TOMORROW’S SKILLS, YESTERDAY’S BUREAUCRACY

February 27, 2019

 Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers, argues that while there are undoubtedly big system and funding issues to address in the vocational education and training sector, the centralisation concept announced on 13 February is not the most effective way forward.

 

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Photo credit: Andrew Lukey   Post Quakes1

Guns not Roses

Echoes of Chicago 90 years ago: just in time for St Valentine’s Day, Industry Training Providers and Industry Training Organisations were lined up side-by-side, with large targets affixed, blinking in the media spotlight.

Triggers were not yet pulled but fingers were twitching as Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announced the vision of an over-arching New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology.

NZIST-not to be confused with Winston’s mob- would replace the 16 autonomous institutes of technology and polytechnics, (ITPs) and 11 industry training organisations (ITOs ) with a single entity to establish a “unified, coordinated, national system of vocational education and training” for around 200,000 New Zealand students by the end of 2020.

But does this display 20/20 vision?

Polytechnics employed 8,150, and ITOs 1,300, full-time-equivalent staff in 2017. In a double bureaucratic whammy the current roles of ITOs would apparently be split between the new national organisation and the Tertiary Education Commission.

The role of the TEC in ensuring the integrity of funding via trough protection and snout muzzling has already expanded after it swallowed Careers New Zealand in 2017 to become a hybrid funder/provider.

Absolutely Negatively…

Try this thought experiment, with last week’s eighth anniversary of the lethal February Christchurch quake in mind.
Can you imagine happening, under a centralised governance model, the same kind of prompt response as actually occurred through collaboration between Christchurch Polytechnic (now Ara)  and local ITOs  to address the skills needs of devastated Christchurch businesses?

If you can, Christchurch people with experience of especially created central government bodies like Cera and  Ōtākaro,  with a focus just on Christchurch’s  recovery not the whole country, will quickly disabuse you. These entities often sidelined local knowledge and input.  Even local civic governance bodies have been left incommunicado. Que Cera Sera.

Roger Smyth’s recent EC article tells how it took a seismic crisis for key parts of the vocational education system to work really effectively together, despite funding constraints, on the skills needs of the Canterbury rebuild.

There are lessons to be learnt. Those immersed in the local knowledge ecology, with an understanding of local business needs, trump absent planners with whiteboards and spreadsheets every time.

The Empire Striking Back?

The Minister acknowledged that the proposed changes are significant. “However, the risks of not making changes are also significant,” he said. “Disruption now will strengthen the vocational education system for the long term.”

Sceptics may point to the infamous quote in Peter Arnett’s 1968 AP Vietnam dispatch: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

The aim is to create a new, more streamlined and sustainable funding system and a more co-ordinated sector that can better respond to technology-driven workplaces. Both are long overdue and are changes the sector itself has long proposed.

The aims are forward looking, but the organisational solution proposed is a bureaucrat’s retrospective damp dream. In 2018 the Minister himself said that a highly centralised system faced issues relating to a lack of flexibility

Innovation

In a digitised world the nature of learning, work and everyday life is changing rapidly, with huge implications for education and training.

There is a direct link between a nation’s future prosperity and its ability to develop the knowledge and skills that deliver innovation. The ability to identify and prepare for present and future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations, businesses and individuals.

Specific hard skills and soft skills sets are in increasingly high demand. There is a growing emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, digital literacy and career and life skills, with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, initiative and cross-cultural interaction.

In the words of the Minister “Instead of our institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery in more locations around the country.”

Some are doing exactly this now and are performing well, having succeeded in spite of, not because of, the present funding model.

Ara Institute of Canterbury has reported surpluses since its 2015 amalgamation and name change. Chief executive Tony Gray has expressed concern about how effective the proposed regional leadership groups would be.

A Balanced Alternative

Another well performing ITP is Otago Polytechnic. Here are some excerpts of what CE Phil Ker said in a post-announcement interview on Radio New Zealand: 

Q: Are the proposed changes good for the sector?

