy. But the thinking was not new. Educational reformers such as John Dewey and Neil Postman were talking about such things decades ago. But Disobedient Teaching has deeply New Zealand roots. I tried to look at why we have ended up where we have. Drawing on autobiographical experiences in diverse organisations, the book celebrates teachers who, instead of settling into passiveaggressive cynicism, go daily into their classrooms and do something to make things better – even when they must operate against the tide – and in so doing, disobey. Their disobedience may be as small or as huge as helping a student recover faith in themselves, showing kids how to survive schools as organisations, tenaciously finding ways to limit the damage of testing, or strategically supporting other thinkers like themselves so they don’t become isolated and are rendered incapable within damaged hierarchies. I respect such teachers. A long time ago, one of them saved my life. She saw potential when a regime of comparative testing had convinced me that I had a learning disability and couldn’t read. I am proud to follow in the footsteps of such teachers because they creatively reassert the humanity and flexibility of learning, not as a trite aspiration, but as a living priority. I wrote this book for them; for every teacher who questions micromanaging and tick-box reporting, who charts learning intuitively without a roadmap, and who helps others persistently to navigate the complex journey to an authentic identity. If this is you and the book helps in a small way to reinforce your strength and conviction, then it has served its purpose. You are the most precious resource we have in education. Kia kaha, and for what you do – unacknowledged – every day, thank you.
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Feel brave: innovative pedagogy in emotional health AVRIL McDONALD discusses how teachers can weave emotional health seamlessly into the classroom.
hen I had my first panic attack at eight years old, there was little to no information about anxiety disorders – or mental health, for that matter! Years later, when my trainee-nurse sister brought home some information explaining many of the things that I had experienced, I was relieved to find that I wasn’t crazy or abnormal after all. This gave me an insatiable curiosity about the mind/body connection and I found effective
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techniques such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). I also found the world-famous coach Tony Robbins, who uses similar techniques, and I was amazed at how effective his books were in helping me not only to manage my anxiety, but also to reach my own potential. I wondered why we weren’t teaching these types of strategy to children! When my daughter had her first nightmare, managing it came very easily to me through using a simple CBT technique called ‘reframing’ that I’d learnt for managing my own anxiety. This was my ‘eureka’ moment seven years ago when I decided to take on the challenge to create characters and stories that could help children manage tough emotions and reach their potential – think Peppa Pig meets Tony Robbins. Feel Brave was born and feedback has shown us that it is so effective that I now feel it’s not just
something that I want to do, but something that is my duty to give all children access to. There is no doubt that we are heading towards a mental health crisis right now in New Zealand and global trends show that these types of issue are only increasing. What is difficult is that there is mounting pressure for teachers to ‘fix’ this crisis whilst juggling all the other heavy educational and departmental pressures. Having been a teacher myself, and understanding the huge role that it is, I have great empathy for teachers, but I also have a lot of hope that, with some creative innovation, we have the potential to make a global positive shift in children’s emotional health and wellbeing just by doing some very simple things every day. Here are three of my favourite examples that can be woven seamlessly into the classroom:
“… we have the potential to make a global positive shift in children’s emotional health and wellbeing just by doing some very simple things every day.” vocabulary about their brains. There are some simple and clever ways to teach children about their brains online, such as Dr Hazel Harrison’s upstairs/downstairs brain concept.
Managing anxiety, fears and worries
Resilience is one of the most important things children can build in order to be self-confident and to ‘survive and thrive’ in life. A resilient child is one who feels connected, loved, has hope, and a strong sense of belonging and attachment. We can help children develop this by listing all of the things that make them feel that they belong. It is also powerful to help them create their own special places of belonging through guided imagery then get them to further crystalise these places with words and pictures. Having a special place that is familiar to us in our minds is a nice place to go from time to time when we need a three-minute mental break. There are some great guided scripts that can be found online to help you enable children to do this or download and use the ‘My Special Place’ script from the Feel Brave Teaching Guide. Building tribes is also key in developing resilience which we can do by creating strong class groups, school houses, mentor groups and/ or daily practices such as songs or statements that make them feel protected, respected and connected. Devise strategies to link students who dwell on the fringe with other class members such as a special project like gardening or cooking. Empathy plays a vital role in preventing bullying and building strong relationships. Some great ways to practice empathy every day are to carry out ‘random acts of kindness’ or to report regularly on what kind thing you did for someone (or saw someone do for someone else) today.
