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Education woes need more than campaigns

By 'Alapasita Teu August 30, 2022

Every school day is a big day, we’re told. These ads are coming to a radio, TV screen, newspaper, and social media platform near you. The latest nationwide campaign to address our truancy crisis launched last week. It encourages parents, families, and students to return to school. The campaign highlights the missed opportunities to engage in the big and small moments of a school day that all count towards learning. Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti notes that the campaign supports on-the-ground and practical measures to address our truancy issues.

Factors like retaining teachers, quality teacher education, and a national school curriculum and teaching pedagogies will help to address our worsening literacy and numeracy levels.

Whilst this appears to be a positive step in the fight against truancy, one wonders how a communication plan ranks as such a high priority amongst other, more targeted and practical actions to address school absenteeism.

Redesigning the Attendance Service model to be more inclusive of schools, parents/guardians, and local communities is a low priority despite noted dissatisfaction with the 2013 changes to the national service. So is, it seems, addressing within-school factors that contribute to negative school attendance. Factors like retaining teachers, quality teacher education, and a national school curriculum and teaching pedagogies will help to address our worsening literacy and numeracy levels.

Our politicians continue to use education as a political football to the detriment of our children’s learning and futures.

There is merit in nationwide efforts to encourage our parents/guardians to collaborate with schools in the duty of care for our children’s learning by playing their part. However, this campaign has highlighted our nation’s apathy toward the current state of our compulsory education system. Media coverage of the post-COVID impacts on our learners, teachers and schools has been the bare minimum.

Our politicians continue to use education as a political football to the detriment of our children’s learning and futures. The public has yet to see a targeted catch-up plan or anything to address the post-COVID impacts on our compulsory education system and students. We’ve seen the coverage of teacher workforce shortages and teacher burnout, yet we are making minimal effort to address this.

The campaign also reminds us that schools can only do so much; parents and families must take responsibility for their role in their child’s education.

Our longstanding truancy issues are simply a symptom of an education sector crying for help. From chronic school attendance issues to declining literacy and numeracy rates, we need more than communication plans. Now more than ever, in dealing with the aftermath of two years of disrupted learning, our children need champions for their futures across all sectors of the education system. Our communities and families must push past the unconcern for our children’s learning and get them back into learning settings.

The campaign also reminds us that schools can only do so much; parents and families must take responsibility for their role in their child’s education. At the government level, we need the Ministry of Education to optimise local solutions and amplify what schools are doing to combat truancy. We must eliminate strategies that act as a smokescreen for lack of activity.

We need more long-term thinking that is proactive and addresses our present education issues, and works to conserve education as a gift to be passed on to future generations.

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