A: Yes and no.

“Yes . . . Polytechnics are haemorrhaging because of a grossly inadequate funding system that’s not fit for purpose.”

Yes . . . we applaud it being fixed. Ironically, if the funding model had been fixed 2-3 years ago, we wouldn’t have had this haemorrhaging.”

Yes . . . we applaud the intention to move towards more seamless learning via institutions and work-based solutions….”

No . . . the proposed model of one institution – head office and branches – completely removes the autonomy of the current institutions. We thought there might have been a move to a model that combined the best elements of a centralised system approach with a semi-autonomous institution approach….”

“Under a combined model, certain central functions could have been mandated – buildings, back-of-house systems, staff training are a few examples. But the combined model meant we could also have the autonomy to offer programmes of learning that made sense to local regions. That autonomy would also mean we could respond not only locally but nationally – to areas where there’s a need but perhaps a relatively low volume…”

Q: Do you think such centralisation and rationalisation threatens the local characteristics of polytechnics?

A: “… It’s a model-of-delivery issue. I’m arguing for the retention of autonomy – to enable institutions to respond to industry demand. I think the proposed model will, in fact, drive out responsiveness and innovation…” 

His subsequent ODT comments had this postscript “…I am not opposed to rationalising and a degree of centralisation of our polytechnic system. I am opposed to the particular model proposed by the Minister – it will throw out a lot of babies with the bath water. There is an alternative model which will still see a unified system, but which also preserves the autonomy of the individual institutions… We can have the best of both worlds.”

Civic Support

In support of Otago Polytechnic Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said ”The proposed merger risks undoing a lot of good work and would see Otago Polytechnic potentially being subservient to an organisational structure that may not understand or care about our local needs…We need Otago to remain autonomous, and flexible and responsive to local needs.”

The promoters of the current government’s Provincial Growth Fund talk about getting “buy in from local communities”. But vocational education demands more than that from regional stakeholders: it needs active collaboration, participation and partnership.

Dunedin’s digital ecosystem provides great examples of the cross-fertilisation between the education and business sectors.  Innovator of the Year Ian Taylor,  Animation Research has worked in this space for a quarter of a century.

He first came to public attention in the 1990s by making America’s Cup racing watchable via digital graphics and animation. He is currently working in Dunedin on a Virtual Reality prison literacy programme, in collaboration with the Methodist Mission South.

Alignment of Education and Training 

The Review of Vocational Education inevitably spawned the acronym ROVE. Perhaps the more appropriate acronym is RIVET for Review of and Intentions for Vocational Education and Training.

But just how riveting is the announced vision?

While the words “education” and “training are often used as synonyms it’s useful to  distinguish between them. The difference is evident when comparing “sex(uality) education” with “sex training”. (Now there’s an industry which missed the opportunity to set up its own ITO.).

Oversimplified, but the distinction does help clarify aspects of the respective roles of ITPs and ITOs, the first institution-based and the second located in the workplace.

The two vocational sub-sectors have often been like two trains travelling on parallel tracks to the same destination but with often poor communication between the respective drivers, to the detriment of passengers.

Integration of learning with work

The ROVE document says that the system needs to increase the amount of vocational learning that takes place in the workplace. Phil Ker agrees with better aligning trades training with polytechnic study, ”… integration of learning with work is critical. But that has to be designed for; staff have to be trained to do it.”

The most effective learning comes from a parallel process of knowing and doing, not through an analogue approach of accumulating lumps of knowledge first and then focusing on thinking skills and problem-solving.

But progress in integration does not require a single governance body. Joining the dots is not the same as erasing them. 

Qualifications and Employability 

According to the OECD, “Skills are the new world currency”. There is a growing demand for just-in-time learning to meet changing skill needs.

How do you improve knowledge and skill acquisition and make it easier for learners to demonstrate what they know and can do? 

