The New Zealand Initiative Chairman, Roger Partridge, writes:
My Initiative Matters column in last week’s NBR – Denial is not a River in Africa – created a bit of a stir in the Twittersphere. And a good thing this is too. Education in New Zealand is not in the state we would like to believe it is. We are slipping down the leader board in international education tables, and we are falling back compared with our past. We need people to be talking about this.
My column drew on Professor John Hattie’s recent Sir John Graham lecture to the Maxim Institute. He lays out a clear prescription for what changes are needed in classrooms and schools to turn things around. His analysis is based on his research, so it is evidence-based.
Despite claims from many quarters that the problems lie outside the classroom, this is not where Professor Hattie’s research reveals we need to go for solutions. While issues of poverty and hardship are a real concern, Professor Hattie tells us we need to look inside the classroom for the solution. He calls for a relentless focus on teaching impact, measuring what works, holding schools and teachers accountable, and sharing best practice.
As my column pointed out, Professor Hattie’s address deals with the “what”. That is, what Professor Hattie believes needs to be done. It will require change within schools.
The “how” is a different matter. How we bring about change is not so much a question for educational methodology, but for expertise in change management. For answers to this we can draw on knowledge and expertise from other fields, including organisational economics and management science.
The New Zealand Initiative has been researching these questions for four years. We do not yet profess to have all the answers. But we do have some of them, including our policy recommendation for career pathways for senior teachers, which the government has adopted.
Despite the protestations from the teachers’ unions, we will continue to focus on solutions. We need to equip our children with the skills for tomorrow’s jobs. Our education system is failing our least well-off and we need to fix it.