What is our vision for education in New Zealand in, say, ten years? What sort of picture do we have for how learners will be learning, what they will be learning, where they will be learning, who they will be learning with/from etc? Does such a vision exist within our current plethora of educational plans and strategies?
The NZ Ministry of Education has recently released a Schooling Strategy . At it’s heart is a statement (referred to as a goal) that reads “All students achieving their potential”. This statement sounds very similar to part of Beeby’s vision for schooling in New Zealand, expressed some sixty years ago, and couched in terms of the importance of all children irrespective of the backgrounds and location being entitled to access education.
Could this be our vision? Or are we missing something – is schooling simply about individual potential being realised, or is there more – perhaps something about the sort of decent society that these individuals will continue to create and live in?
A visit to the MoE website reveals a wide range of strategies and frameworks under development or recently completed, including several relating to ICT. There’s an Interim Tertiary (e)Learning strategy, an Early Childhood ICT Strategy (called Foundations for Discovery); a consultation beginning regarding a School’s (e)Learning Framework and the SMS project to consider here. There’s also a pan-sector (e)Learning Framework and a pan-sector ICT Strategy under development and not yet available.
All of these documents refer to some sort of vision or over-arching goal, some of which are very lofty indeed, and others of which are more pragmatic and focus purely on the scope of the particular strategy in question.
All of these initiatives are useful and can be justified with some compelling arguments – particularly in times of unprecedented change where such guidance is required from the central policy area. So why have I drawn attention to them here? Because I am increasingly concerned at the lack of a clearly identifiable and/or articulated plan for how these are all meant to hang together. Recent speeches by the Minister of Education and the Secretary of Education continue to reference Beeby’s vision, empahsising our need to grow beyond it now
Within the various ICT strategies there appears to be some sort of common themes and language – however, there is a grave risk that the goals and objectives of these strategies do, at times, compete with (and possibly contradict?) the broader goals and aims of other strategies in the sector.
In recent discussions I’ve had with senior MoE officials and others I keep being reminded of the Education Priorties within the current MoE statement of intent 2004-2009– and how these are what is being used to guide our education system into the 21st century. These priorities are very laudable, and indeed, necessary, but they barely consitute a vision. At best, they are the identification of problems or weaknesses in our existing system that we are endeavouring to address or fix.
Where are the truly aspirational statements? Where is the vision that will get us excited enough to get out of bed in the morning and continue working in this incredibly important sector? Where is the definitive statement that will act as the centre-piece for all of the other strategies and frameworks that are being developed at the moment?