National rationalisation of the tangled mess of qualifications is long overdue and now underway A big benefit in having a more integrated vocational education system is that it will make overhauled vocational qualifications more relevant and attractive-and more manageable time-wise.

Micro-credentials are an increasingly valuable part of the new skills currency. They enable people to show what they know and can do through digital certification, validating new learning as well as skills and knowledge already acquired.

Learning institutions handle quality control. For example, Otago Polytechnic’s micro-credential service EduBits works closely with the business sector and helps employers focus on their particular requirements.

Micro-credentials make visible employees, present and potential, who have got key skills or knowledge not indicated by conventional qualifications.

Trading Up 

One aim of the vocational shake-up is to correct the tertiary/ trades imbalance. According to the Minister of Education “Our thinking needs to shift from the idea that the ultimate goal of senior secondary schooling is to prepare young people for university,” 

Shorter workplace-integrated programmes will distinguish more clearly the offerings of polytechnics from those of universities.

Important v Urgent

Just as Wintec’s dirty washing was being re-aired publicly may have seemed to be a good time to play a reverse trump card and make a wall demolition announcement.

Minister Hipkins said that the vocational education sector is currently unsustainable and financially unviable “and the Government is moving to find a solution quickly”.

But the 6 weeks allowed for feedback is derisory, especially when contrasted with the timeline and process for the Tomorrow’s Schools Review.

Reform of the fragmented and competitive vocational sector may be well overdue but the important shouldn’t be dressed up as the urgent. It is not a National Emergency; rather it is a national opportunity to come up with an appropriate confederate balance of regional and national arrangements.

A large degree of governance autonomy, separate identities and distributed leadership models are the keys to credible local engagement in a networked digital age.

At the same time, curriculum and qualifications  reform,  professional development, digital  learning resource sharing and physical infrastructure, HR, health and safety all lend themselves to more national “back office” co-ordination and cost saving, so long as the “front office” identity and professional and business relationships are maintained where they are demonstrated to be working.

If not, some further amalgamations may be required such as those which over the last 4 years have led to the formation of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and Ara Institute of Technology.

Leading not Imposing Change

“People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord
Finding appropriate solutions to real issues is not just about why change should happen. It is about what change happens, how it happens and when. A  Roger Douglas big bang approach may force things through, but with unacceptable collateral damage.

The fallout after a policy announcement bombshell needs time to clear for the way forward to crystallise. More time needs to be spent on the vision and strategy, working with all the key players, before the focus turns to implementation.

The effective way to bring about change that lasts is to really engage with key players in order to do more of what is working well now. This is the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organisational change. It focuses on strengths rather than on weaknesses, deficits and problems.

As Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams points out, the reforms should aim to strengthen industry-led training organisations rather than dismantling them.

Warwick Quinn, Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation chief executive says that while he understood the need for change, “We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater…”. The changes needed to protect what was working well, and retain the positive aspects of on-the-job training and apprenticeships, especially in high-needs areas, such as building and construction.

Removing system blockages is a valid activity for political plumbers. But while it is important to repair, rejig and replace some parts of the present vocational reticulation system, it is just as  important  to reinforce those parts which are working well and so avoid  disrupting the flow of skills acquisition.

What is not required is a KiwiBuild-type approach, giant in concept but pygmy on delivery, for instilling the skills of the very people required to build houses and the nation.

Mobilising knowledge and expertise

At Education Leaders Forum 2018, UK speaker Prof.Toby Greany  explored the    intersections between policy, practice and evidence and the ways in which knowledge, expertise and capacity moves around within and between organisations.
His models for knowledge mobilisation, the development and impact of networks and collaboration, along with his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive step changes in regards to vocational education and training.

The cold logic of ideology and the selective use of financial data from a chronically underfunded sector should not drive out the knowledge and experience of key players.

** https://conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/reform-of-vocational-education/have-your-say **         (You’ve only got until 27 March!)

Lyall Lukey Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers Dunedin 17&18 July.

 

 

 


NCEA Trivial Pursuit?

