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Speech to uLearn16 conference – Rotorua

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education

6 October 2016

Speech to uLearn16 conference – Rotorua

Tena koutou katoa. Thank you for the invitation to speak on day two of the uLearn16 conference.

It’s wonderful to see so many educators together in one room. You are the part of an increasingly connected, collaborative and innovative education system.

Education is the backbone of any successful nation.

As a small nation we need to be smarter and focus on building the potential of our children and young people to become a highly skilled and qualified workforce.

Schools cannot do it alone. Education is a partnership between students, teachers, families, organisations and businesses. Everyone needs to play their part.

Going forward, some of the key themes that will characterise New Zealand’s future education system are:

every student can be in the driving seat of their own learning through digital technologies, with support from highly skilled teachers who help them chart a course to achieve their goals for the future;

the collapse of traditional institutional boundaries with students able to learn from a range of settings, both physical and virtual;

learning in collaboration with their peers and others, face-to-face and virtually;

Communities of Learning will become more sophisticated at working together to achieve the educational needs of their students based on information about their students’ needs.

A student-centred, 21st century education system is what our young people deserve, and our nation requires.

We’ll create transformational and systemic change across the education system by improving and investing in system levers, such as legislation, regulation, funding, and professional learning and development (PLD).

To get the system levers working, we’re embarking on the biggest update of education in nearly 30 years with the update of the Education Act.

The Bill allows us the flexibility we need to respond to the current and future needs of students and gets the platform for achieving educational success.

It provides for an education sector focused on clear accountabilities in which the student is placed at the forefront of every decision made and educators are clear on what success looks like.

We are strengthening the teaching profession and its leadership and raise its status through the Education Council and aligning PLD with key education priorities.

We are reviewing how schools and early childhood services are funded to better align to the needs of students. It will be funding based on the size of the education challenges and the learning growth and achievement of young people, rather than the size of the institution.

We will strengthen learning pathways through connecting schools, tertiary institutions and the workplace; by investing in Youth Guarantee options including more Vocational Pathways, fees free places, and trades academies.

Our future vision will be delivered through our Communities of Learning which we’ve been deliberate in incentivising.

Communities of Learning allow groups of schools, kura and early learning services to come together to raise student achievement by:

sharing expertise in teaching and learning;
supporting each other; and
working together, so a child is supported through their education journey.

They provide greater scope than previously available to recognise and enable great educators within and across schools to spread effective practice and address identified challenges in their communities.

The establishment of Communities of Learning is now accelerating – more than 50 per cent of all eligible schools are now part of a Community of Learning which means 410,000 students are benefitting.

Communities of Learning will use data to inform their decision-making and validate what is working and isn’t for their students.

They will work alongside expert partners to strengthen their data analysis and problem definition, and identify the opportunities that will most accelerate student achievement.

Rich data and information is now available like never before and it is essential that the best use is made of it to lift achievement.

We’re currently working on the way the education system creates, collects, stores and uses its achievement information to inform curriculum challenges.

In the long term, we hope all our schools will choose to work collaboratively in a Community of Learning so they can learn from one another. In this way, we hope to spread educational excellence throughout the education system.

Schools provide a physical address, however learning can happen anywhere.

Communities of Online Learning (COOL) will allow the sector to supplement the learning already provided in their school and connect them with 21st century opportunities.

Any registered school or tertiary provider can apply to be a COOL, and each COOL decides whether a student needs to physically attend school for all or some of the day. It may not sound right to some of you but we have to move with the times.

School isn’t the same as it was when I was there. The reality for young people today is that they live in a hyper-connected world 24-7, 365 days of the year.

Theirs is a touch screen world where they’re constantly tapping and swiping to access the information they want.

If our aim is to future-proof our education system and keep student needs at the forefront of our decision-making, we have to provide options which cater to their wider needs and aspirations, and some of these may be outside the scope of what’s taught in the classroom.

We know we are moving towards more self-directed learning with teachers increasingly using online networks and social media to support engaged students to connect with others around the world, following personal interests and learning anywhere, anytime.

Learning practice needs to be flexible to meet the individual differences of diverse learners.

To better prepare our young people to successfully meet the demands of a rapidly evolving digital world, we’re explicitly strengthening digital technologies in the technology learning area of the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa,

We need students who are digitally capable with the skills and confidence to identify local and global problems and opportunities, and design and develop digital solutions for them. This goes further than knowing how to use a tablet or laptop.

New Zealand’s world leading curriculum is already designed to be flexible and responsive. Schools can develop their own local learning programmes which best meet the needs of their students and communities, and can shift in response to national and global education and job market needs.

Many New Zealand schools have strong digital technologies courses, which provide stellar examples for other schools which haven’t yet embraced it.

We’ve already built the foundations for the curriculum by investing $700 million in ICT infrastructure in schools which includes high-speed broadband and uncapped data. By the end of 2016 we expect 90 per cent of schools to be connected.

We’ve also developed resources to fund software for schools and lease laptops and resources such as Virtual Learning Network, e-learning modules, digital hubs in communities, and the Connected Learning Advisory service.

At the same time we’re investing in our physical environments by providing students with modern and pleasant learning spaces that can be adjusted to suit their learning needs, and from which they can connect to the world.

The Ministry is working with experts to develop our high-level thinking around the digital technologies curriculum content and will work collaboratively with education and industry experts to design the content and learning progressions across the whole learner pathway.

For our students of today to be the leaders, innovators and creators of tomorrow, we all need to be ready and able to face the modern challenges of the new innovative, connected and collaborative environment.

It’s an exciting time to be involved in education. Thank you.


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