The newly elected National Party in New Zealand has wasted no time in announcing it’s Literacy and Numeracy Crusade as its primary focus for the education sector. They argue “… children will be building the economy and communities we will be living in tomorrow. We must do far better to equip them for the more challenging times ahead, and to ensure they have the basic skills to secure their own and their families’ futures.”
Sadly, the view of what these ‘basic skills’ are appears limited to the traditional 3Rs, and will be addressed through a rigorous regime of standardised testing.
The new government argues that “that the first task of our education system should be to ensure that every child from every background can read, write, and do maths at a level that allows them to participate in a modern economy.”
Quite a different view of the skills required to participate in a modern economy put forward in this latest Education Sector report titled Measuring skills for the 21st Century. The report is a response to the fact that leaders in government, business, and higher education are calling for today’s students to show a mastery of broader and more sophisticated skills like evaluating and analyzing information and thinking creatively about how to solve real-world problems. But standing in the way of incorporating such skills into teaching and learning are widespread concerns about whether or not they can be measured.
In this report, Senior Policy Analyst Elena Silva argues that they can indeed be measured accurately and can serve as common metrics of student achievement. Silva examines a number of new assessment models that do this and that demonstrate the potential to measure complex thinking skills at the same time that we measure a student’s mastery of basic skills and knowledge. These emergent models, she concludes, are critical to meeting our educational goals—to ensure that teachers and students can monitor and improve the learning process—and our accountability goals—to ensure that schools are giving all students what they need to succeed.
Starting today there is a week-long online discussion about assessment and 21st century skills which you can sign up for in the Education sector’s discussion room led by Elena Silva, Eva Baker, a professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and Paul Curtis, chief academic officer of New Technology Foundation.
For comparison, here’s the approach that we can expect to see introduced into NZ schools in the near future: