Changing our education system



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Hon Hekia Parata says we need to make changes to our education system to ensure impediments to learning are dealt with as they arise.

Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education

Hon Hekia ParataAs New Zealanders we are rightly proud of our education system. It produces well-rounded, curious, creative, problem-solvers who are sought after the world over.

But, like most things in life, it is not perfect. While most of our students leave school equipped with the qualifications they need to go on to further education or training, a minority do not.

Despite a sharp increase in student achievement in recent years, about one in five of our students are still leaving school without the minimum qualification necessary for further education or training – NCEA Level 2. A disproportionate number of those students are either Māori or Pasifika.

That is not in their interests or the interests of anyone else. New Zealand is a small country with a small population a long way from the rest of the world. We cannot afford to squander 20 per cent of our talent.

That is why this Government has an unrelenting focus on raising achievement levels for all students. An egalitarian ethos is part of New Zealand’s DNA and we want all our kids to have the opportunity to achieve to their potential. But we also want to make the most of our limited human capital.

The challenging target we have set ourselves of ensuring 85 per cent of those who turn 18 in 2017 have at least NCEA Level 2 has had the desired effect of mobilising principals, teachers, officials and ourselves as policy-makers.

We expect to achieve the overall target, but there is still much work to be done to ensure that Māori and Pasifika achievement rates also top the 85 per cent mark. We are ambitious for every young New Zealander.

Achieving our targets is involving a lot of effort to push against a system that has grown to allow some students to progress without acquiring the skills they need. That is expensive and time-consuming.

We need to make changes to our education system to ensure impediments to learning are dealt with as they arise rather than waiting till near the end of a student’s schooling. And those changes need to be sustainable over time so that we are not constantly in fix-up mode. And so that those students already doing well are supported to do even better.

The process is under way. We have almost doubled spending on early childhood learning since 2008 to ensure our early learners start school better prepared. We have introduced National Standards to help teachers identify student strengths and weaknesses more quickly and to do something about them. We have established the Education Council to raise the quality and status of the teaching profession. We are investing about $700 million in digital infrastructure to ensure every child is able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by technology. We are refocusing teacher professional development on key priorities. We are bringing schools together in Communities of Learning to work collaboratively to raise achievement because the skill and professionalism of our teachers and principals is our greatest resource. We are updating the Education Act 1989 for 2016 and beyond. And we are reviewing the education funding system to ensure it supports schools to focus on the things that make the greatest difference to kids’ learning.

None of these measures have been without debate – and nor should they be. We all want the best for our children and a good Kiwi education is a passport to a better future.

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