Teaching children about their brains
When we understand how we operate, we can better manage our feelings and why we (and others) might think, feel and act the way we do. Children are never too young to be introduced to how their brains work and you don’t need to be a neuroscientist to teach them! Like a dog, our ‘old brain’ (the cheeky monkey) is most useful to us if it’s trained well by our ‘new brain’ (the wise owl). Just getting children used to the idea of a ‘cheeky monkey’ and a ‘wise owl’ that is a part of who they are will give them a great start in building their emotional intelligence. For very young children, monkey and owl puppets work brilliantly, along with questioning such as ‘Was that your cheeky monkey who just did that? What could your wise owl do instead?’ This type of questioning helps to build good
There is huge power in changing the way children feel about something simply by ‘reframing’ it using story telling. If something is scaring a child (e.g. a recurring nightmare or a negative memory), get them to imagine the most ridiculous thing that could happen to their scary or negative thing then make up a new story with them where the scary thing becomes funny, small or cute. Children love nothing more than role playing a tough situation they are facing when you play the part of them or you share a similar story from your childhood. Role playing gives them a safe environment to try out different coping scenarios. When we ‘name’ a feeling, we ‘tame’ a feeling so using stories to open up conversations about what might be worrying a child (and emotion cards to identify names for our feelings), helps us find ways to process and overcome them. Avril McDonald is an ex-primary school teacher, the author of the Feel Brave series of books – little stories about big feelings for 4–7-year-olds – and the creator of www.feelbrave.com. Photo credits: Fran Hales Photography.
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Zero to Hero: why we need phonics more than ever in the digital age
Massey University’s TOM NICHOLSON discusses the importance of phonics in helping children become better spellers – and why spelling is important. ecently I gave a talk to parents about phonics. It was called Zero to Hero, and I explained that phonics could help children who struggle with reading and writing by showing them how to crack
the code. Modern phonics is about explaining the history of English and how our spelling became the way it is, that there is a system – even though sometimes it seems like madness. We can read and write more successfully if we understand how the spelling system works and that it is based on phonics. Many parents I spoke to were worried about their children and when I asked what they meant they were quick to show me examples of their children’s writing. With their smartphones, they had taken photos of their children’s writing and brought them along to the workshop to show me. When I looked at some of the handwriting I could see immediately that while children’s spelling was definitely logical and sounded quite similar to the real word, there were many errors, even on what were quite simple words to spell, that would be easy to correct if they knew more about phonics. For example, one 10-year-old wrote: “We went to Echuca with my famly. We mist a week of school, yay! We do my favret sport warter sking. It is nice to be with famly. It is fun!” Another wrote: “I was warking prst a groop of boys and gerls and they war plauing football. I sood trigh football”. These examples are familiar to researchers in this area, showing that many students struggle. More than a third of our children are below national standards in writing and some of this will be because of spelling.
with ‘deep’ features such as content and ideas. Of course, you will never be a good writer if you do not have good ideas, but if you can’t spell it is awfully hard to express those ideas in print. A second complication is that many teachers are concerned about spelling but are not sure how best to teach it – phonics was not part of their training and they desperately would like to teach spelling better. A third complication is the digital age; our students are growing up in a world of instant messaging using different platforms in which invented spelling has become valid. Students are receiving contradictory messages: at school, correct spelling is normal; outside school, texting, Snapchat, and tweets are in abbreviated ‘textspeak’ and as long as it sounds right then this is also normal. The irony is that good spellers are also good at textspeak – they can move between these two worlds. Research shows that, even with only a few spelling errors in an essay, a teacher’s rating of the work will drop substantially. A single spelling mistake can ruin the chance of a job when you send in an application. In the workplace, a text message or email sent with a spelling mistake puts the sender and the company in a bad light.
“Of course, you will never be a good writer if you do not have good ideas, but if you can’t spell it is awfully hard to express those ideas in print.”
Spelling – a modern Cinderella, a neglected child at school Why is this happening? One complication is that spelling is low status as a subject to teach. It is called a ‘surface’ feature, which suggests it is mechanical, a skill, and not important compared
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Poor spelling undermines quality of work
At the other end of the spectrum, some students are amazing spellers, as anyone who has watched the movie Spellbound about the national American spelling bee can tell you. Really good spellers in junior high school can spell words like mnemonic, bildungsroman, notochord, and conquistador. In contrast, difficulty with spelling makes spelling even simple words an arduous task and uses up precious mental energy that could be used for thinking up ideas. Overall, the research tells us that being poor at spelling results in a lower quality of work than you are capable of.
