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Posted by Iain on Sept. 29, 2017, 6:31 p.m. in Education
In a report released recently by The Economist Intelligence Unit, New Zealand scores extremely well in how our education system prepares children for a rapidly changing future.
The six criteria were:
"The index highlights a widespread need for holistic educational techniques such as project-based learning, where students grapple with a subject (often of their own choosing) in great depth and with reference to several academic disciplines,"
I talk a lot about this at my seminars – the way we educate our children how to think rather than getting them to learn stuff and regurgitate it through exams.
I offer two examples of this.
When my two sons were at Primary School and aged around ten they and their classmates were immersed in what was known as ‘Rich Tasks’. This saw the children divided into groups and each group was assigned a different task in respect of building, broadcasting and marketing a radio station. I kid you not. These children are not Einstein’s (well, my children anyway) and this was our local (and very ‘normal’) public/Government school. It was incredible to watch these youngsters take a whole lot of learning and apply it holistically without appreciating perhaps it was maths, english and science all being put to good use at the same time. Their critical thinking was put to the test. The radio station worked.
I also believe this is how New Zealand became the 11th country in the world to be able to send commercial satellite payloads into space earlier this year. Rocketlab was established around a decade ago by a bunch of young Kiwi Engineers who decided they wanted to build rockets and put them into space. In that typical ‘why not?’ fashion of New Zealanders, equipped with the skills that allowed them to solve complex problems in ways never thought of before (being broke usually helps inspire creativity) this company goes from strength to strength. Lockheed Martin has bought in to share in the technological advances created at relatively low cost by these Kiwis.
I often hear of companies overseas that really appreciate NZ Engineers because they think very laterally – they don’t feel confined to one narrow area of a particular discipline and are 'solution driven'. That is an overused cliché but in many cases in New Zealanders it is real.
I might add to that the recent winning of the America’s Cup. The oldest sporting trophy in the world is once again back in New Zealand. Knowing we cannot compete with the billionaires (Larry Ellison’s Oracle was the defender) and their budgets, the team put their heads together and won by outsmarting the opposition through design and ‘out of the box’ thinking. Whacky and off the wall thinking led to faster boats and that in turn led Team New Zealand to victory.
I think about countries like Singapore where an education system exists based (from Primary School) around passing exams. On that front Singapore pats itself on the back every year when it is shown their children do really well (world beaters in fact) passing maths and science exams. I wonder how good they are at applying that knowledge however...
The feedback I get from Singaporean based parents (biased of course as they want their children as far away from that sort of system as they can get) is that in many ways it often disadvantages children because they have learned ‘stuff’ but have little idea how to apply it in the real world. As a result Singapore is not known for its creativity or its people being particularly entrepreneurial. The Government is now working to change that but New Zealand has a thirty year head start on them.
It's pretty special to see little old NZ once again picking up a gold medal and being # 1 in something, but this time not in sailing, rugby or rocket launching but in preparing our children for a rapidly changing future.
Writing as an employer, I should add, we are by no means perfect. One area we fall down in our teaching is poor English skills – we seem to be creating generations of lateral thinkers, we just need to teach them a bit more about the importance of accurate grammar and spelling. There is still a place for rote learning in these areas and if we have one weakness in our system (and it is deeply ingrained) that is it.
I guess you can’t have everything but we can certainly do a lot better in that aspect of our education system. No point being able to design rockets if no one can understand the user manual.
If you’d like to read the report you can click here.
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on July 21, 2017, 3:13 p.m. in Education
New Zealanders, as a general rule, have an aversion to the state collecting information on us. ‘Big data’ is sometimes viewed as sinister.
We like to believe we are very private and the State should not be privy to the details of how we might live our lives and how that might help to create a more prosperous cohesive society. I find that deeply ironic in a country where so many rely on the State to provide education, health and social services. And so many reveal their true selves on the likes of Google every time they make a search or on Facebook (which I know Government departments access).
We are one of the few countries I can think of that does not have identity cards or social security numbers. Yet we expect the state to provide us with food, shelter and a pension.
New Zealand is using big data in some very interesting and to my way of thinking, positive ways.
Take education for example...
A recent study showed that by pulling together data commonly available about our lives, it is possible by looking at seven key factors which children at birth will have a very strong likelihood of ending up in prison or with a criminal conviction by the time they were 21. Seven factors...
