Mahuta: Celebrating our gifted and talented youth
Hon Nanaia Mahuta
Minister of Youth Affairs
26 September 2006 SPEECH
Celebrating our gifted and talented young people
Address to Teacher Refresher Course on gifted education at Raroera Campus, Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Hamilton.
Thank you for inviting me here today. As Minister of Youth Affairs, it is my privilege to meet many of the fantastic young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Warm greetings to my fellow speakers Katarina Mataira, Angus McFarland and Jill Bevan-Brown. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the Teachers' Refresher Course Committee, set up by education visionary Dr Clarence Beeby back in 1946, which has steadfastly worked towards the goals of improving the quality of education and teaching in New Zealand and providing quality professional development for all educators.
This Labour-led Government is committed to supporting our brightest young people through its Gifted and Talented Education Policy: Initiatives for gifted and talented learners. This policy acknowledges that gifted and talented learners are found in every group in society – and that Māori perspectives and values must be embodied in all aspects of definition, identification and provision of learning for these children and young people.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the Maori and Pacific communities to New Zealand's future. These groups make a huge contribution to New Zealand, and enrich the cultural, economic and social fabric of our country. The contributions that these communities make support the Government's three key themes of economic transformation, national identity, and families young and old.
Supporting all of our Maori and Pacific students to reach their full potential through our education system is just one of the ways that we can help fulfil this vision of a strong, vibrant economy, a proud, culturally-diverse national identity, and safe, happy families, children and young people.
A key factor in this success will be developing the potential of our most able and talented students. Opportunities for these students have significantly increased in the last five years, through a variety of initiatives.
The publication, Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting their Needs in New Zealand Schools, produced in 2000, remains the foundation document for providing guidance for schools as they improve their policies and programmes for these bright young learners.
Through this year’s Budget, the Government has committed around $5 million over the next three years to support the gifted and talented curriculum, and just over $4 million to support professional development in this area.
A wide variety of innovative approaches are being used by schools, community groups and private providers to support our gifted and talented students.
For example, at Palmerston North Girls High School, a dozen gifted senior students attend weekly science lectures at Massey University, where they are mentored by post-graduate science students and have full access to the university library.
In Dunedin, primary school children with musical ability have the opportunity to create and play music through an innovative programme offered by Queen’s High School and the Dunedin College of Education. There has been an enthusiastic response from both students and parents.
And in rural Wanganui, a cluster of schools have created a programme of ‘enrichment days’, where gifted and talented children can come together and teachers can meet and discuss professional development.
These and other initiatives are important in advancing our own local knowledge base in gifted and talented education. They have also helped schools to find ways to meet the requirements of the 2005 National Administration Guideline change, which recognises the learning needs of gifted and talented children.
Another effective policy initiative has been through the School Support Services Advisors of gifted and talented education. These advisors have contributed their knowledge and expertise to schools and clusters of schools throughout the country.
A fantastic example of this is in the Coromandel, where the Coronet cluster of five secondary schools and three area schools works as a group with the Waikato School Support Advisors for mentoring and professional development assistance.
Personalised learning is another approach geared towards ensuring our best and brightest young students are able to realise their full potential.
Personalised learning is also about putting children and young people at the heart of education. It has to be available to all students, and include parents, whānau and the wider community.
Personalised learning is not new in this country. Many teachers working with gifted and talented students have been setting the standard in this area for a long time.
One of the key things about personalised learning is that it involves a partnership between the teacher and the student, and ensuring that learning is tailored to a student's individual needs and learning styles.
This approach allows the teacher to enhance any programme for gifted and talented students and ensure they are getting the learning challenges they need, and for students to be more closely involved in the learning process.
Through personalised learning, Aotearoa New Zealand's education system is becoming increasingly responsive to the diversity of students in our schools today.
Overall, we are making good progress in education in New Zealand. We have created a world-class education system. But, we still have work to do.
In closing, we have to make sure the education system supports, challenges and excites our brightest students. We have to keep up the high expectations. We have to acknowledge these students’ fantastic capabilities and achievements.
Nurturing our gifted and talented young people, and providing them with an environment which reflects their needs and cultural background, will help keep them involved in and enthusiastic about learning. To achieve this, we must also ensure that all of our children and young people – including Maori and Pacific students – remain in school and develop a commitment to life-long learning, so that they are fully equipped with the skills and attitudes they need to succeed in the 21st century.