Hekia’s hopes for New Zealand education

February 2012

 

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New Zealand’s new Minister of Education, Hon HEKIA PARATA gives Education Review an insight into her background and shares her aspirations for New Zealand’s education system.

I hope you have all had a wonderful summer break, and have returned fresh and focused for 2012. There is much for all of us to do!

I have read and reflected, and caught up with friends and whanau, and I return honoured by my appointment as Minister of Education and excited by the possibilities that lie ahead in the next three years.

While there is much to do, and we all have different but complementary roles to play, I believe we are united in our common commitment to see our students achieve, go on to meaningful employment opportunities, and contribute to the quality of life in Aotearoa New Zealand. I look forward to working with you to do this.

Government’s key objective is to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed. Currently four in five students leave school with a qualification that will allow them to move to the next step. But we are an aspirational government and we want all students to achieve the skills needed to survive in modern society.

We want to see young children participating in quality early childhood education, transitioning happily into primary school ready to learn, with teachers who actively assess how well they are doing, report to parents on their progress, their needs, and what the school is doing to meet those needs (and what parents can do too), before going on to secondary school and to subject choices that set them up well for good qualifications and career pathways that lead to strong employment prospects.

Over the next three years we want to significantly raise achievement for all students. In particular, we must break the refrain of underachievement by Maori, Pasifika and learners from low socio-economic groups or with special needs, and move instead to making real, measurable, positive change.

A number of initiatives and efforts have already been implemented including the establishment of strategies such as Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success 2008-2012, the Pasifika Education Plan 2009-2012, and Success for All – Every School, Every Child to accelerate progress and achievement.

We have implemented National Standards, which help identify children who are struggling in their school work, and provide insight to their teachers (and parents) on how to help them.

While these strategies, together with interventions and resources, will assist in raising achievement, it is clear to me that the leadership and engagement of all those who are the education profession will make the actual difference.

The quality of the learning interaction set up and guided by the teacher in the classroom will have the most impact on that specific Year 5 girl or Year 10 boy. The leadership by that principal in that school will create the educational context for success. The governance provided by that chair and that board will provide the environment in which that school operates effectively and efficiently. The combination of all three will lead to positive and productive engagement by that parent, family, whanau, and community.

Ours is a system. There are many parts to it and each of us has our role to play. At the centre of our system is the learner. We all play our parts so that she or he will have the best possible educational experience, will leave the better for it, and go on to contribute to and participate productively in society.

Early and continuing education has been the springboard for my professional choices, and I believe successful education experiences can transform the lives of individuals, their families, their communities – and their nation.

I come from Ruatoria on the East Coast – population less than 1000. I did all my schooling in this community until Years 12 and 13 (6th and 7th form then), when I transferred to the “Big Smoke” of Gisborne Girls’ High School. I graduated with a Master of Arts in Maori from the University of Waikato, and my first career employment was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a junior diplomat. (I also had the usual other jobs of the casual Kiwi kind – waitressing, bartending, pool supervision, nurse aide, and the hardest and possibly most satisfying of all, a summer as a fleeco in wretchedly hot woolsheds on the East Coast).

I am Ngati Porou and Ngai Tahu, with good doses of Scottish, Irish, and English ancestry, and am the third of eight children.

Good quality education has long been a conviction and a commitment in my family. My mother was involved in Playcentre, kohanga reo then kura kaupapa; my father was a secondary school teacher of history, geography and common sense. I also have two sisters who are or have been principals and policy makers, and whanau in every facet of education in many places around the country.

As the new Minister of Education I commit to you my energy, my hard work and my absolute focus on how, together, we can raise achievement for all our students.

Ma te wa e whakaata ana mahi