This sort of information is being used to recalibrate how we fund education in the pubic system. Around 95% of children attend State run schools in New Zealand. Over the past 30 years or so funding for those schools has depended on a decile system reflecting the broad socio-economic within that school’s local geographic catchment. Property values, household incomes and the like played the biggest role.
It has little to do with education outcomes by the way. Unfortunately, most locals believe this to be the case and that has spread to many migrants. The higher the decile rating (e.g. 8, 9 or 10) the less central Government tops up basic education funding for the school. The lower the number, the more they do.
This, it is largely agreed, was relatively effective but crude. In some suburbs property values might be increasing but household incomes remained low. No account was taken of the individual circumstances of the child...were they from a one or two parent home? Was there a history within the immediate or extended family of criminal behaviour? Or drug and alcohol abuse?
We now have the data that allows the vulnerability of that child to be identified by bringing together a lot of information gained through interaction with various state agencies.
Government has proposed changing this funding model from the one size fits all in that child’s school catchment zone to the additional (or less) funding being attached to that child as might be necessary on an individual basis.
In that way those children who may live in the same neighbourhood but have different needs can be better assisted – be that through counselling or psychological assistance, teacher aids and so on.
If the State agency responsible for the well being of at risk children can work with schools, communities, health and police to help that child avoid going to prison, can it be a bad thing?
Some say yes and that the State has no role to play. Some parents would feel embarrassed. Children could feel stigmatised.
I’d like to think we are more open to finding new ways of helping our young; especially if they come from statistically vulnerable existences.
It needs to be done sensitively, but I am very proud to live in a country where we will at least explore these possibilities.
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on Sept. 24, 2016, 10:15 a.m. in Education
A week or so ago the Minister of Immigration proclaimed ‘they will not get residence’ when asked if he was concerned at the impact on the Skilled Migrant programme of the tens of thousands of international students his Government has promised, or recently given, job search work visas to (as a potential pathway to residence) having completed their studies in New Zealand.
He said that only about 19% of international students go on and secure residence.
That, I suspect, will be unwelcome news to the many thousands who will feel they have essentially been sold a lemon by the NZ Government, Education NZ and a whole bunch of unlicensed education agents around the world, but particularly in India. A significant percentage of these students only came to study here on the promise of work and residence if they completed their studies. I suspect the agents in India did a lot of the promising but the Government laid the foundations through this misguided policy of dangling the work and residence carrot through immigration policy settings.
The Government has done little to dissuade these youngsters when their student visas are issued they might end up with a qualification but they’ll be using it back in India or elsewhere.
I am also not sure the 19% figure is accurate. I was recently given different figures by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). The figures I was given by suggested that around 45% of international students return home at the completion of their studies, around 48% stay in New Zealand and the balance of 7% enrol in new courses within New Zealand.
That 48% is now or shortly will be looking for skilled jobs and that represents, from India alone, around 14,000 individuals.
The Minister seems to suggest most won’t find work that will allow them to stay longer and perhaps get a resident visa.
I am not so sure but he might be right.
On the one hand anecdotal evidence suggests there is now a growing market in, essentially, fake job offers - particularly in Auckland. INZ is very aware of this and increasingly they are verifying the role both with the employer and the employee. They are doing this to make as sure as they can that the person is doing the job they claim to be doing and that it is both skilled and related to the job offered. Most staff also have to work for at least three months in the role and prove they have along with what they earned to ensure the job is ‘kosher’.
We are also aware of 'local wife wanted, will pay' type advertising. If you can't buy a job, buy a local wife instead and get residence through partnership.....
On the other hand we have decided to look at employing our own ‘in house’ recruiter to try and create a pipeline of employment opportunities for our selected clients. Over 90% of the applicants so far have been young Indian nationals on these post study, Job Search Work Visas. None are remotely qualified or experienced to do the job we are seeking but all are looking for that offer that will lead to securing a resident visa. Given most are employed locally in low skilled or entry level positions there is no doubt in my mind a number will run out of time to secure something skilled before they are forced to pack up and head home.
To try and mitigate the potential backlash against the Government, education providers and education agents, the Minister has overseen the development and implementation of a Code of Practice whereby education providers will be held accountable for the actions of agents referring students to them. A good start – enough stick there without complicated regulators as we have in the immigration industry.
Having said that it is high time that all education agents were licensed by the Immigration Advisers Licensing Authority because no one in our business seriously believes that these agents are not also giving immigration advice and stopping with student visa information (those giving advice only on student visas do not require an immigration advisers license).We know they are advising students on work and residence options that come with a student visa and that is illegal and conveniently overlooked by our Government.
