The Skill Mastery Hyperdome - SLENZ Project - Foundation Studies Build, Kowhai
Authentic learning is a solution to some of the problemsthat arise in schools, workplaces and in society today.
Isn’t it funny that at a time when training is being heaved out of the workplace by a change of organisational thinking, it must find in-roads to secondary schools where, purportedly, it is desperately needed?
Last week, I attended the Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu All-School Forum 2010. This was an international occasion for Te Kura.
Three Keynote speakers - Viv White from Australia, Elliot Washor from the United States and Stuart Middleton from New Zealand - gave their perspectives on ‘authentic learning’ in schools.
Stuart could not attend the Forum. He gave a recorded presentation outlining how he saw the history of what has happened globally to education in the past 50 or so years, and how those changes are impacting on what is happening to the youth in society today.
Clearly, the raising of the school leaving age, by several years, has brought about changes in how education is delivered. It has also altered how society looks on school-leavers who go about looking for jobs.
A number of associated changes have accompanied all this.
The origins and reasons for the changes are complex. But the situations for prospective employment of school-leavers are implicit.
Over 40 years ago it was acceptable for kids to leave school without having any formal qualification. There were plenty of jobs for them. They were trained and educated on-the-job, and stories of their successes in life are numerous. Education through ‘the university of life’ was not an uncommon occurrence. As well, night classes became very popular. These provided a useful adjunct to the education of that group of learners.
But the gradual societal changes, brought about through the raising of the school-leaving age and the programs introduced to schools to cope with these, meant that jobs for inexperienced and unqualified youths became less and less plentiful. What’s more, the general calibre of those jobs is now of a lowly nature and night classes are disappearing.
Today there is a desperate need for kids who are likely to leave school early to be introduced to vocational possibilities during their remaining school years. It’s being recognised that preparation for the workplace in a hands-on manner and while kids are still attending school, is an effective way to accomplish this.
It so happens that the standards-based qualifications system adopted in New Zealand early this century was adapted from the trades schemes. Argue as you may, there is more training taking place in schools today than was delivered there 40 years ago.
It’s now recognised that the vocational access routes available for learners in schools are still not enough, a situation which is driving ‘authentic learning’ schemes into schools. I agree that more of this is now needed. I just wonder at what society is doing to education.
Knowing what to do
Education is supposed to be preparation for life. It has been said by many educators that “education is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do”. When schools become geared to providing training for kids so that they can step into a job as soon as they leave school, isn’t there a possibility that ‘preparation for life’ will have to be diminished and/or postponed? When does that start if it has been displaced by the need for more immediate training in schools?