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Clue: New Zealand's Vision

Maori proverb:

He aha te mea nui?

He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.


What is the most important thing?

It is the people. It is the people. It is the people.

Bron Stuckey, Mary Anne Mills, Peggy Sheehy, Marianne Malmstrom

and Tara Fagan @ CORE Education, Wellington NZ

Every time I address a group of educators I ask them to take a moment an think about what they want most for their students. Answers are diverse. Educators want their students to; love learning, be confident, be independent, be successful in life, be critical thinkers, be good problem solvers, understand concepts, spark an interest, discover their passions, be a lifelong learner… and the list goes on. What I have never heard is; master standards or pass a test. In fact, the majority of the educators I meet find our National education policies to be a roadblock to teaching and learning.

In my last post, I reflected on Dr King’s quote, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” I questioned whether our National obsession with assessing students’ mastery of a standardized, content-driven curriculum can engender the kind of learning Dr King described. Sadly, I think not.

What if we had a map to learning that fostered the kind of learning educators and Dr King want to pursue? What would that look like? I think the New Zealand Curriculum holds some clues.

What if we started with this vision?

Our vision is for young people:

  • who will be creative, energetic, and enterprising

  • who will seize the opportunities offered by new knowledge and technologies to secure a sustainable social, cultural, economic, and environmental future for our country

  • who will work to create an Aotearoa New Zealand in which Māori and Pākehā recognise each other as full Treaty partners, and in which all cultures are valued for the contributions they bring

  • who, in their school years, will continue to develop the values, knowledge, and competencies that will enable them to live full and satisfying lives

  • who will be confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners.

What if these were the Principles driving our decision making?

High expectations: The curriculum supports and empowers all students to learn and achieve personal excellence, regardless of their individual circumstances.
Treaty of Waitangi: The curriculum acknowledges the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the bicultural foundations of Aotearoa New Zealand. All students have the opportunity to acquire knowledge of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga.
Cultural diversity: The curriculum reflects New Zealand’s cultural diversity and values the histories and traditions of all its people.
Inclusion: The curriculum is non-sexist, non-racist, and non-discriminatory; it ensures that students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and that their learning needs are addressed.
Learning to learn: The curriculum encourages all students to reflect on their own learning processes and to learn how to learn.
Community engagement: The curriculum has meaning for students, connects with their wider lives, and engages the support of their families, whānau, and communities.
Coherence: The curriculum offers all students a broad education that makes links within and across learning areas, provides for coherent transitions, and opens up pathways to further learning.
Future focus: The curriculum encourages students to look to the future by exploring such significant future-focused issues as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, and globalisation.

These are the values and principles that create space for learning.

In stark contrast, compare the objectives of the Common Core, which values:

Building on the best of existing state standards, the Common Core State Standards provide clear and consistent learning goals to help prepare students for college, career, and life. The standards clearly demonstrate what students are expected to learn at each grade level, so that every parent and teacher can understand and support their learning.

Do we want our focus to be on content, or on our students?

The New Zealand Curriculum resonates deeply with me as a teacher and a human being. These are the values and principles that reflect my own journey. This is the map I choose to follow!

He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.

What is the most important thing? It is the people. It is the people. It is the people.


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