So while the Government is moving to tighten up things both at the visa application stage and with education providers and their agents there is still many thousands of youngsters whose parents have probably paid tens of thousands of dollars to study here who are about to be horribly let down when they realise what they came to study is not going to get them into the skilled job market.
So maybe the Minister is right and 81% will not get residence and be able to stay but given around half coming here want the residence at the end the Government needs to front up to the issue in a way they simply have not been.
The Government created the problem and now needs to try and solve it and they have a way to go before they do.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on Aug. 13, 2016, 1:03 a.m. in Education
Those of you that might have endured one of my seminars recently know what a fan I am of the ‘can do’ attitude of the local founders of RocketLab and how I offer them as an example of what our education system offers our young people.
Our education system strives to provide all young people the opportunity to learn how to learn and to be independent thinkers. What they then decide to do with it if course is another thing......
I’ll never forget when my two sons each hit ten years of age being exposed to ‘rich learning tasks’ at our local public primary school. At that age, the class was split into four groups and tasked with designing, building, transmitting and ‘marketing’ a radio station. Seriously. A radio station. They were ten! While there was some help from parents what these youngsters were doing was putting into practice what they had learned - physics, maths, and communication - written and printed and so on. Inspirational education.
And the result?
My boys aren't DJs although one is working part time at it while studying. The eldest ended up last week (proud Dad) with a Bachelor degree in Marketing and has taken a keen interest in social media marketing. The aspiring DJ is studying Psychology in between 'gigs'.
Not the point of this piece however......
Around then years ago a group of young Engineers from University of Canterbury asked themselves over a few beers if they could design, build and launch a rocket into space. Why? Seemed like a good idea at the time and it was a bit of a ‘who’s buying the next round?’ sort of situation. They wouldn’t have been the first young people to have dreamed so big in New Zealand, what they were proposing was big, bold and most people would have been daunted at the prospect.
But not so these young New Zealanders. They come from a long line of 'can doers'.
If it is there, climb it (Mount Everest and Sir Edmund Hilary).
If it is an atom, split it and see what is inside (Sir Ernest Rutherford).
If you want a safe personal flying machine to strap on your back (Glenn Martin)
If you think it can fly – build it and try it out.
RocketLab? Martin Jetpack?
No. What might just have been the first plane. A little over 100 years ago a man now largely forgotten outside of New Zealand, Richard Pearse, built a ‘heavier than air’ flying machine and flew what is believed by many, several months before the Wright Brothers in the United States. He gets little credit and was largely forgotten by history which I suspect wouldn’t have bothered him.
The RockeLab team are just the latest in a long line of ‘Don’t say Can’t’ Kiwis involved in their own ‘rich task’.
These guys have attracted significant funding from among others, Lockhead Martin. This last fortnight has seen them gain permission from the US Government to carry a rover for a private US company into space and land it on the moon. That’s right – the moon. This is no pie in the sky either – these guys have brought down the cost of launching fridge sized (and smaller) satellites into space from millions of dollars to thousands of dollars. Their largely home grown technology works.
The launch facilities are built on the Mahia Peninsula in the Hawke Bay, the orders are coming in for commercial delivery into orbit of satellites and these guys are literally ready, to blast off.
I cannot begin to describe my excitement that this latest in a long line of ‘never say die’ highly creative and entrepreneurial Kiwis is reaching literally for the stars.
Mixed with a teensy weensy bit of disappointment that the bigger story this week in New Zealand was the NZ Sevens Rugby team crashing out of medal contention in Rio. I mean, yeah, it’s been a tough week on the sports field, but really? They aren’t aiming for the moon!
Surely the newspapers should be full of column inches devoted to these space entrepreneurs revolutionising space commercialisation? They in my view should all be awarded gold medals in ‘Don’t say can’t’!
And along with that a gold medal to my sons’ Principal back in the early 2000s who viewed education as preparing our children for one long tasked filled and rich life.
Until next week
Posted by Iain on July 15, 2016, 3:28 p.m. in Education
One of the unexpected consequences of Auckland's house price values and population increase in the past few years is an emerging shortage of teachers.
It is, by all accounts, really starting to bite.
Population growth has meant the government has set aside more money for construction of additional schools, classrooms and teachers particularly in, but not limited to Auckland.
