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Why NZ's education system needs long, hard look at itself

Press Release
Stretton Clothing Ltd.
8 January 2014
For Immediate Release

Why NZ's education system needs to take a long, hard look at itself 

Our education system needs to take a long, hard look at itself – our dropping educational standards are making headlines and the squabbling over just why we are under performing seems to overshadow some difficult questions – are we teaching our children to under perform by avoiding standards and failing to regularly set new expectations for our children to strive towards? We have, it seems, chosen to raise a generation of children that expect hand holding and fair play in a world that simply isn't like that…

Just like many successful business owners, I know that to continue to succeed I must work hard and my day simply cannot stop at 5 o'clock. There will always be deadlines to meet, time zones to recognise and responsibilities to honour. So is it such a stretch then to attempt to teach our young adults in preparation for their entry into the workforce that success is the return that hard work returns - ensuring that they experience environments that are demanding and there will be times when you have to sacrifice the 'easy life' to get ahead? 
I find it very concerning that in 2000, when the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development first conducted its highly regarded Pisa test, New Zealand 15-year-olds ranked third internationally for reading, fourth for maths and seventh for science. In the most recent round of tests conducted in 2012, New Zealand students placed 13th, 23rd and 18th respectively.

We are told New Zealand students are still however, performing above the average. As someone who is always looking to improve and achieve I can't believe ‘average’ is presented as an acceptable benchmark.

I can't help but wonder if our decline can be can be attributed to our preoccupation with fairness, individuality and readiness. Isn't it interesting to note that the countries whose rankings improved on the Pisa test come mainly from the developing economies of Asia?

Children in countries that have increased their rankings like Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea not only spend long hours at school, but many also spend long hours receiving extra tuition. They have little time for play, organised sport or other extra-curricular activities. These children are encouraged to pursue non-academic as well as academic interests.

I am certainly not advocating the extreme cases where students in countries like Japan attend school and followed by tutoring to 10.30pm at night but I do wonder what lessons our education system can learn from these countries. How do we instil the work ethic that these countries have?

Many in the team of people that work with me also have a strong work ethic – where have they learnt that? Does it come from life experience or from their school experience? Many come from prior to the NCEA system where you sat exams, and were ranked accordingly - you performed or you didn't. How has this contributed to the way the work towards success in the workplace?

And of course we cannot take our education system back to the future and set up half of the student population to fail but we can recognise the fundamental requirements of success;

•           - An open and enquiring mind.
•           - A challenging and stimulating environment.
•           - Strong leadership and guidance.
•           - Transparent systems of evaluation matched well with high levels of accountability.

Set these as foundations for our education system and overlay access to the latest technology, strong funding and the highly qualified and motivated teaching staff and our future generations will not only sit alongside the high achieving countries but be leading them.


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