New Zealand announces biggest education reforms in 30 years
New Zealand are reforming their education system on the largest scale since 1989. Source:

New Zealand’s education minister has announced a three-year programme to reform education from preschool to university in line with changing societal needs.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the programme aims to reduce paperwork for teachers, ensure that home-based preschool teachers have the required qualifications and rescue failing polytechnics with an emphasis on online education, according to the New Zealand Herald.

The changes will include an “education workforce strategy” to overcome teacher shortages and create a new Education Advisory Service.

Hipkins was a strong opposer to the previous government’s emphasis on standardisation and measurement across schools and the red tape it created for teachers, according to Stuff. It is speculated that the reform will see a move away from nationwide examinations.

The plans are part of a coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First to develop an “enduring 30-year approach to education”, reported Stuff.

The announcement marks the first major overhaul in New Zealand’s education system since the implementation of the ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ initiative in 1989.

‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ saw the dissolution of a centralised Education Department in favour of an autonomous Ministry of Education, Education Review Office and a Board of Trustees to govern each school.

This granted schools and local communities the freedom to identify the needs of its children and the ability to dedicate time, energy and funds to meet these needs.

Now in its third decade, the reception of ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ widely varies. While educators and parents enjoy control over their education system, it has reportedly increased competitiveness between schools for students.

“Tomorrow’s Schools shifted governance to local communities in what was initially a community responsiveness model,” Hipkins says in a Cabinet Paper about the new reforms.

“However, in keeping with the opening up of the New Zealand economy at the time, this community responsiveness model then rapidly shifted to a competitive model with schools envisaged as independent businesses competing in a market.

“While this produced some level of diversity of approaches and did strengthen local community influence on schools, the competition was for students rather than improved education results.”

Saying that the programme has run its course, Hipkins is now looking at how education in New Zealand can be improved to meet the needs of the 21st Century, reported Stuff.

The reforms will begin with a nationwide series of consultation meetings including “education summits” in May for 500 to 800 invited people.

Hipkins has already promised to scrap national standards in primary schools, review the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and provide three years of free tertiary education by 2024.

“I want to ensure that New Zealand has healthy and effective public regional vocational education provision into the future that can meet the labour market demands (current and future) and skill needs (including trades skills) of our regions,” Hipkins said.

“This will include consideration of the relationship between ITPs [Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics] and industry training organisations.

“I will report back to Cabinet in March 2018 with an approach to a programme of change for the ITP subsector and for vocational education more generally. A final report back will follow in December 2018.”

The previous government started a reform of the current funding system. Presently, a school receives more funding for low-income students, and schools are grouped in “communities of learning”, aiding children from different socioeconomic backgrounds to learn, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Hipkins’ paper says: “Further work is required on whether to proceed with the decision made by the previous government to replace the decile [funding] system with a new mechanism for targeting funding to support learners from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.”

“I have asked the ministry to undertake collaborative work with the Investing in Educational Success advisory group during 2018 to make the current Kāhui Ako [communities of learning] model more collaborative, more responsive to the needs of local communities and more empowering for educationalists.”

The paper also announces a review of government’s law surrounding “communities of online learning” (Cools).

“There is a place within the education system for online learning, but as the Cool provisions currently stand, the risks outweigh the benefits,” Hipkins said.

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