The problem schools face is that many of our own local graduates are accepting jobs outside of Auckland, where on a teacher's salary they can afford to get into the housing market, something which is only going to be a dream for many young and single teachers if they stay in our neck of the woods.
Operating a national pay scale, it matters not where a Teacher is employed in the public sector (which accounts for over 95% of all schools) but how qualified they are. So an Auckland based teacher who begins on an annual salary of around %55 000 earns the same as the teacher at the other end of the country where the cost of living is significantly lower. Average house prices in Auckland are around $900 000. The average house price across the rest of New Zealand is around $500 000. You get the picture.
Until a few years ago we were advising most teachers that get to work as a teacher without a Residence Visa or that precious work visa was possible but usually took many months to secure roles. We had a few coming through but we advised most to be very cautious and realistic about the barriers and the time frames they could expect and the uncertainties of achieving the residence dream if they were teaching.
Most schools (still) prefer locally trained teachers so ironically there has been a relative shortage of experienced teachers for a number of years; but it was the schools rather than the usual 'chicken and egg' situation surrounding jobs and work visas as the cause.
As a company, IMMagine has until recently advised our pre-primary, high/secondary and tertiary level teachers to use Australia as the 'back door' to New Zealand. We have been able to secure NZ Resident Visas off the back of Australian Permanent Residence Visas for a number of teachers. This means when they get off the plane they have full work rights and the schools will talk to them and if not offer them full time and permanent roles then perhaps as 'relief teachers'. If they cannot find anything then they could go and do whatever else they needed to in terms of work to put food on the table.
We have this year however had two high school teachers (one from Singapore and one from South Africa) secure full time and permanent teaching roles without visiting New Zealand (both got jobs in Auckland).
We are now representing a teacher from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who has been denied a visa to take up a job offered at an Auckland High School. The position he was offered was eventually filled locally after many months but the school has another vacancy going unfilled all year they have offered him.
Many schools are now reporting fewer than 5 applicants per vacancy advertised.
How times have changed. Only four years or so ago the Ministry of Education was putting off those from overseas making enquiries about coming over as they said there were fewer teachers leaving the profession (caused by, it was believed, the global financial crisis where higher perceptions of job insecurity meant many were staying in their jobs rather than moving on).
This doesn't mean desperate school principals are standing at the Auckland Airport arrivals hall with some "Teachers Wanted!" signs, but this increasing shortage is real and presents opportunities for some teachers where few existed even 2-3 years ago.
We will likely not stop advising our clients to use the Australian 'back door' pathway as landing here with a Resident Visa trumps even a job offer and the whole NZ visa process to negotiate if a teacher finds a job. It is all about minimising risk and there is no substitute for the certainty of the Resident Visa in the hand!
Until next week...
Posted by Iain on Jan. 30, 2015, 3:03 p.m. in Education
It’s that time of year when several thousand nervous and excited 5 year olds head off for their first day of school.
No doubt their parents, like we all did, will fuss and worry over whether they will ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’ rise to the top or sink to the bottom, be prepared for a fulsome and rewarding life (however you might measure that) but all will want, indeed as New Zealanders, demand, a quality education because in this country we all know that education can reduce inequality by creating equal access to opportunity irrespective of socio-economic background and can provide all our children with the skills to thrive and compete in a modern global economy.
But do they get it?
I read a very interesting article this morning published by a (clearly left leaning) Associate Professor of Education at Auckland University. It is worth a read.
New Zealanders spend an awful lot of time wringing their hands over whether their children are going to get a quality education at a public/state school or if the path to a life of success is only available by spending $15,000 plus a year on a private education or on a huge mortgage through buying a house in a ‘better’ public/state school zone.
I have had experience with both and this might help some of you that are planning on a move to New Zealand ‘for our children’s education’ – something I hear all day on the road especially in countries like Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia.
I too had all these same concerns when my sons, now 21 and 18, started school. Like all parents I assumed I had spawned a couple of sporty, witty, ‘go-get-em’ lads of good looks and higher than average abilities (how could it be otherwise when they come from such good stock!) and it never occurred to me not to send them to their local state (public) school.
My siblings and I along with all my closest friends and colleagues are all a product of New Zealand’s state education system like over 95% of all school leavers and we all turned out alright - by and large.
