Experts Hail New Source Of Research Funds
14 February 2006
Educational Experts Hail New Source Of Research Funds
Prominent educationalists from both New Zealand and overseas have welcomed the advent of a new grant-making trust, designed to fund education research in this country.
The Multi Serve Education Research Trust, to be officially launched in Wellington on 20th February 2006, is the brainchild of Multi Serve, a leading supplier of consulting and other services to schools in New Zealand.
The trust is expected to become one of New Zealand’s most significant non-governmental sources of funding for educational research. It is described as “very important in terms of potential research outcomes,” by Professor Russell Bishop, Professor of Maori Education at the University of Waikato’s School of Education, who is also one of the new entity’s trustees.
“More education research funding is certainly needed if we are to reduce the disparities not merely between high achievers and low achievers in our school system but between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in our society as a whole.
“I envisage the trust working in a responsive way with the education research community in reaching decisions on funding, while also encouraging closer interaction between researchers, teachers and policy makers. There is certainly a need for more dialogue of this type,” he says.
Similar enthusiasm concerning the trust is expressed by Jan Robertson, Associate Professor in Professional Studies in Education and Director of the Educational Leadership Centre at Waikato University.
“There’s always a need for more money for educational research. The new trust is also to be welcomed because it will be independent of government and other funding bodies. This will enable it to push the boundaries and put money into new and potentially fruitful research areas, including, perhaps, longer term projects.
“A vital focus for research funding must be helping under-achievers to do better. International comparisons show New Zealand’s education system performing to a very high standard. This research fund, in conjunction with others, will enable collaborative and creative research to be carried out,” she says.
The global significance of New Zealand educational research is stressed by Professor Louise Stoll, an education consultant and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Education, University of London, as well as at the University of Bath.
“New Zealand’s educational reforms in the late nineteen-eighties and early nineteen-nineties placed the country in the forefront of change. There is great interest in New Zealand’s successes, but in England we share with New Zealand the difficulty of reducing the long ‘tail’ of under-achievers. This makes New Zealand research findings of great and immediate interest to us.
“We live in an increasingly interconnected world, in which we can and must learn from each other. We can only benefit from the fact that additional funding will now be available for educational research in New Zealand,” she says.
The relevance overseas of New Zealand research is also emphasised by Dr Lorna Earl, Director of Aporia Consulting Ltd and a recently retired Associate Professor at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education.
“We share so many issues in all our counties. It’s important to learn from each others’ experience, albeit that we also have to be sensitive to context and understand that what works in one place may not work so well somewhere else.
“A problem we all confront is that it can be difficult to get academic researchers interested in doing research that has real relevance to what goes on in school. The new trust has an important role to play in bringing research into closer alignment with the real needs of schools and the students they educate,” says Dr Earl.
Professor Stoll and Dr Earl will both be joining Professor Bishop and Associate Professor Robertson in facilitating a series of Educational Research Seminars, organised by Multi Serve in connection with the launch of the new trust
The seminars are to be held in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland respectively on the 21st, 23rd and 24th February. Participants, including policy makers, researchers and practitioners will join together in exploring the role of ‘Professional Learning Communities’ in enhancing pupils’ learning.
“It’s vital to bring people from these different backgrounds together because research tends to be more often used when teachers and policy makers feel that they’ve had some part in deciding priorities,” says Professor Stoll, adding that the seminars may also provide a stimulus for discussions over the type of projects to be funded by the new trust. Multi Serve has charitable status and the net surplus arising from its activities is used to benefit New Zealand’s schools and the young people educated by them.
“The new trust will be one of the primary means whereby we honour this commitment in the years ahead,” says the trust’s executive director, Mary Sinclair.
“We are delighted to be able to bring so distinguished a team of facilitators together from both New Zealand and overseas. It’s unprecedented for education seminars in New Zealand to enjoy the input of so strong a line-up of contributors, while concentrating on a single important theme,” she says.