Changing the way we educate
Nelson Mandela is credited with saying: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” It stands to reason that if we can change the world using education, then those who have a say in how we educate children have a powerful role in determining the future.
Last week, Minister for Education Chris Hipkins recognised this power when he announced an extensive three-year review of the New Zealand education system: the Education Portfolio Work Programme. He said, “the education system should bring out the best in everyone, providing all New Zealanders with learning opportunities so they can discover and develop their full potential, engage fully in society, and lead rewarding and fulfilling lives.”
Admirably, the programme hopes to consult and hear from teachers, parents, and communities.
This work programme includes reviewing early childhood education, Tomorrow’s Schools, and NCEA, as well as “developing a future-focused Education Workforce Strategy,” “a comprehensive reform of school property,” and “a programme of change for the institute of technology and polytechnic (ITP) subsector and for vocational education more generally,” among others. Admirably, the programme hopes to consult and hear from teachers, parents, and communities.
It is crucial that this whole process be open, and provide the public with an opportunity to respond before changes are made.
New Zealand now has an official opportunity to look at our education system, see what we’ve done well, and what we need to do better to ensure our young people are provided with the best educational opportunities possible. However, given that this sweeping review seems purposed to lay the ground for the Government to make sweeping changes to our education system, it is crucial that this whole process be open, and provide the public with an opportunity to respond before changes are made.
In the three year timeframe of these reforms another election will have come and gone, leaving two more years before we have an opportunity to vote on whether we agree with the Government’s direction. With a review that will have a significant impact on the lives and education of so many young New Zealanders it is essential that the Government allows voters to have a say on its proposed education overhaul.
Throughout last year’s election campaign the Labour Party were repeatedly questioned about their Tax Working Group. We saw a lot of public and political pressure on Labour to guarantee that any changes proposed by the Working Group would not be put into law before the next election.
If that was the reaction to a tax policy change, how much greater the need for a similar consultation and vote for extensive educational reform? Such a significant review process with the potential to lead to dramatic overhaul of that system requires transparency and accountability from our government.
The way we educate our people shapes the course of our nation’s future.
The way we educate our people shapes the course of our nation’s future. Surely this means that we must treat significant changes to our education system with caution, and ensure that they really are the best way forward before enacting them. I look forward to seeing the results of the Education Portfolio Work Programme, and hope that the Minister will include the public in the Government’s plans.