Something happened to me though when my sons were ready to move from Primary to High School. In New Zealand public schools operate their own geographic zone – you live in the zone you send your children there – you get no choice and no say even if for reasons important to you, you do not much care for that school.
I had became somewhat frustrated that every time I questioned the progress of my own sons at Primary School I felt somewhat fobbed off by their well intentioned teachers who with that ‘God, give me strength’ and a (metaphoric, no touching allowed!) pat on my knee would chide me in a somewhat patronising tone, ‘Don’t worry they are doing as well as an 8 year of should…’. But how good is that I would reply? One cannot spell very well. One is having difficulty reading – doesn’t like it, won’t do it and what are you going to do about it?
So when it came time for High School my wife and I decided to send them to a private High School at a cost that I would have preferred to avoid. Not just because I had all those same concerns we all have about ‘outcomes’ but because I was not much of a fan of what I perceived to be the quality of the local High School for which we were zoned.
Five years later when they both finished school what was my conclusion? Did they get a better education? Were the teachers better? Were they better prepared for the life they now lead post their education?
Yes and no. I am not sure.
Neither proved to be very inclined to take advantage of the educational opportunity in front of them. They had some very good teachers and they had, for the money we were paying once they got to their private school, some very average ones. As they had at their state school.
A very good friend of mine who is a Deputy Principal at a state High School that exists in a middle to low socio economic part of a major NZ city always counselled me that whether you pay $15,000 a year for a private education or make the voluntary annual donation of $100 to your local public school, there are good and bad teachers at every one of them. I questioned him at that time. Now some ten years later I know he was right.
I have one son at University and one who has decided that will add no value to his life plan.
Neither did particularly well at their private school academically – they were just not interested or motivated enough for all sorts of reasons I won’t expand upon here.
The lesson I did learn is that you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink.
Ultimately it is up to each child what happens to them at school. If they wish to roll up their sleeves and apply themselves then public, private, rich area, poor area makes little to no difference in New Zealand. If they take the opportunity every school provides they can lead ‘successful’ (and by that I mean a fulfilling and happy) life. The state or having money doesn’t determine it.
The article I want you to read suggests however it is not quite as simple as that and the Professor makes some valid points – if a child is hungry it is hard for them to learn and I do not dispute that. I do question why the child is hungry in New Zealand…..
The way he writes, it sounds like we have areas of New Zealand like the third world. No child lives in what overseas would be considered poverty and the State ensures that everyone here has access to the basics.
So there I part company with him.
I believe that while there are many parents in New Zealand who struggle to make ends meet I equally believe that the State in New Zealand has created poverty traps by not finding a balance between having a poorly targeted and generous social safety net (which we all support to a greater or lesser extent) and forcing parents to make sensible decisions – like how many children they have. Like helping their children to understand the value of that state education system. Like ensuring their children are raised with values conducive to self-reliance and responsibility.
Now if I am starting to sound like a neo-liberal Republican Tea Party member, forgive me but I will not apologise for it. I did not come from money but a working class family. I paid my way through University with initially anyway a generous weekly Government allowance and had to take a year out to try and make some money to see me through.......I returned and completed my degree in my fifth year. I guess I am a fighter.
When those like the good Professor start blaming the Government for what he sees as the failures of the education system, pokes the borax at private education, rubbishes ‘partnership schools’ (run by religious groups or local Maori iwi – tribes) I say to him that the one size fits all public education system suits 80% of learners but it does not fit everyone. What is wrong with trying new ideas and new ways of doing thing? New Zealand has always been bold and brave enough to experiment with new systems and models and overall we do very well. Our literacy and numeracy rates are in the top of every survey ever done. But one size fits all doesn’t work much with anything – public health, education, social security or much else.
Would I choose to send my children to a private school again with the value of hindsight?
I probably wouldn’t given what I know about these young men now that I was only learning, like every parent, as they grew older(they along with parenting never came with a user manual).
They are both fine young men finding their way but travelling seemingly different paths – one at University and one not. They have good values, strong ethics and are great human beings.
I know they will be alright (despite the worries of a parent never going away) and that is a combination of their public (thank you my fellow taxpayers) and private (thank you to all my clients) schooling, their family and more than all of that, themselves.
For now I say to all those parents with children starting school this week – have faith - every school in the country is going to provide a solid education – what happens to your children ultimately will be largely up to them – and you. Along the way they will have some inspirational teachers and a few that should be working in a different field. Public, private, rich, poor – none of makes much difference in the end.
Until next week
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