Changing the education curriculum for New Zealand: Part 1

Every once in a while there is a change to the education curriculum in New Zealand schools. The last one was during the Labour-led Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark. That change occurred in 2007.

Since then I have wondered about how best to advance the educational needs of New Zealand. I have thought about parts of life such as civic duty where we seem to be lacking in an acute understanding of its form, function and why we should participate.

When one looks at how we perform in science, there seems to be a distrust of professions involving science as a vocation and scientists as professionals. This may be more of a funding and ideological issue rather than a curriculum based one, but if science is not properly focussed then one should not be surprised at the attitudes people have towards it.

I have looked at how we understand our history and why knowing about things such as the incident at Parihaka and the New Zealand Land Wars would enrich our knowledge and help shape our view of the world in a way that is better.

So, here are the primary changes I would like to see made to the New Zealand education curriculum:

  • That Civics be made a compulsory subject in Year 12 and recommended in Year 13
  • Emphasis on learning to read, write and count on paper before learning to read, write and count on electronic media
  • All subjects in Year 11, 12 and 13 have both an internally assessed component as well as an externally assessed component

In terms of areas of focus it should remain on English, Science, Art, Mathematics, Health/Physical Education, Social Science but it should also include Civics/Law and – through out both primary and secondary school education – an umbrella component of basic research, essay and report writing.

Before this change to the curriculum is made however, it is essential to review the assessment regime that delivers it. There is no point in delivering a curriculum to schools if it cannot be adequately asssessed. Will the current system of National Standards work? Will the N.C.E.A. assessment regime used in High Schools be able to cope?

The change is unlikely to occur under the watch of this Government, which is focussing on controversial charter schools, which are receiving funding from the public education fund. Education policy is not likely to be released until nearer the General Election on 23 September 2017.

Part 2 looks at the changes I suggest in the areas of focus mentioned above, and briefly discusses their place in the overall picture of New Zealand’s education curriculum.

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