November 18, 2018

Exams-Getty

“New Zealand students say word ‘trivial’ in exam confused them.”
  BBCNews Headline 16/11/18

Year 13 Level 3 NCEA exam students (usually aged between 17 and 18 at exam time) were recently asked to write a History essay based on the Julius Caesar quote: “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

More than 2,600 people signed an online petition over the “unfamiliar” word, demanding not to be marked down as a result of their lack of comprehension.

Examiners said the language used was expected to be within the range of the year 13 students’ vocabulary. However, in a statement, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority [NZQA] added: “If candidates have addressed the quote and integrated their ideas with it, then they will be given credit for the strength of their argument and analysis and will not be penalised for misinterpreting the word ‘trivial’.”

That’s all right then-and at least the petitioners displayed some digital and collaborative skills as well as their surprising semantic deficit.

But perhaps the old-fashioned exam format, involving writer’s cramp-inducing marathons for those who use pens of any sort infrequently, is the real trivial pursuit.

All concerned will watch the continued roll out of the NZQA’s digital transformation process with interest.

20/20 Vision

NZQA’s vision is for NCEA examinations to be made available online by 2020.

The approach to online examinations reflects the teaching and learning happening in classrooms and the capabilities of the technology to support a good digital examination user experience in a given subject. This means that it may be some time before all subjects are available for online examination.

While the approach is currently focussed on digitising the paper-based examinations to help schools manage the transition, the opportunity exists to support a transformation in the way in which external assessments when digitally supported teaching and learning is pervasive. See https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-vision/.

At the same time, since 2017 NZQA has been digitising its approach to external moderation of internally assessed work, since learners are increasingly producing and submitting learning evidence digitally. The vision is to see 100% of moderation materials, in subjects where it’s appropriate, being submitted digitally by 2020.

A more effective and accessible digital system for accessing and sharing learning evidence from internal and external assessment will benefit learners, educators  and employers alike.

Lyall Lukey 18/11/18

[Lyall Lukey was a History teacher and external  History exam marker many moons ago. He still holds the world records for the number of pages he filled in his own School Cert. History Exam and for the smallest fraction of a mark awarded per completed page. He has given up playing Trivial Pursuit. Among other things, since 2007 he has been  the convener of  annual NZ-wide Education Leaders Forums .]

 


Miss Snuffy and Mr Snake Oil on 21st Century Learning

June 30, 2018

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2018, examines some of the views expressed by among others London Headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh and her host Roger Partridge, the New Zealand Initiative, before, during and after the recent researchED conference. This article was first published on Educational Central on 29 June.

Among the pigeons

The researchED conference on 2 June set the cat (and a partridge) among the pedagogical pigeons. It was no surprise that 21st century skills and modern learning environments were discounted or deplored.

Key speaker at the event and guest of the New Zealand Initiative was controversial Kiwi-born Katharine Moana Birbalsingh, the founder of “Britain’s strictest school” Michaela Park Community School in North West London.

New entrants attend a week-long military-style boot camp to learn the school’s strict rules, which include no talking in the corridors and demerit points for forgetting a pen or slouching.

Sniffy with Miss Snuffy

Birbalsingh’s Twitter handle is @Miss_Snuffy – “Headmistress/Founder Michaela: free/charter school doing it differently. Believe in freedom from state, truth on race, common sense….”

Some TV1 viewers got sniffy with her pre-event TV interview  though others sat up very straight.

Birbalsingh supports the traditional teaching methods of E. D. Hirsch in The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them (1999). She argues that education should be about teaching children knowledge, not learning skills.

Jude Barback’s Education Central piece on I June encapsulated Birbalsingh’s fears for New Zealand’s education system:   “You’re about to go off the edge of a cliff”.

The video of the cliff-hanging researchED presentation has now been “removed by the user” though other conference  presentations are still viewable.

Luckily New Zealand is devoid of lemmings.  It is also the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping and other innovations which use applied knowledge, a range of skills and plenty of initiative.