Spelling is more important than ever in this digital age. Yes, there are predictive spell checkers and this technology helps, but a lot of spelling mistakes slip through. Students who struggle with spelling are particularly on the back foot because the spell check software is often unsure what they have written and provides a replacement word that they did not mean to use. Phonics teaching helps tremendously with spelling because it teaches students rules. Phonics may not provide complete accuracy, but it usually puts you 90 per cent there in terms of accuracy; the last 10 percent will come with lots of reading and writing practice. And yet we do not capitalise on phonics as a teaching strategy. In most classrooms, students are given a list of words to learn on Monday and are tested on Friday. Yes, many students will learn how to spell by this rote method, but many will not; they need phonics strategies to make them great spellers. Phonics produces incredible results. I’ve never seen a student learn phonics and not improve. I’m not saying that phonics is the whole answer but it is a fantastic foundation that children can build on to become great readers and spellers. A study in Scotland found that children taught intensive phonics in their first year of school who were tested for reading and spelling in year 7 were years ahead of a control group who had not received such intensive instruction. These results convinced the British Government to change teaching to intensive phonics. English schoolchildren now sit a compulsory national phonics check each year, and results are showing that children’s skills are rapidly improving. Australia is also looking at introducing a phonics check. Do we really want Australia to beat us at spelling? This is not a pleasant prospect. Phonics is a pathway to better spelling and writing and we are letting many of our little heroes become zeros by not teaching them this crucial skill. Professor Tom Nicholson is a specialist in children’s literacy at Massey University’s Institute of Education, Auckland campus.
Counterargument: is our main goal really to produce a generation of good spellers? Teacher JAMES THOMLINSON discusses how the way writing is assessed forces teachers to put too much emphasis on aspects such as spelling and punctuation.
friend of mine recently asked me, if there was one thing I could change about the education system, what would it be? A lot of answers rushed into my brain. The average pay of a teacher, a misinformed and ignorant society, or maybe just the general lack of government funding... After pondering this question for a few minutes, I kept returning to the same thought. My biggest concern with our education system at the moment is the way in which student achievement is assessed. All quality teachers have a holistic understanding of what ‘student achievement’ actually means. We all know that a conclusion of a student’s success cannot come from a standardised test score. Yet we are often forced to make meaningless judgements based on these types of irrelevant and often inaccurate sources of information. This article addresses the concerns I have around the assessment of writing in the 21st century, while slowly chipping away at the burden of misguided ‘common sense’ when it comes to education. The joy we must have felt on the day we picked up our first crayons and started doodling the ideas envisioned in our minds! Being able to communicate thoughts and feelings using simply our creative abilities and a pen or pencil separates us from any other creature on Earth. Ancient aboriginals used pictures and symbols. Young children use scribbles and comically misshapen drawings. As we learn and practise these skills, we progress to words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. It truly is an amazing accomplishment when another person understands a message you have conveyed to them through your writing. With advances in technology, our abilities to access writing of all genres and communicate through different written forums has never been greater. Emails and text messages have replaced letters and phone calls. Social media has connected the world through the touch of a button. The ability to reach large audiences easily creates an environment in which written language can flourish. However,
my concern is that society’s belief in the teaching of writing is not evolving with the same tenacity. I read a quote the other day by Eric Hoffer, an American moral and social philosopher, which really resounded with me. He said, “In times of change, it is the learners who will inherit the Earth, while the merely learned will remain beautifully equipped to cope with a world that no longer exists.” I believe our prejudice, which is based on an outdated standard used to assess writing, is having a major effect on our students’ writing creativity. Writing creativity in general terms means a student’s ability to use writing to portray an original, imaginative, and spirited visual of their thoughts. This outdated standard I refer to is those classic misconceptions that people have about what it means to be a ‘good’ writer. Spelling, handwriting, grammar and punctuation are all ideas on which we put way too much emphasis in the classroom. The first thing I always hear when a parent looks through their child’s writing book is a passive-aggressive comment about their handwriting, normally followed closely with a remark about a word they misspelt. My eye twitches every time I hear this and I have to restrain myself from throwing the large metre ruler, which I have tightly gripped in my clammy hand, in their general direction. No comment about the engaging story line, unique language, playful banter or deep underlying message. There are a lot of aspects they could comment on, yet these miniscule, irrelevant and frankly unimportant standards are always the first things to be critiqued. Even teachers, who should know better, fall into this trap. I myself have spent hours underlining and correcting spelling errors, and for what? Is our main goal really to produce a generation of good
spellers? If this belief that being a ‘good’ writer somehow relates to our spelling or handwriting ability is true, then I am in serious trouble. We now live in a world where cursive writing and meticulous spelling are not necessary. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that students who leave primary school should be able to write legibly and spell most frequently used words correctly. However, we now have a range of amazing devices and apps that not only assist us but improve our writing capabilities. Technology is only becoming more advanced. As educators we need to embrace this change and start preparing for it. Clutching at old certainties cannot be our coping strategy anymore. The world we used to know does not exist. Asserting an old-fashioned, inadequate set of beliefs is not acceptable. Let’s encourage and teach those important writing skills that still need to be learnt, but let’s stop creating these insignificant ‘tick boxes’ of success. The judgement, anxiety and conformity caused by this type of thinking is absurd. Not to mention the hours wasted planning and implementing unimportant lessons or hunting through books in search of irrelevant errors. Time is gold in the classroom. Instead, why not focus on exploring children’s imaginations? Let’s encourage free writing about the troll hiding underneath the principal’s desk or the dragon smoke coming from the caretaker’s chimney. Let’s make writing fun again and inspire originality. Educators have an obligation to adapt their pedagogy. Learning environments must promote innovative thinking and students need to feel safe to share their ideas without petty and uninformed criticism. We can’t shy away from being different. Being different is great – it reminds people that we aren’t programming robots. Let’s be brave and only look back to see how far we’ve have come.
