Rising to the challenge of system change

Changing times – Paul Goulter With the constant swirl in education it can be difficult to get a frame of how it all fits together. At a government level, there…

Changing times – Paul Goulter

With the constant swirl in education it can be difficult to get a frame of how it all fits together. At a government level, there are two constants – a vocabulary of system change and commercialisation. Many apparently unconnected changes are lumped into this: the funding review, review of the Education Act, the Education Legislation Bill, IES, PLD changes, the Education Council, and so on.

Globally, commercialisation is possibly the biggest issue in education, and we are beginning to face the conditions related to this that confront our colleagues in England and the US (p8). This begs the question – what is the problem being fixed by these changes? And that question’s close friend – what is the fix going to look like? Did anyone ask you?

Fortunately, we are up to addressing the real challenges.

  • National Secretary NZEI Te Riu Roa
Real challenges – Louise Green

System change is alive and well in all the high-performing education systems around the world, including New Zealand’s. We are all grappling with real challenges, including high levels of immigration, more children with learning and behavioural challenges, long-standing issues of cultural competency, and gaping inequity.

Recently I was at the International Summit of the Teaching Profession in Berlin, jointly convened by the host country, OECD and Education International. It was attended by 22 countries from highly performing and rapidly improving school systems, as identified through PISA.

Ministers of Education, union leaders and teaching professionals contributed to an international discussion in an open forum – sharing thinking and experiences, effective teacher policies and practices.

Challenges are coming from the influx of refugees, high levels of immigration, increasing numbers of children with learning and behavioural needs, long-standing issues around indigenous education and the growing/gaping inequity gaps.

Responding to this growing diversity has to be a strong focus within our professional communities. This requires a profession with highly developed skills, knowledge and dispositions (including as this relates to character – how we behave and engage), along with the ability to reflect on and adapt our practices.

However, the challenges are too big for one individual, one school or centre to tackle alone.

We need to join together and take collective responsibility for the learning and development of children in our centres, schools, kura and communities.

This needs high levels of professionalism – autonomy and internal regulation. And as New Zealand teachers rate as third highest on TALIS Teacher Professional Index – autonomy, peer networks and knowledge base – we are well placed to rise to these challenges.

Alongside professionalism, leadership is required at all levels, from the classroom to the school/centre/communities of learning. We need internal motivation and effort to bring about the changes we need to see.

Our responsibility is to exert our professionalism and leadership in the best interests of the children and communities we serve.  We connect with children and their whanau on a daily basis and know best how to make the real differences in their lives and to interpret, influence and shape government policy to serve learners.

It is time to redefine what educational success for all means so that progress towards goals is seen as important, promoted and valued.

We need to be strong collectively, stretch the policies designed by governments to meet narrow targets and ensure we prepare children to be confident, connected, actively involved life-long learners in their world.

  • NZEI President Te Manukura