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New Survey Highlights Importance Of Face-to-face Learning And Subject Choice

At a time when education globally has been impacted by the global pandemic forcing school closures and disruptions, New Zealand students and parents are reinforcing the importance of face-to-face contact when it comes to learning in the classroom and overall mental health.

In a recent Cambridge International survey of students and parents, more than half of respondents (53%) said long-term online or virtual learning, in addition to face-to-face learning, does have its advantages. Only 8% said it made no difference and 31% said there were no advantages. When asked what areas of the curriculum they would value online, 43% said lessons and 69% said tutorials. The most enjoyable aspects of the curriculum are coursework (39%) and classwork (32%).

Roger Franklin-Smith, Senior Country Manager for Cambridge Assessment International Education, said: “What came through clearly in the survey was that students preferred the delivery of lessons to happen in the classroom whereas supporting activities like tutorials could be done online. Students enjoy the face-to-face interaction and collaboration with their peers and teachers, and it is important for overall mental health.”

“We are yet to see the full impact of the pandemic on student mental health, but early indications suggest the impact will be significant. The Ministry of Education has recently allocated $14.9 million from a $50 million fund to help students struggling with the impacts of the pandemic and Cambridge International has received lots of requests to support student wellbeing.”

In response, Cambridge International recently hosted a webinar to support students with their mental health and wellbeing during this period of uncertainty. The webinar explored the impact that students are currently experiencing; particularly loss and uncertainty, as well as identifying the positives they are facing.

The survey results also highlighted the importance of having a broad range of subjects in the curriculum for students to choose from. Almost 90% said that having a broad range of subjects to choose from was important, and respondents identified their favourite subjects as Mathematics, Biology and Physics.

Roger added: “Interest in a broad range of subjects is one of the many aspects students enjoy about the Cambridge International curriculum. Unlike the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), which is limited to the standards the teacher delivers, Cambridge International offers a plethora of subjects that students can choose from. Interestingly, it is not just the STEM subjects that appear to be popular. Classics, Economics and History were also highlighted, along with some of the more unique subjects we offer, namely Marine Science.”

Amy Fisher teaches Marine Science at Wentworth College in Auckland and says the subject is hugely topical for her students given the school’s coastal location. “Our location along the Whangaparaoa Peninsula allows us to go and explore the rocky shore, the muddy shore and the sandy shore and make comparisons between these different locations and process that data back in the classroom.”

Survey respondents agreed perseverance (76%) and critical thinking (59%) are strong attributes being taught through the Cambridge International curriculum. Mike Stewart teaches History at Auckland’s King’s College and says he sees his students developing these traits through teaching the Cambridge Curriculum. “As a teacher you want to see students grow in confidence in the subject so they’re comfortable enough to put forth their ideas and make mistakes. At all year levels, you start to see that confidence coming through, with students being able to articulate the subject as well as write it, and it’s really pleasing.

“If you look at what’s happening in the world today, knowing your history is important. There’s such a range of opinions out there, people seem to be more polarised in their views and not prepared to listen to others. I never tell students how to think; instead the curriculum helps them to develop critical thinking skills so they can listen to other people’s views and reflect on them before forming an informed opinion that is based on sound historical judgement.”

About the survey

  • The survey of 95 Cambridge International students and 89 parents and caregivers was conducted online between August and October 2020. Respondents included Cambridge International students, but also students studying NCEA.
  • 71% of respondents said the Cambridge International curriculum was challenging and stimulating.
  • Asked what works well in the curriculum, 72% of respondents said its depth and coverage of learning, 66% said its international recognition, 22% said its relevance to the outside world.

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