“I believe our prejudice, which is based on an outdated standard used to assess writing, is having a major effect on our students’ writing creativity.”
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Assess, report, teach, repeat… boring When teacher CHRIS MAY recognised the same disengagement in his students as he once exhibited as a student, he was inspired to set up an initiative that strove to make learning more practical, contextualised and relevant to their lives, both in and out of school.
t times there can be too much of a focus on what students can’t do and what specifically needs to be learnt. Priority learner and target groups, mixed with special learning programmes, can fill an entire day and place direct focus on what students don’t know. While this may be an important aspect of teaching and learning, and what is needed for improving achievement, does it always have to be this way? Like many others across New Zealand, I finished my high school years feeling as if I was a failure. My poor attitude towards learning reflected my lack of academic achievement. So after a few years bouncing from job to job, it was a surprise to everyone that I chose to enter the world of education. It was only when I found myself standing in front of my own class that I realised the students I was having difficulty with were only behaving exactly as I had all those years ago: unenthused, disengaged, and bored. One solution I initiated was breaking up the monotony of schedules and timetables to develop skills that students could use in the place we would call the ‘real world’. This involved practical contextual learning to develop behaviours and thinking that are identified as our key competencies in The New Zealand Curriculum – a programme I named Nga Tama Toa – Empowering Boys to be Great Men – which is tailored to year 8 boys. To create purpose for this contextualised learning, the boys and I explored the mantra of what it means to be ‘a’ man, over being ‘the’ man. The intention was for boys to begin to understand what they could do to have ownership of themselves and their learning. We built upon ideas such as respecting themselves and others, integrity, equity with those younger than them, innovation, inquiry and curiosity, perseverance, and positive learning attitudes. To develop these skills and values, we allowed time every now and then to move away from the daily timetable to unlock this powerful contextual learning. We explored what students are passionate about, uncovering what really motivates them and, just as important, what they see as being important in their lives – not skills for
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“Finding a place for boys and young men to express themselves and have the support of their peers builds a kinship that is stronger than most teacher-student relationships.” the future, but skills for now. Examples of these have been learning to change a flat tyre, cooking a family meal, taking on jobs around the house such as the laundry, and even volunteering at a local early childhood centre. I have maintained a belief throughout this time that children should be learning the value of contributing to their own households as well as their communities. There are opportunities, and some would say a major need, for more people to contribute in a positive way to the world. This was also the beginning of what would become one of the themes of my first book on the subject, Running with a Hurricane – Educating Boys for Manhood.
This contextual learning is not just for high school students. Nga Tama Toa is a programme aimed at year 8 boys, and there are many other school programmes akin to Nga Tama Toa for younger year levels where students, both boys and girls, are exploring their worlds and what skills and values they can develop to make the best contributions. Limited information is available for students about how to contribute, however, and this impedes the development of contextual learning. Students are far more capable than they are often given credit for and may not be provided with the opportunities they need. We are willing to have senior students within our school mentor others, take on leaderships roles, and take care of younger students, but are we willing enough to have these same students, say, use a saw, wood, hammer and nails? Making time to explore this has had major advantages for student learning. One of the biggest advantages I have seen is the building of relationships between students, and as importantly, friendships between the same gender. It seems to be the ‘Kiwi way’ that sarcasm and put-downs are commonplace among friends, specifically within boys’ peer groups. Finding a place for boys and young men to express themselves and have the support of their peers builds a kinship that is stronger than most teacher-student relationships. This also provides a platform for boys to do the one thing that they can find the most difficult: ask for help. The key aim is to support students to become confident in themselves and take ownership of their learning both in and out of the classroom. This is more than engagement; this is empowerment. Developing contextual learning and enhancing the skills and values of students at a primary and intermediate level would enable both boys and girls to enter their high school years with a special trait that best prepares them for this time of their lives: character. For students to both develop and express themselves through their characters would be the foundation for their own future successes.
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