Competing on the world stage … will require intensive reforms …. Inflexible, exam-based school systems stifle creativity and channel top students into a handful of fields … parents are forced to spend extra money on private tutoring ….Vocational training is also lacking. The result is a skills gap: a chasm between the qualifications of graduates and what employers actually require.
No, not New Zealand, but Egypt.
I have picked the ‘eyes’ out of a Time magazine article on education in Egypt: Seeking Growth After the Arab Spring (subscription required to read full report). But what captured my interest was that here is a country with a struggling education system, yet quite a few of the statements ring true for New Zealand, a country which may be considered on the opposite side of the continuum from Egypt, educationally.
What are the similarities?
Our 'long tail’ of underachievers certainly matches Third World OECD statistics. We, too, have a heavy focus on assessment and standards. Sure, we don’t have an inflexible exam-based approach, but, arguably, assessment still drives learning rather than the other way around. And, as a high stakes investment, assessment-driven learning has less to do with equipping students for the 21st century, and more to do with league tables and the self-preservation of school status.
Many New Zealand parents feel that schools are not meeting their child’s needs and pay for outside tuition to help their children succeed. Successive governments have axed many vocational courses that provided alternatives for students. The result of all of this, as it is in Egypt and the rest of the world, is the growing problem of large numbers of disaffected youth.
The New Zealand Institute, in their article ‘More Ladders, Fewer Snakes’, address this concern suggesting that an ‘accelerated roll-out of e-learning to low decile schools and improving the school-to-work transition will materially reduce youth unemployment and resulting social issues.’
For New Zealand to continue to compete positively on a shifting world stage, schools need to look closely at their curriculum and ask the following questions:
- Is it a whole school curriculum harnessing the best of technology and designed to meet the future learning needs of students within their catchment?
- How are key competencies being embedded into subject areas?
- Are schools teaching subjects or teaching students for lifelong learning?
- What opportunities for creativity, problem solving and higher order thinking are students being given?
- How do current assessment expectations contribute positively to students’ futures?
I wonder, too, about the extent to which school communities have an understanding of globalisation, 21st Century learning, and the need for rethinking the way schools deliver education today?
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