Perceptions and misconceptions

I’m off to the #EdChatNZ conference in Auckland this weekend. I love conferences. It’s a great chance to get amongst it with other like-minded educators, a chance to talk about where we see the future direction education might be heading, and, according to the programme I’ve just seen, a chance to grill some politicians (expect a stream of tweets from @boonman mid-afternoon).

I’ve been having some thoughts this week following Nigel Latta’s excellent documentary on Kiwi schools. If you have yet to see it I strongly advise you do. Teachers will love it because of the way it succinctly showcases some of the ground-breaking stuff that goes on in our schools. Parents need to watch it for exactly the same reason.

Latta was clear to point out at the beginning he was coming into school from the perspective of a concerned parent worried that their child wasn’t learning how to read, write or do maths because technology was taking over.

The current crop of educational policymakers both here and overseas have made an art out of playing to these parental fears. A manufactured crisis of under-achievement does not lend itself well to parents welcoming the extended use of technology in classrooms.

The most important part of the film was Professor John Hattie, the oft-quoted expert by those other well-read educationalists David Farrar and Cameron Slater, saying there was absolutely no crisis in education in New Zealand. The man who has done the meta-research collating all the studies from all the other researchers around the world says there is no crisis.

Hmmm… who to believe… The professor with years of research experience or the blogger parroting party spin. It certainly is a tough choice.

To paraphrase Latta, school is no longer about teaching children stuff. It’s about teaching children how to learn. We teach children to be aware of how they learn so the can set their own goals. We give them the opportunity to choose what the learn so their motivation to achieve is high.

The back-in-my-day policies of national standards and the teaching of the “right kind of literature (Gove)” is really a red herring. Just like Winston Peters or Jamie White playing the race card, this kind of policy is doomed to failure as it’s predicated on winning of votes through fear of change rather than any logical foundation in the real world the rest of us live in.

Enjoy the weekend. I might see you at the conference.

Mr B.


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