Meeting the needs of each individual learner



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Chris Hipkins says the focus of education needs to change from standardisation and measurement to a more personalised learning experience for each student.

Chris Hipkins, Education Spokesperson, Labour Party

Chris HipkinsThirty years ago someone could walk out of the school gate and have a reasonable expectation of paid employment, no matter what level of qualification they had achieved. One job would lead to another and over their working life, the average Kiwi could expect to work a few different jobs, often within the same industry, have reasonable security in their employment, save to buy a house, raise a family, and put a bit of money away for their retirement. Those days are gone.

Many of the jobs out there today will have disappeared by the time students who are currently at school step into the workforce. Some studies have suggested that over half the jobs people currently do will disappear within the next two decades. That’s upheaval on a grand scale.

Many of the jobs disappearing are the ones that have often provided a bridge between school and ongoing employment for young people. Checkout operators are being replaced by self-service kiosks, newspapers replaced by online news delivered direct to our phones and laptops, and even higher up the employment hierarchy, professions like accounting are seeing huge numbers of jobs vanish as technology makes them redundant.

Our education system needs to prepare our young people for a workplace we can’t yet imagine. They will need to be resilient, creative, adaptable, have great communication and interpersonal skills, and be prepared to work collaboratively as well as independently. Far from having a ‘job for life’ they can expect to chop and change careers on a regular basis. They will probably undertake a range of different types of work; some salaried, some contracted, some in a workplace, some from home.

Subject-specific knowledge will be a lot less important; transferable skills will be essential. Attitude and aptitude will be just as important, if not more important, than qualifications. That poses enormous challenges for the education system and here, as around the world, we’re only just beginning to grapple with those.

The current focus on standardisation and measurement works against adapting the education system to the needs of the modern world. Those policies seek to refine a system that was well-suited to the last century, but simply won’t cut it in the future.

Our focus has to be on a much more personalised learning experience, one that brings out the best in each and every individual. No two people are built exactly the same so we should stop forcing the education system to treat them as if they are.

The modern education system needs to address poverty and the enormous effect it has on student achievement, improve targeted support to those students who need extra help either because they are struggling or due to special needs, and shift emphasis back to a broad curriculum.

The Labour Party will continue to champion a free public education system that provides all New Zealanders with lifelong learning opportunities so that they can reach their full potential.

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