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Jeremy Poff

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Is education a resource that can be squandered, not by the recipient, but by the providers?

Parents and governments have finite time and money to apply to education. The education systems sometimes change on a whim with a new government, or alternatively never update.

Should we experiment more or experiment less with our children? Can we cause damage by experimenting? Can we trust the governments and schools to know what is best for our children? Should there be more choice in the education systems available?

For the expenditure, are we getting value? Is it permissible that a school can fail a child by not managing to engage them and light the fire of learning?

Parents care to differing levels and while some assume that school is just a part of growing up and the outcome is not their business, others want to be controlling the syllabus. Should some parents have more control than others?

Schools claim education is a partnership between school, parent and child. Should parents be more accountable? Has society, with it's expectation of two working parents destroyed the viability of this partnership?

Is some education frivolous? Are children leaving school with the right skills? What are important skills that are not taught? Things like balancing your bank account, lifting, stacking, where to find information, how to file a patent, how to create a database, or any skill at all. Parenting even!

Should the last year of school (regardless of leaving age) be "life skills" and provide a segue into maintaining responsibility for your actions, managing your life, sourcing the skills you need, writing down your own morals and virtues and creating a roadmap for your future desires and expectations?

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    Mar 6 2012: Idealism regularly rears it's ugly head when education is discussed. A reality check is in order.

    There is a huge element of 'teachers as administrators' - collecting data for the bureaucracy. This is generally a waste of everyone's time and efforts, students and teachers.

    School is often about managing large groups of students logistically.

    Most governments (especially the current National government in NZ) don't truly value education - this is evidenced by politicians and ministers scrimping and saving and watching the bottom line with the eyes of a miser. In a nutshell, they generally are completely lacking in vision.

    Reading and writing are not the major players they were in previous centuries. But they are a hard habit to break.

    In NZ, we are severely limited by the telecommunications infrastructure - a bad hangover from the last time the government sold off our state assets. (Note to the Finn brothers - history does repeat when politicians stick their noses in).

    Parents definitely need to be involved more (many are) but this idea of education 'experts' needs to be reigned in. Teachers often have more experience in the job than parents but theories and 'knowledge' about learning haven't really progressed much in the past few decades - there just seems to be a proliferation of buzzwords.

    And the professional development circuit needs to be scrapped. In my experience, they are not useful and in the rare instances they are "inspirational" they are preaching to the converted.

    If education is squandered, it is usually by the ministry, not the learner. There's my 2-cents..
    • Mar 7 2012: You have many valid points.
      Certainly the "experts" have crept into almost every field. The current crop of managers are too afraid to make a decision and instead defer to the 'experts' (who have just finished University and have no experience). This allows them to just tick off boxes rather than actually manage the whole situation. If it goes wrong they can then claim that it was the fault of someone else as they were merely following a recommended system.

      Schools are perhaps becoming like the hospitals where once Doctors managed the hospital to a budget, now an extra layer of staff (managers) draw large salaries and decline spending on medical equipment in favour of management equipment. This experiment has not worked. Essentially it is the Education Ministry that has become the layer of management for schools.

      I suspect every stakeholder would discern the squandering to be in another stakeholders court. That's if we agree there is squandering!

      If the assumption was first made that the provision had to be twice as efficient, then perhaps some new thinking would arise. Rather than small twiddles, raising classroom numbers, changing allocations, denying certain resources, etc.

      Has anyone calculated if 'mainstreaming' has saved money overall or just shifted the expenditure to another budget and added stress and frustration.

      It must be all in the name of digitisation! Instead of a report that says your child is bright at maths, needs to work on writing skills, is socially normal and is an active and contributing member to the school and class, you now get a report that says 0010100100110011010100011. Just perfect for digitisation.

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