Content with content?

There was a quick response from Dr Michael Harvey:
“The key claim that Birbalsingh makes is… the paramount importance of content over skills …[ but] it is a misnomer to say that skill is not knowledge. Skill is knowledge, just of a different form. The fact-based knowledge that Birbalsingh champions [is] based on declarative memory (knowing that) whereas the skills she decries are procedural memory (knowing how)…”

The key to developing a skill such as playing the piano is practice and reinforcement. Knowing music  theory is not the same as tinkling the ivories. This is no black or white distinction but a reinforcing dynamic.

First cut isn’t the deepest

“At… researchED ‘Festival of Education’ conference in Auckland, 250 teachers and educationalists from around New Zealand had an opportunity to expose a modern-day version of Stanley’s snake oil: the so-called ‘21st-century learning movement.’” 21st century snake oil   Roger Partridge

What expanded the current education debate to a new, largely business audience was this opinion piece on the New Zealand Initiative website on 9 June and then on the NBR website.

Written by Roger Partridge  chairman and a co-founder of The New Zealand Initiative and a former commercial lawyer who led law firm Bell Gully from 2007 to 2014, it recounted the story of American Clark Stanley who created a dodgy medical cure-all he named Snake Oil Liniment .

In cutting to the chase the Stanley blade-wielding Partridge followed in Birbalsingh’s footsteps. He said 21st century learning adherents advocate ‘modern learning environments’ instead of classrooms, with 80 or 90 school children and a few ‘free-ranging’ teachers. The teachers are expected to promote child-centred, ‘inquiry-based learning’ rather than teacher-led instruction.

“There is only one problem with 21st-century learning; despite its seductive underpinnings, there is no scientific evidence it is equal, let alone superior, to more traditional, teacher-led instruction. And there is lots of evidence it fails children, particularly the disadvantaged. So 21st-century learning is seductive snake oil, not science.”

 Exposé or pose?

Partridge claims that limiting their exposure to the wealth of knowledge their parents gained at school a generation ago is dumbing down children’s learning.

“Now this wouldn’t matter if this 21st-century snake oil was simply being promoted by a few Mr Stanleys.  But it is not. It is advocated by our own Ministry of Education. Even the briefest foray onto the ministry’s website reveals how embedded 21st-century notions have become in the ministry’s approach to education.”

It was a very brief foray, not getting as far as the Best Evidence Synthesis section . The Ministry, via its internationally respected BES publications, makes accessible bodies of evidence about what works to improve education outcomes.

For more than 15 years New Zealander John Hattie has also done a great job, via his Visible Learning project, to collate research about what works best for teaching and learning in schools.  TES has called him “possibly the world’s most influential education academic”.

The snake oil metaphor may shed a little light in one or two dark corners but, like 19th Century whale oil, it is not very illuminating overall.

False Dichotomy

“[A] false dichotomy of reform versus status quo fails to capture the rich perspectives of teachers who believe in education improvements that are grounded both in research and in their own experiences with successful student learning.” Give Teachers a Voice in Education Reform

Birbalsingh’s very old school approach may demonstrate the magnetic power of a leader able to articulate shared values and practices, whatever their evidential foundation or fashion status, in order to attract funding in a low socio-economic catchment area and enthusiastic teachers and parents  who share her education philosophy.

A coherent learning culture in one school might be in complete contrast to a different mix in another. Each may get some effective outcomes for at least some learners by “the way we do things around here”.

Vive la difference!

Modern Learning Environments

“There is always more than one side to an argument; always more than one good solution to a problem – often many. Learning is a complex matter…. The issue isn’t Traditional Classrooms OR Modern Learning Environments. It is about what works for each individual child and having highly effective teachers trumps everything!” Dr Lesley Murrihy 

In the current debate there has been a lot of emphasis on physical learning environments, for example Kia King’s interesting parental perspective . This may have overshadowed discussion on other well researched teaching and learning factors. 

