Should we be worried about NZ’s education system?


“Everybody should be worried about our education system,” Bryan Bruce says.
Mr Bruce, a documentary maker, has delved into New Zealand’s education system for his latest investigation: World Class? Inside NZ Education: A Special Report. The programme airs tomorrow night on TV3 at 7:30pm.
The Edinburgh-born journalist has a background in teaching, and after finishing Mind the Gap, his documentary on New Zealand’s economy, he wanted to find out how our country is preparing children for an economy “you or I can’t imagine”.
Mr Bruce says the documentary highlights issues with equity and fairness among schools.
“If you go to a decile 1-3 school, you have got a 57 percent chance of getting NCEA Level 2. If you go to a decile nine and 10 school, you have got an 87 percent chance of getting NCEA Level 2, so that’s a 30 percent difference in our public education system,” he tells Newshub. “If that doesn’t tell you that we have a major problem with equity, nothing does.”
But the Ministry of Education says Mr Bruce needs to be careful not to stereotype low decile schools.
“Over the last five years, students from lower decile schools have been narrowing the gap with higher decile schools on achievement in NCEA Levels 2 and above,” says the Ministry’s head of early learning and student achievement, Lisa Rogers.
“The gap between decile 1-3 has narrowed by 6 percentage points between 2009 and 2014.”
Mr Bruce says we need a national conversation about education to discuss what we want from our schools and for our future economy.
“Innovation, entrepreneurialism, being able to think for yourself, working with others to solve problems — that’s the future. It isn’t to do what you’re told, listen to these instructions then do the test.”
He says we need to develop a system that is specific to New Zealand, and one that not only focuses on grades and testing, but on developing social skills.
“The focus should be on the individual and growing the individual. You should be able to leave school knowing what your skills are, what your passion is in life, and go and seek that, rather than leave schools with five A’s and you don’t know what the hell to do with them.”
He believes a centralised education system would decrease competition between schools.
“In a centralised system where teachers share things, there should be freedom to learn, It’s okay to make mistakes, and to learn from their mistakes.
“What we have is a system at the moment which goes ‘you have to get things right’. Well, that’s not what life is like.”
The Ministry of Education says a lot of Mr Bruce’s documentary is out of date, and it would welcome an opportunity to talk with him.
Ms Rodgers says schools and teachers do need to work together more, and this is why the Ministry is making huge changes.
“Under the Investing in Educational Success initiative that began in 2014, we have changed Tomorrow’s Schools so that schools can cooperate easily. The Government has committed $359 million on this initiative.”
Tomorrow’s Schools was a term coined during major changes to school administration under David Lange in 1988. It was called ‘The Reform of Education Administration in NZ – Tomorrow’s Schools’.
As well as this, more than 1000 schools have joined Communities of Learning, a way teachers can work together and share their best teaching ideas. That’s more than two out of every five schools.
“[Mr Bruce] is quite right in saying there is too much competition between schools, and that schools and teachers need to work together more. That’s exactly why we’re making the biggest changes the school system has seen in 25 years,” Ms Rodgers says.

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