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Education: First be clear on your goals…

It’s great to see so many people from all walks of life discussing education and how we can best make improvements.  Even better that so much of the discussion is calm and reasoned.

Not everyone agrees with each other – that’s impossible – but it is brilliant that we are talking about it.

discuss talk share listenIt is so important people share their ideas, thoughts and concerns, and be honest about them so that a true and honest dialogue begins with parents and teachers at the heart of it, alongside academics, politicians, iwi, and in fact everyone in the country.

Every voice matters.

I’m serious.  Not one of us knows it all.  I don’t have the answers – neither do you.  But together we can share what we know, synthesise the ideas, and begin to unpick what might work best to further improve our schools.

It’s important, though, that we are clear on the goals we wish to achieve.  My own would be to improve public education for all children and to keep education free and equitable.  (Equitable doesn’t mean same for everyone, it just means fair for everyone).

I realise my goals may not be your goals.  This is why any discussion must focus on our goals first, to gain clarity, consensus and direction.

Half the problems come when the parties involved either haven’t thought in any detail about what they truly are aiming for.

Some of the issues occur when they have thought about it choose not to be honest about what they want or why.

That’s not good enough.  

To get anywhere, we all must be honest and then stand by what we believe, whilst listening to and considering fairly the other points of view.  

It is totally fine to disagree.  It is fine to debate and challenge and reconsider things – in fact, not much of any value happens without doing that. But we must be prepared to take on new evidence and reconsider our stance.

And we absolutely must be honest. Saying one thing while believing another will help no-one.

Worse still is saying one thing while doing another.

It all starts with openness and honesty and listening.

Only then can we get an truly inclusive, wide-ranging dialogue going.

Now why not do some thinking and sharing of your own, by joining in the discussions here:

Our education system ain’t broke, yet, by Brigid McCaffery (Stuff Nation)

Stop Playing Politics With Education, by Stephen McCartney (Stuff Nation)

Trust teachers to teach your children, by Mike Boon (Stuff Nation)

Education No Political Football, by Tracy Livingstone (Stuff Nation)

Get politics out of our schools, by Judy Johannessen (Stuff Nation)

Nice Easy Solutions

I got a message via SOSNZ’s Facebook page today saying that the page was too biased and ran the risk Imageof becoming a place where people just shouted “Yeah, stuff ’em!” at the politicians rather than constructively debating.

I wrote back to the gentleman concerned (let’s call him Bernard) with these thoughts:

Dear Bernard, I totally agree that debate is needed and I really do encourage you to challenge what I say, share and comment on – I am learning as much as anyone and in no way think I have the answers. If yu look through, a ‘fan’ called Simon Vincent (who I do not know) joined and shared some alternative thoughts and I welcomed them. Please think about staying and sharing other thoughts than mine – that’s how you, I and others will be able to debate and think and learn. Dianne

Happy that I’d hopefully encouraged Bernard to come in the main page and debate with folk, I went off for my annual shower and teeth scrub.

While I was in the shower trying not to notice it needed a good clean, something that Bernard had said came back to me and started going through and through my mind.  He had accused the page of encouraging the notion that there are easy solutions, and quoted Mencken as saying

For every complex problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong“.

It began to occur to me that the quote actually suited my argument more than it suited his.

My very  reason for starting the page and this blog is to argue that there is NO easy solution, no simple way to improve things, and that by just shoving a standardized test in there or closing a school and opening another in its place with a different funding/governance model, you will not suddenly make children amazing students and shoot them into place as world class thinkers.  There are other things to consider – many many complex things.

  • poverty
  • children not eating well
  • whether children get help and support at home with basic skills and more
  • teacher retention
  • curriculum overload
  • how we group our students into classes
  • testing
  • and lordie knows what else…

Add to that the fact that how we humans learn is not easy or straightforward.  And there is not just one way.  Or even two, three or four.  Because people have myriad ways of thinking, learning, settling to tasks, and of being stimulated and encouraged.

It stands to reason, therefore, that how we educate is not easily streamlined or made perfect.

Bernard and I are agreed that there is no silver bullet.  I maintain that shoving in a standardised test, removing teachers from the classroom, adding paperwork and buzzwords, and simply swapping to another type of school is not necessarily the answer and owes as much (or more) to vote grabbing and political spin that it does to actually aiming to make genuine movement forward.

There is no easy answer.

But one thing I am quite positive about is this: to help find some things that may help, we need to debate and discuss and learn.  Come join in.


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