Dr Murrihy, Principal at MLE Amesbury School has written on the limitations of a binary argument between the traditional classroom and a modern or flexible learning environment.

She points out that John Hattie shows that what really makes a difference is what happens in the classroom (presumably of whatever configuration). Within-school variation, the difference between the most and least effective teachers in a school, is much greater than between-school variation.

As one might expect education quality largely comes down to the quality of its teachers. There are more effective and less effective teachers in traditional classrooms just as there are in mles.

Murrihy continues  “… it is not so much the architectural environment that matters in terms of outcomes for students; it is what we do for students within those physical environments that makes the real difference.”

We could add, plus what learners are encouraged to learn and do for themselves, either individually or in small groups, in a flexible range of learning settings, from teacher-led input to personal and team projects, with or without the use of enabling technology.

The process is just as important as the outcomes in terms of acquiring and accessing knowledge and developing hard and soft skills. 

The Digital+ Revolution

“The true revolution of digital technology’s effect on culture is not that it replaces what has gone before, but that it shatters it like a supercollider, reconstituting the fragments into many different forms, some familiar and some completely new. ”  Michael Lascarides 

We all know that in a digitised and globalised world the nature of work and everyday life is changing rapidly with huge implications for education and training. What are we doing about it?

There is an accelerating fusion of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological spheres. This includes Artificial Intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology,   energy storage and quantum computing.

“Tomorrow’s Schools”, soon to be yesterday’s, was implemented a quarter of a century ago for a world which no longer exists, despite the apparent yearning of some to recreate it. 

Disruptive Workplace Change

“Many of the major drivers of transformation… are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps… the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago…” World Economic Forum 2016 report The Future of Jobs

Since the 1980s governments internationally have attempted to develop strategies to help present and future workers meet the demands of rapidly changing workplaces. 

The WEF 2016 report points out that the ability to identify and prepare for present and future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations, businesses and individuals, both to seize the opportunities and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

But Roger Partridge seems to disagree. 

21st century skills

“What is even more concerning is the cult-like status the 21st-century skills approach occupies within many schools. Teachers at the researchED conference talked about being afraid to express their concerns that modern learning methods were not working. It is as if the 21st-century skills approach has a sacred status; anyone questioning it is at best a Luddite and at worst a traitor to progress.” 21st century snake oil

It might help to define the catch-all phrase. 21st century skills comprise skills, abilities, and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in 21st century society and workplaces.

They are complementary to basic building block knowledge and skills like literacy and numeracy, not substitutes.

Specific hard skills and soft skills sets are in increasingly high demand.  There is a growing emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, creativity and innovation, digital literacy and career and life skills, with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, initiative and cross-cultural interaction.

Far from “dumbing down” education many of the 21st century skills are also associated with deeper learning based on mastering skills such as analytic reasoning and complex problem solving.

The focus is not on content for its own sake.  The test is understanding why and demonstrating how, not regurgitating what. As Henry Ford has it “An educated person… is one who not only knows a lot, but knows how to do a lot of things.”

The sequence is the secret. The most effective learning comes from a parallel process of knowing and doing, not through an analogue approach of accumulating lumps of knowledge first and then focusing on thinking skills and problem solving.  

Out of step with his peers? 

“65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.”  WEF ibid

Given the business antecedents and membership weighting of the New Zealand Initiative, one would have thought that its chairman would feel at home with the sentiments expressed in the WEF’s report. A Partridge, as it were, in a peer tree. Why is he out of step with the denizens of Davos?

Perhaps because until quite recently he was a senior leader in a well known law firm. By its very nature the legal profession encourages retrospective thinking. It is hardly at the cutting edge of innovation, apart from IP policing duties.

The profession also seems to find it difficult to keep up with social change, witness the unseemly scrambling for fig leaves in the wake of revelations about dodgy legal workplace cultures which senior leadership in some blue-ribbon firms had failed to address.

