Too many Government policies – particularly those focused on accountability and compliance – are rooted in a 20th Century educational mindset. In the past, our schools system has acted as a labour supply mechanism by effectively “filtering out” an appropriate number of school-leavers at the skill levels required by employers.
Those who didn’t complete foundation qualifications such as school certificate could rely on unskilled labour jobs on the factory floor or with other large employers. Those with basic skills could find work in clerical roles, while others would find career opportunities in the trades. Those who survived the filtering process and made it through to the senior secondary system could go on to complete degree-level tertiary study.
Those days are now long gone. Today our senior secondary school system caters for a wide range of learners, not just those who are destined for degree-level study. Yet much of the offering at that level of schooling, and the structure of learning and assessment that accompanies it, remains rooted in the assumption that degree-level study is an inevitable outcome for senior school leavers.
Currently only 3 out of 10 school leavers are going onto degree level study.1 Less than two-thirds of those who complete NCEA level 3 actually go on to university.2
An overemphasis on assessment, testing and qualification attainment at the senior secondary level is hampering efforts to focus on cross-cutting competencies that will be essential in the future such as creativity, innovation, teamwork, collaboration, problem solving and communication.
Lack of personalised learning can make it hard for some people to participate in the education system. We have engagement issues with several groups including the disabled, women, Māori and Pasifika. By tailoring education to individual needs it can help boost their engagement and improve educational outcomes.
Schools and teachers can often be heard asking how they can prepare students today for a world we can’t yet even imagine. The answer lies at least in part in equipping them with the attributes of resilience and adaptability. They will need to grow and change, be self-starting, innovative and creative. While the specific skills they may require to perform particular employment tasks may change, those basic attributes will not.
A focus on teaching students to learn to learn from early childhood education through to university is crucial for ensuring that they are resilient and adaptable to changes in the future workforce.
Are our formal education structures working to prepare students for
life beyond work? How can they be improved?
How can we better provide personalised learning for students?
1 Universities New Zealand, October 2014, Briefing for the Incoming Minister, http://www.universitiesnz.ac.nz/files/Universities%20NZ%20Briefing%20for%20the%20 Incoming%20Minister%20October%202014.pdf
2 Education Councils, Transition from School to Tertiary, https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/statistics/tertiary_education/transition-from-school-to- tertiary