Catherine Delahunty
What is a real education?

That’s what I’ve been asking those most affected – young people – since I started my Real Education Project after coming into Parliament.

While our kids head back to school this week and we all get bogged down debating assessment methods, I asked young people directly about their experiences and needs in the education system. Their answers are summarised in our new report, ‘What is a Real Education?’, released today.

It shows that young people are concerned about the three ‘Rs’ – but not just reading, writing and arithmetic. They want to be treated with respect, have good relationships with their teachers, and have an education that is relevant.

They are also concerned about resources. There are vast disparities in resource levels between different schools, and young people are aware of this. They want to learn in an environment that is well resourced, free, and fair.

Feel free to download the report, print it, and share it widely with your family and friends. I hope it will become a great resource for young people, parents, teachers, politicians, and officials alike.

12 thoughts on “What is a real education?

  1. What about our sliding educational standards? For instance, we have Auckland Grammar who have chosen to essentially ditch our national standard in favour of one that is seen as superior. We have students being educated at secondary school now who would not have passed the tests that were necessary for them to enter secondary education three quarters of a century ago. We have students at University who to be frank, would not have made the grade twenty or thirty years ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2 (+2)

  2. john-ston- I don’t disagree with you but I do wonder what you see is the intention of education. When I went to secondary school (early 70s) half of the students failed school certificate and by the 7th form only a small fraction were left. The certificates we received for our exams only gave a percentage for the overall subject and a pass for UE depended as much on your own ability as the pass rate your school had the previous year (If children did a lot better in UE than SC there wouldn’t be enough high grades to share around).

    With my children now at secondary school I find the standard of teaching generally higher than was my experience, the expectations are far clearer and the exam certificates have subjects broken into different strands so that an employer can see the actual strengths of an individual. Less than 10% of the population achieved a tertiary qualification when I attended University and that is much higher now. I would agree that a degree thirty years ago could be regarded in a similar way to a Masters now, but the fact that we have many young people continuing in education must be useful.

    The skills and knowledge of our young people continues to impress me and many at the Green’s Campaign Conference were blown away by the calibre of our Young Green Candidates. With New Zealand at the top of most international education assessments, I don’t see sliding standards just more young people who would have been discarded in the past still trying to improve themselves. I do see the potential for great damage to our system if diversity is not recognized and catered for (as Catherine has identified) and I worry that narrow judgemental practices will just assign many to a social scrap heap and cause grief for us all. Nothing is wrong with high expectations but we need to cater for all children and help them attain their full potential for their and our benefits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3 (+2)

  3. There are vast disparities in resource levels between different schools, and young people are aware of this.

    Interesting that Anne Tolley stated on the news a few hights ago that schools not adopting new standards will have funding cuts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  4. Todd says “Interesting that Anne Tolley stated on the news a few hights ago that schools not adopting new standards will have funding cuts.”

    Why should the taxpayer fund schools for NS resources and training, when they don’t do it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5 (-3)

  5. I think Tolley inferred that schools not towing the line could expect cuts across the board. Such bullying is not acceptable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3 (0)

  6. The skills and knowledge of our young people continues to impress me and many at the Green’s Campaign Conference were blown away by the calibre of our Young Green Candidates.

    I would expect that Young Green Candidates would have a high calibre – to be interested in something like politics is generally associated with a higher level of intellect than the average person would have.

    With New Zealand at the top of most international education assessments, I don’t see sliding standards just more young people who would have been discarded in the past still trying to improve themselves.

    The problem I see is that globally things have gotten worse. We have become a society that wants to make children feel good instead of being honest with them – there have been a number of articles recently about Western styles of parenting as opposed to Asian styles of parenting, and I can only guess that these attitudes have carried over to the classroom.

    When you have a system of Unit Standards that give students credits for picking up litter, it is clear that New Zealand has a problem (personally, I am in favour of completely scrapping Unit Standards and beefing up Achievement Standards).

    Nothing is wrong with high expectations but we need to cater for all children and help them attain their full potential for their and our benefits.

    It is interesting to note that the woman who was the cause of all the articles about styles of parenting pushed her daughter to perform at her utmost when it came to a piano piece, even when the child wanted to give up. Ultimately, instead of the child failing, she performed the piece perfectly at the recital.

    Pushing our children will help them achieve their potential than what we do at the moment.

    I would agree that a degree thirty years ago could be regarded in a similar way to a Masters now, but the fact that we have many young people continuing in education must be useful.

