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Learning For The Real World - Howard Fancy

Howard Fancy
Secretary for Education
Community News Article
1023 words

Learning for the real world

This year Tararua College students have had some great success with their Big Bikkie project.

Working with their teacher Diana Eagle and food technologist Carol Pound these students gained hands-on experience in food technology. They learnt skills in biscuit making, used and reviewed a plan of action and developed testing methods and a production process.

They also turned their production work into a retail opportunity complete with labelling, packaging and sales.

The flexibility of the school curriculum helped these Tararua College students develop their skills and learning in a way very relevant to the world they will enter when they leave school.

Today’s job market brims with openings in every field from sound engineering and video post-production to fashion design and from coffee shop barista to teaching and plumbing.

And today most people will not only change where they work more often than they did in the past, but will also change their occupation several times in their career.

Preparing young people with the necessary knowledge and skills, giving them a love for learning and the confidence to manage themselves competently in our fast paced technological world is what we want from today’s education system.

Our school leavers need high level thinking skills – they need problem solving, creative and information skills and the practical ability to apply them.

Projects like Big Bikkie give students hands-on opportunities to use an Excel spreadsheet for financial modelling and to come up with innovative ideas for branding and marketing.

What we do in schools, how we teach and what we teach has changed significantly since the days when I went to school and rightly so. The world students are being prepared for is vastly different to 20 and 30 years ago.

Teaching now reaches beyond the classroom to link up tertiary, community as well as global activities available through the internet. This is a huge change from two decades ago when most things happened inside the classroom.

Today’s young people are part of the text generation. They are designing their own webpages, making movies and developing computer games.

Students who would have left school in the 1970s to take semi or unskilled jobs are now staying on longer to gain qualifications to better their chances in a competitive job market.

This is why the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) was introduced. The NCEA means schools can develop a learning programme to suit students’ needs and then assess their achievement against national standards.

The flexibility of the NCEA gives students more options and lets them gain qualifications at different speeds.

The bright kids can fly and also test their ability through the revamped scholarship; and those who need more time to learn are no longer excluded or forced to repeat a whole year’s work.

Along with the NCEA several initiatives at senior secondary level are giving students the opportunity to learn and test their skills and knowledge in the real world.

The Young Enterprise Scheme sees senior secondary students forming their own company, becoming directors and developing products and services to market and sell. More than 3000 senior secondary students involved in over 500 companies took part this year.

One exciting initiative is the brain child of a group of Year 12 students from Wellington East Girl’s College. Their Tat2rific temporary tattoo which changes colour when the wearer needs to reapply sunscreen has just won them the company of the year award.

The students from the Bugs Eye View Company developed their sun-smart tattoo concept with support from their local business community.

Up and down the country young entrepreneurs are working with business people to gain skills in budgeting, planning, decision making, reporting, communications, risk management and teamwork.

By forming a company, becoming directors and developing products and services to market and sell these students learn first-hand how to be enterprising. They develop a can-do attitude and learn how to take and manage risks. Importantly the work they do adds great value to their own and their school’s knowledge base.

Gateway is another programme making learning relevant for senior secondary students and helps them move successfully from school into employment or further education.

Through Gateway students gain new skills and knowledge in a local workplace. Students are assessed in the workplace and as a result gain NCEA unit and achievement standards towards industry specific qualifications.

Some 180 schools and 6000 students are involved in Gateway this year.

Students are getting experience in a range of industries including hospitality, automotive, retail, tourism, engineering and building.

The Growth and Innovation Framework – Technology Education Beacon Practice project involves senior secondary students in technology focussed ventures.

Students develop their knowledge, skills and experience in every aspect of technology from food and materials to production, processing and biotechnology.

Currently there are seven Beacon Practice projects, involving 13 schools throughout the country. The projects’ success means it will be expanded next year to involve 10 more schools.

STAR – the Secondary Tertiary Alignment Resource – helps schools to access a range of courses to give senior secondary students greater opportunities around their future work or tertiary study options

Working through School Support Services STAR has nine national advisers who support STAR coordinators and careers teachers in schools throughout New Zealand. Further support by way of a DVD on best practice and a handbook will be provided to schools in Term 1, 2006.

This on the ground support to students is further assisted by Careers Services, Careers and Transition Association (CATE), Department of Labour, Ministry of Social Development and the Youth Transitions programme, polytechnics, industry training organisations and private training establishments.

The success of all these projects comes from the close partnerships being developed between students, their schools and communities and people working in education at national and local levels.

Making a student’s classroom learning much more relevant to the world we live in has to be the focus of education today.

We need to make sure students have flexible and meaningful learning opportunities so they are well set-up when they leave school to go off into further study or the workplace.

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