by Catherine Delahunty
Last week Metiria and I hosted an education forum at the Beehive on great ideas and practices in the public education system. There was a strong critique of the Governments privitisation agenda as well as some excellent examples of what the public system can do and must do to support all our students to access a quality education.
We held four panels of speakers on the themes of equity and assessment, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and cultural strength, accessibility and restorative justice.
The equity panel was an opportunity to hear from Professor Martin Thrupp whose qualitative research into Nationals Standards is illuminating and disturbing. We also heard a brilliant analysis of the Treasury “value added business progress model” of education and how it fails to create equity from Professor John O Neill. Dr Liz Gordon reminded us what PISA is and isn’t with great sharpness and acumen.
The second panel was on Te Tiriti and cultural strength and opened by Dr Ann Milne of Kia Aroha College who challenged us to recognise the issue of mainstreaming of Maori and Pacific kids actually means “white streaming”. Her public school in South Auckland is a celebration of warrior scholars and embraces critical thinking as the core of education.
Prof Richard Manning and Lynne Te Aika from Otautahi/ Christchurch described their work in place-based education in order to create not only eco literacy, but the vital Te Tiriti-based relationships between schools and manawhenua hapu. Richard has challenged history teachers to move past the “Tudors and the Stewarts” and teach our own equally combative and challenging history.
We also heard from Dr Jess Hutchings from Te Wahanga at NZCER who spoke about their research which is from a Māori methodology and how whanau Māori want their tamariki to have an education which uplifts their rangatiratanga, Te Reo Māori and their moemoea (dreams) as a diverse and powerful culture.
The accessibility panel focused on three different themes.
Caroline Mareko from Wellington Kindergarten and “Toru Fetu, ” – an early childhood centre supporting Cook Island Te Reo, Tokelau and Niue languages- spoke about access to education via heritage languages and community. Their centre is so much more than a languages nest, it a cherished community resource.
Giovanni Tiso spoke as a parent advocate on the perverse incentives for schools not to provide excellence for children with learning disabilities and challenged us to change this system. Beramphore School has been a shining example but, as he says, this is not creating systemic improvement.
Kyran Smith who is Principal of Kahurangi School in Strathmore inspired us with her school’s commitment to a fees and costs free school where other contributions are welcomed and every child gets to go to the magic show.
The last panel was on restorative justice and we benefited from a very sharp presentation from Youth Law on the justice issues for students and the need for a fresh approach which includes restorative justice. Lawyer Joanna Maskell suggested that the Youth Court could become an independent reviewer of expulsions etc. Merinda Jackson from Wellington High School brought a great student voice to our Forum as well as great analysis of punishment versus effective restorative justice programmes. Liz Gordon ended our day with a great analysis of her research on restorative justice in schools and the transformative power of these models.
It was a great series of discussions and the critical question remains – how do we make systemic change based on the wisdom and values behind these examples?
The Greens believe our role in this discussion is to listen and then develop policy which supports the visions of the people we hosted last week. They were truly inspiring.