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Report reinforces value of putting students first

12 October 2006

Report reinforces value of putting students first

New Zealanders want secondary education in the future to be personalised to meet the needs of students. This is the message of a discussion paper, Students First, launched today by Education Minister Steve Maharey.

Students First was prepared by Secondary Futures, a project that promotes debate about the future of secondary education. It outlines how education may look for students in 20 years time.

The report is based on the views of thousands of New Zealanders, research, and consultation with representatives of businesses, unions, local authorities, community groups, and the education and rural sectors.

Steve Maharey said the report reinforced that the move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to education, to a system that personalised learning, was the right move for New Zealand.

"New Zealand is transforming to a knowledge society and that means education needs to transform," Steve Maharey said.

"Personalising learning means meeting each student's needs and building on their interests, aptitudes, and prior experience, so every student, has the chance to reach their full potential.

"With personalised learning students get to be more informed, active participants in their own learning."

He said new technologies, such as ICT, provided opportunities to think differently about how we learn and to make learning more flexible.

Students First says New Zealanders have a clear preference for secondary education in 20 years to include:

- Students agreeing what they will learn, how and by when with their teachers.
- Students not necessarily attending one school full time but learning in a number of places with one being their social hub.
- Students working with teachers and classmates, other adults and on their own to achieve.
- The education system will be linked so students can access the teaching and resources they need to succeed.

Secondary Futures Chair Professor Mason Durie said that the possibilities outlined in Students First would mean students and their families, teachers, schools and the wider community all playing new roles in secondary education.

“What it could mean is a student agreeing a plan with her teacher and taking several subjects at her school, studying advanced chemistry via a science college and working part time in research laboratory.

“Her brother attending the same school could learn film making via the internet from an overseas film school and Te Reo Māori from a wānanga,” Professor Durie said.

“Customising learning would mean more motivated students, students learning at their own pace and the teachers spending less time controlling bad behaviour and more time teaching.”

The possibilities outlined in the plan were identified by the thousands of New Zealanders Secondary Futures talked with in structured workshops. Professor Durie said.

“We know there are examples of ‘Students First’ in action in many of our schools. The best of what was happening in our schools today could well form the basis of our future system.”

“Free to imagine a blank canvas for schooling, New Zealanders have said overwhelmingly that they would place students at the centre of the canvas and design systems and provide resources that meet the needs of the individual student,” Professor Durie said.

Secondary Futures is a leading project worldwide in the OECD’s landmark Schooling for Tomorrow project.

The report is available at

About Secondary Futures

Secondary Futures is a project aimed at stimulating debate about the future direction of secondary education looking beyond the immediate issues being debated elsewhere.

It is government funded and its work overseen by four Guardians who ensure its independence and integrity:

- Professor Mason Durie, Assistant Vice-Chancellor at Massey University;
- Gillian Heald, formerly Rangi Ruru principal now a part-time co-director (principal) of Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti;
- Bernice Mene, former Silver Ferns captain and an experienced languages teacher; and
- Ian Taylor, entrepreneur who founded Taylor-Made Media and Animation Research Ltd.

It works with a Touchstone Group that represents parents, teachers and students, consults with a wide range of business, union, rural and community organizations and local government .Secondary futures has also developed a way of developing scenarios about possible ways forward for education and conducted workshops using these around the country.

For more information about Secondary Futures visit:


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