“I find it hard to look at the ‘experts’ for guidance.
Experts brought us to the broken model we are in.” David Truss.
It’s fascinating how a comment can stimulate thought. The quote is from a comment on Jennifer Jones’s post, Background Noise.
It left me thinking long and hard about senior secondary education in New Zealand, where it had come from and where it is going.
In November 1991 the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) launched the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) that sits over the New Zealand Curriculum. Its vision is:
ngā hua akoranga kounga mō te katoa’.
The requirements of the learner
Designed to “establish the parameters for nationally recognised qualifications”, its primary focus is to “be the requirements of the learner.” Assessment is to “focus on the measurement of learner performance against published standards” leading towards the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). The New Zealand Ministry of Education (MoE) and NZQA are currently reviewing over 2000 individual standards as part of a strategy to bring them in line with the new curriculum.
Lifelong benefits to students
The full Framework for NCEA Levels 1 to 3 is in its 5th year and has been fraught with difficulties. It is meant to help in meeting the needs for lifelong education and training. It is supposed to cover both general and career learning through a single, coordinated framework of qualifications, “the majority being supported by curriculum statements and learning materials”.
The New Zealand Curriculum, administered by the MoE, provides directions for learning and guidance. Yet the only mention of this in the authoritative document on the Framework is given in the last quote:
“the majority being supported by curriculum statements and learning materials”.
Study strategies geared to the standards
The confine of the Framework means that it is now no longer easy for teachers and students to explore the curriculum freely. Teachers who have little time as it is to cover all that’s required to prepare students for the end of year standards examinations have also to teach and assess students against standards throughout the year.
A common question put by students to secondary teachers in New Zealand today is “will this help me get the standard?” Students don't want to spend time studying parts of the curriculum that do not lead to standard assessment, let alone something new and exciting someone brings to the lesson yet does not lie within a standard.
What's more alarming is that many students are now well aware of the importance of studying relevant to the confines of a standard in order to reach the required achievement award. Many intelligent students are also careful to tread only within the boundaries of the standards and their study strategies become geared to this approach.
Is this education?
Somehow I feel that it's not what education is about. I think there has to be a better way and I ask the questions:
- How are teachers to motivate their students to learn in the important areas of the curriculum not covered by a standard?
- How are teachers to bring a rich diversity to their lessons on many of the life-relevant issues not covered in the Framework?
Our schools are being driven by change.
"I find it hard to look at the ‘experts’ for guidance. Experts brought us to the broken model we are in." - David Truss.