    The problem is that much of what they learn now was learnt at earlier stages in the past. I don’t know what School Certificate Accounting was like, but it was certainly enough for someone to leave school and do some book-keeping for a firm as late as the 1970s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2 (0)

  7. john-ston – less was expected of new employees in the 7o’s as further on the job training was the norm. There is actually a greater subject range within NCEA than in the past and thus students are doing some courses that once only began at university (categories within mathematics for example).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1 (-1)

  8. John-ston-I think much of what you say is based on your perception, not the reality. Have a look at our New Zealand Curriculum http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-documents/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Achievement-objectives
    My kids know a hell of a lot more than I did at the same age, and I was considered a high achiever in my day. It is much harder for young people to get jobs now and most are far more focused on getting useful qualifications than ever before. Standards and expectations are continuing to increase as competition gets more intense. In Invercargill we have high school students building competitive gocarts, setting up functioning businesses, performing in orchestras and bands, competing in intense Mathematical competitions, winning awards for scientific research (and more), at a levels only dreamed of 30 years ago.
    Many parents have higher expectations now and students themselves are often highly self motivated.

    We do have a problem with those who come from financially challenged and disfunctional homes (the infamous 20% referred to by Minister Tolley), but it must be remembered that the other 80% are achieving. The fact that many academically challenged students have to attend school for much longer and do get some education is useful. In the past many of these students could leave school and get a well paid labouring job, but these a few and far between now.

    “The problem is that much of what they learn now was learnt at earlier stages in the past. I don’t know what School Certificate Accounting was like, but it was certainly enough for someone to leave school and do some book-keeping for a firm as late as the 1970s.”

    Do have a look at the curriculum link I gave, which gives a broad view only and not the specifics for specialist subjects, as you will struggle to see a lessoning of expectations. Not only can they learn basic accounting but can successfully set up and run a businesses (Young Enterprise Scheme). If you want greater proof of what is now taught and achieved at Secondary Schools I encourage you to attend an open day and see for yourself.

    There has been much research to show that average IQs are steadily rising (the Flynn Effect) and there are continuous efforts to increase the difficulty of many assessments to keep up with this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1 (+2)

  9. Johnstone obviously has very little idea of the expectations of students today.

    I agree about unit standards that are often box ticking exercises by ITO’s and there is always room for improvement in every human endeavor.
    There is also a lack of congruence between Standards and the new curriculum. NCEA predated the new curriculum and there is some catching up to do. This has been recognised and educators are continually reassessing standards and their effectiveness..

    Comparing levels between schools in the past. Most left with no or basic qualifications before they sat the tests in the higher forms. Now 80% get up to higher levels than all but the top 10% in the past.
    Johnstone shows a lack of knowledge of our education system.

    Book keeping, as it was, in the 50′s would in no way have prepared someone to do the books in a 2012 business.

    Funny that commentators like Johnstone never advocate the proven methods of increasing education standards. Pay enough for highly qualified and skilled teachers and let them get on with it as in Finland, reduce inequality as in Finland, Danemark, Sweden and Germany.

    Apart from that, considering the lack of resources, the poor teachers pay and the constant nutty ideological political interference from Government NZ education still does very well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

  10. I am impressed with the level of our bright young one’s coming up. They are a lot more computer and tech savy than my generation ever was and I think that is due to the quality of the teachers.

    I went to one school in the sixties in west Queensland and most of the teachers were not qualified! Yes they had degrees of some sort or they were ex army majors intent in toughening us up to become ‘men’ but they wern’t actually trained at teaching.

    However having said that, I would like to know why a lot of teachers don’t like the changes in NZCA that is being argued about at present.

    Maybe there needs to be a referendum for all principles and teachers and let them sort out the best system for our schools!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

  11. I think some of the young people I spoke with in the project were part of the so called “failures” and they were all keen to learn. They made it very clear that the challenges are not about forms of assessment but the necessity of a good relationship with the teachers, small numbers and cultural respect as well as creative teaching practice. We cannot ask teachers to solve the social inequalities that schools manifest just like all parts of our society. We can support more resources and listen to the young people who call for teaching passion and relevance. The alternative schools are needed and deserve support as well as more Maori and Pasifika teachers. Lots of teachers make us proud and the challenge is to listen to yioung people about those who turn then off learning and why!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0 (+5)

  12. Have anybody watched the movie “An Education” by Lone Scherfig? The scene i like best is when the main character (plays as a highschool student) argued with her principal about her premature marriage: “Studying is hard and boring. Teaching is hard and boring. So what you’re telling me is to be bored, and then bored, and finally bored again, but this time for the rest of my life. This whole stupid country is bored. There’s no life in it, or colour, or fun. It’s probably just as well that the Russians are going to drop a nuclear bomb on us any day now. So my choice is to do something hard and boring, or to marry my Jew, and go to Paris and Rome and listen to jazz and read and eat good food in nice restaurants and have fun. It’s not enough to educate us any more, Mrs Walters. You’ve got to tell us why you’re doing it”.

    I almost agree with her that education is most of the time is hard and boring. But is it right that all the things we do in our lives are boring. But we need to do that to keep the whole world circulating. I didn’t want to study painting, or physics, or literature…But if i wasn’t forced to do that, how could i become a complete person? How could i understand other people’s circumstances? I would not be complete.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>