Why do I have to go to school?
This research note explores the question: what is school for in Aotearoa New Zealand? More precisely, it unpacks the differing and, at times opposing, answers New Zealanders have favoured in response to this question.
Up until recently, the Ministry of Education’s vision statement committed to ensuring that every New Zealander:
- is strong in their national and cultural identity;
- aspires for themselves and their children to achieve more;
- has the choice and opportunity to be the best they can be;
- is an active participant and citizen in creating a strong civil society; and,
- is productive, valued and competitive in the world.
This list represents an historical legacy of ideas and aspirations, from the patriotism of the post-war period to the rise, fall and rise again of values education and a dedication to the knowledge economy. Rather than the “reorientation of the education system” called for by the education reformers, Clarence Beeby and Peter Fraser, in 1939, the mission of public schooling has expanded to integrate a growing list of desired outcomes and values. The curriculum is now a Frankenstein’s monster of historical and contemporary objectives and pedagogies that create confusion and inefficiency.
If we want to improve school outcomes, it is imperative that we figure out what we are hoping to achieve. If we are going to test our students and judge their teachers, we need to be clear which standards they are being measured against. We need a national conversation on what school is for. We need a government who will honour the time and energy that students, parents and teachers commit to education, as well as the taxpayer dollars that fund it. At the same time, we need to recognise that this time, energy and money is finite, and we cannot achieve all of our educational desires, however laudable they might be. Instead of adding to the present milieu of half-remembered promises, we need our political parties to commit to a pragmatic process of pruning and prioritisation in our education system.
Why do I have to go to school? | Maxim Institute Podcast
Researcher Natasha Baulis joins Communications Coordinator Jason Heale to delve into her research paper exploring the fundamental question: What is school for? They discuss the evolving objectives of public education, the surprising lack of clarity on its aims, and the challenges faced by the education system in meeting diverse expectations.