Creative education in New Zealand is at risk.
It seems to me,from what I hear from friends still involved in teaching that education in New Zealand is in a sorry position.
The big revolution came with Tomorrows Schools in the 80s when New Zealand schools were made 'self managing' as part of the neo-liberal ideology of the current government by, sadly, a Labour government.
At the time I thought it was a good move. The idea of neighborhood schools freed from the constraints of central government seemed like democracy in action. The neo- liberal,, or 'market forces', ideology w supposed to be all about allowing schools ( and other public service) to be more enterprising. Instead we have ended up with an oppressive competitive compliance culture
Wiser people like Kelvin Smythe warned about consequences of such actions at the tim but he was ignored. Kelvin to this day fights the good fight and I am now with him - and, it seems, his voice is still ignored by school principals who see no alternative but to comply with government directives..
National Standards - the 'default' curriculum.
Now it is National Standards that determine education in our schools not the more liberal New Zealand Curriculum. The Standards are now in many schools the default curriculum
|Time to return to implementing the New Zealand Curriculum|
We now see schools obsessed with ensuring their National Standards data ( and in Secondary schools NCEA Level 2 targets) are comparable with other schools. Sadly schools are gaming the system and the data lacks integrity. Kelvin Smythe, and other, have written about this.
The promise of democracy and creativity that some of us thought would eventuate has been all but lost. The so called 'nanny state' has been replaced by a technocratic 'big brother' surveillance culture - a culture where the 'voice' of teachers have been deliberately ignored. Teacher unions and principal groups have all but given up expressing a viable alternatives.
Communities of Schools or Communities of Control
|The compliance culture|
Currently their is now the misguided focus on Maori/Pacifica achievement - misguided because of the focus on assessing achievement determined by National Standards/NCEA Level 2 achievement which ignore equally important attributes and talents such students might have.
So what does the NZC say?
|ERO visit - comply or else!|
With all this in mind it is time schools refocused their attention on the vision of the New Zealand Curriculum and in particular the 'first half' of the document. The focus in the NZC is for schools to insure all students leave 'connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners'. National Standards will not achieve this vision.
'Seekers, users and creators of knowledge'.
For me the key aspects of being a lifelong learners is for students to be 'active seekers ,users and creators of knowledge'. School programmes need to place this at the centre of their programmes, or as the NZC says, 'place students at the centre of teaching and learning' by experiencing 'a curriculum that engages and challenges them'. and a curriculum that 'ensures that students' identity, languages, abilities are recognized and affirmed.'
Their is a need to 're-frame' literacy and numeracy.
A quick look at how schools use time will indicate if the NZC is central to learning. It is my observation that the great portion of time in primary schools is given over to literacy and numeracy - as one commentator has said 'it is as if the evil twins of literacy and numeracy have gobbled up the entire curriculum'. This not to say such areas are unimportant, quite the opposite, it is just that they need to be re-framed as vital skills in the realization of authentic learning challenges.
It would be asking too much to integrate literacy and numeracy but at the very least it should be re framed and seen as an opportunity to introduce skills and content that contribute to the inquiry programme..
|Junior ideas about shadows|
The importance of the Key Competencies.
These are to be seen 'both an means and an end and the means other ends are achieved' and they are' to be developed over time'. The thinking competency is all about helping students 'make sense of information' ( a vital aspect of critical literacy) helping them 'constructing knowledge' and 'developing intellectual curiosity' by ensuring all students can actively seek, use, and create knowledge'. A quick read of student work will indicate if this is so. All too often shallow 'cut and paste' is the name of the 'inquiry game'.
Managing self is another key competency. This is about developing students develop ' a "can do" attitude so they see themselves as capable learners.
The importance of the Learning Areas.
With the current emphasis on National Standards studying Learning Area content in depth, as part of class studies, can be to easily neglected. Students 'researching' using Google is not enough and all too often leads to shallow or fragile learning. Every year students should experience a full range of the Learning Areas because such a range of experiences 'lays a foundation for later specialization' and, more importantly, provides opportunities to value, amplify and uncover students interests and talents.
The NZC suggests that 'all learning should make of natural connections that exist between learning areas and link learning areas to values and key competencies'. Schools could develop a range of studies that combine any number of strands from the appropriate learning areas. Students, as they progress through school, should develop a positive appreciation of the essence of each area.
Whatever is chosen should be studied in depth, negotiated with the students, students' questions valued and their prior ideas appreciated.
The English Learning Area ( encompassing literacy) is 'fundamental to success across the curriculum and is all about requiring students to 'receive, process, and present ideas or information'. English is about 'making meaning of ideas or information' and
|Value student voice|
An inquiry model to integrate all learning areas.
Although there is not a section defining inquiry learning is mentioned and integral to all learning areas. The essence of science is about 'investigating, understanding and explaining' it involves 'generating and testing ideas gathering evidence' 'making observations and carrying out investigations'.
This problem solving inquiry model is integral to all learning. In the Arts Learning Area the NZC states: ' ideas are generated and refined through cycles of action and reflection'; in the Maths Learning Area maths is to be seen as a way 'of thinking and solving problems', and 'investigating, interpreting, explaining and making sense'. Maths is an area where students 'learn to create models and predict outcomes, to conjecture to justify and verify'. The Social Science Learning Area has a similar inquiry approach. Students in this area are required to 'ask questions, gather information...to explore and analyse.. to consider .. and to reflect and evaluate'.
I would expect classrooms to reflect a diverse range of depth studies integrating, as appropriate, literacy and numeracy skills.
Effective Pedagogy is a vital section of the NZC.
Effective pedagogy includes 'enhancing the relevance of new learning'; 'makes connection to prior learning; and, most importantly, 'provides sufficient opportunities to learn'.
Opportunities to learn is the key to providing all learners with success not National Standards or NCEA targets.
The effective pedagogy statement emphasizes the importance of developing a positive learning culture , seeing the class as 'a learning community', the need for respectful relationships and the importance of 'encouraging reflective thought and action' .
Advice is given to ' cover less but cover it in greater depth'.
Teaching as Inquiry ( TAI)
An inquiry model is outlined for teachers to 'inquire into the impact of their teaching'. I would suggest that teachers inquire into how well the NZC is being implemented and in particular the various learning areas.
The School Curriculum.
To implement the vision of the NZC requires 'a clear understanding of the intentions of the New Zealand Curriculum. 'All New Zealand students regardless of of where they are situated, should experience a rich and balanced education that embraces the intent
|Valuing the creative arts|
The NZC is based on the 'premise that all students can learn and succeed' and that each learners ultimate learning success is more important than the covering of particular achievement objectives, and, I would add the National Standards.
The excellent assessment section has been distorted by the current reactionary and narrow demands of the National Standards.
An audit and surveillance culture is now part of our school system and has all but destroyed creativity and diversity in our schools and, in the process, the full implementation of the New Zealand Curriculum.
'The primary purpose of assessment is to improve students' learning' and that
assessment 'is best understood as on ongoing process that arises out of the interaction between teaching and learning'.
'Much of this evidence is 'of the moment" and 'often takes place in the mind of the teacher, who then uses the insights gained to shape their actions as they continue to work with their students.'
Time to hunt out, dust down, re-read and implement creative vision of the New Zealand Curriculum before it is too late.
|The alternative looks good to me!|
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