An opportunity to influence the future of educationDecember-2015
Louise Green says educators, along with parents, whānau and communities, need to have their say in the review of the Education Act.
Louise Green, President of NZEI Te Riu Roa
New Zealanders have been given a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have a say in the direction of education, with a review of the Education Act. The legislation that comes out at the other end of this process will have a massive effect on the future shape of public education.
The review comes at a time of significant change in the education sector and follows the introduction of the Investing in Educational Success policy in 2014, which is the Government’s flagship education policy. Changes have also taken place with the introduction of the Education Council to replace the Teachers Council. This new body was set up without the voice of the most important people – teachers themselves.
Sadly, the government agenda still promotes standardised learning and data-driven accountability. However, a huge vote of no confidence in Investing in Education Success by primary teachers and principals brought the Ministry of Education back to the table to develop child-centred learning and a recognition that evaluation of success needs to be across the curriculum.
This is seen through the Joint Initiative work, which promotes schools and early childhood services working together in Communities of Learning. This work emphasises collaboration, a focus on improving learning, and high trust in the professionalism of teachers.
While the Joint Initiative is not yet where we would like it to be, we are committed to continuing this work to ensure that the education system is flexible and responsive enough to meet the needs of learners, families and whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The review of the Education Act is an important part of that objective and it is crucial that education not be framed as a set of ‘goals’. We need more than goals for our education system; we need a clear purpose. This purpose must be enduring, inclusive, student-centred, and embrace the breadth of desired student outcomes. It needs to focus on more than narrow, data-driven student evaluation, and build on the vision outlined in the curricula of confident, connected, actively involved and lifelong learners.
To achieve this, all educators, parents, whānau and communities need to engage with the Education Act review. They also need to be fully involved in their local communities to determine the needs of the learners and how best to meet them. Whenever there are changes proposed to the education system, educators need to be involved in the debate. We can influence change when we get involved and speak out – whether this is about the review of the Education Act, the potential introduction of a code of conduct for teachers by the Education Council, or issues that have an impact at the local level. Furthermore, educators should not just be involved in debates about new issues, but continue to advocate for quality ECE funding, and support the Living Wage and policies that address child poverty.
This review provides an opportunity to build a strong national consensus about the future of education. As educators, we all need to participate in that discussion to help ensure that we retain and build on the principles of a high-quality, free, public education system that meets the needs of every child.