[g1_quote author_name=”Robin Baker” hide_author_image=”none” author_description=”NZCER Director” author_description_format=”%link%” align=”right” size=”s” style=”solid” template=”01″]

No system is perfect. We have some strong challenges in New Zealand as expectations keep rising—including teachers’ and principals’ own sense of what they can achieve. But the primary sector has many strengths which means it is well placed to face the challenges of today and those of the future.

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When you give parents the chance to say what they think of the quality of their child’s schooling, most give it a big tick. At the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, we’ve asked this question of parents since we began comprehensive surveys of primary schools in 1989, and we have always recorded levels of satisfaction of above 75 percent.

Our surveys also question principals and teachers about key aspects of primary education. What we get back is a clear sense of a dedicated, engaged profession who get enjoyment and satisfaction from their job and who demonstrate commitment to continuing to learn. We find they are increasingly interested in research findings that inform their practice.

In other recent NZCER projects, when teachers and principals describe some marked gains in student performance, they also talk about their increase in teacher knowledge and confidence, school-wide professional development, more collective work focused on improving learning outcomes, and better use of assessment and observation data.

Robyn BakerWe have made great progress in the past few years with this kind of capability building in New Zealand schools. There has been a real momentum as principals and teachers thrive on seeing gains and working in new ways.

We know from research the importance of teachers working together to build a strong, inquiring school culture and the significance of the feedback they give both students and each other.

We have a lot more knowledge now than in the past about what makes for effective teaching and learning. As researchers, it’s interesting to see the consistency in the evidence about effective kinds of everyday teaching practices and the importance of thinking and learning from colleagues.

New Zealand primary schools are well placed to make use of this evidence. Unlike some countries, New Zealand does not have a tightly prescribed curriculum—nor does it have set textbooks or a rigid timetable each school must follow. There is more latitude in our system at class and school level, which makes it easier in some ways to make the most of the consistent messages from research about effective learning. Our system has enormous strengths, many of them recognised internationally.

No system is perfect. We have some strong challenges in New Zealand as expectations keep rising—including teachers’ and principals’ own sense of what they can achieve. But the primary sector has many strengths which means it is well placed to face the challenges of today and those of the future.