Many lawyers do a little better in adopting new information technology, but Partridge himself is critical of 21st century learning tools:  “In place of exercise books that help students remember new knowledge it favours digital devices, in which students record their individual learning journeys.”

Do lawyers and accountants still use quill pens and parchment to track their transactions? What about remembering new knowledge?   In 1775 Samuel Johnson said “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”

Partridge gives the example of “the blacksmith’s son.”  Perhaps he is struggling to come to grips with the 20th century, let alone the 21st?  Maybe he is even more at home with 19th century Gradgrinds?  (Thomas Gradgrind, you’ll recall, is the school board Superintendent in Dickens’s novel “Hard Times” who is dedicated to the pursuit of profitable enterprise via a repressive approach to education and a limited focus on cold facts and hard numbers).

Knowledge Navigators

Savvy teachers are more important than ever as knowledge map-makers and navigators in a world awash with digital data.

Recognising this is not the same as insisting that teachers themselves are the storehouse of all knowledge which they impart, mother bird-like, to passive pupils with open mouths. Growing open minds is the thing. So is understanding the hierarchy of data, information, knowledge and wisdom.

Of course teachers should not just leave learners to their own devices. These are simply tools to be used selectively, in an action learning setting, to create and produce not merely to search and play.

A recent Education Central item said “There are some fantastic initiatives afoot, from an amazing STEM programme that sees students working on projects to help their community to a pilot to provide home internet access to students who currently don’t have access.”

But beyond the use of enabling technology the real focus should be on developing the critical and creative thinking power of the free neck top computer with which every human is equipped. New neuroscience insights can help teachers and learners alike tap this amazing resource.

Performance Indicators and Comparisons

“Not surprisingly, the 21st-century results of education’s embrace of ‘21st-century learning’ are damning. Since the turn of the century, the performance of New Zealand school children in reading, maths and science has fallen dramatically in international tests. And the decline is not gradual,it is startling…21st century snake oil

Partridge states that “whether it is the PISA, PIRLS or TIMMS rankings, since the beginning of the millennium our children have been sliding down the international league tables-and not just falling behind the rest of the world, they are falling behind their 20th-century predecessors.”

Representatives of employers, universities and trade training have also expressed recent concerns about literacy  and preparation for tertiary education and the world of work.

A quick scan of some symptoms and an off-the-cuff diagnosis is not the same as an in-depth exploration of causes and effects  inside realistic time frames. Nor is it a reason to accept the Birbalsingh and Partridge prescription for improving teaching and learning is the only treatment.

The great majority of New Zealand learners have not been and are not in mles, which are still evolving, as is collaborative teaching expertise. 21st century learning principles and practices are not stirred, bottled and dispensed from Wellington through a monolithic pipeline.

In New Zealand’s highly autonomous education system, with wide ranging curriculum choice, a smorgasbord of resources and vastly differing teaching and learning practices, the uptake of anything pedagogical or technological is uneven- and even capricious.

As well as crunch education challenges such as quality teacher recruitment and retention, salary revaluation, leadership development and on-going professional practice development there are also complex economic and social issues affecting cohort learning.

These include the developing trend of extreme behaviour among ever younger children with significant behavioural needs, including conditions like foetal alcohol syndrome and “P babies”.

Embracing the Future

“…the choice between cocooning ourselves in the past and shutting out all the inconvenient noises of change, or embracing a future based on innovation, disruption and using our brains is stark. Alex Malley CE, CPA Australia

According to Malley there is a direct link between a nation’s future prosperity and its ability to leverage innovation and change to improve international competitiveness.

Focusing on the downside of technological change deflects debate from the more important topic; how to best take advantage of the opportunities arising from the digital and other revolutions.

We don’t want to squash the initiative of any young New Zealanders by confining them, however upright, in neatly aligned single desks in passive one-dimensional learning settings.

The challenges of now and the imperatives of the future demand better.

Lyall Lukey  Convener,   Education Leaders Forum 2018: Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education

 

 

 

 


Tomorrow’s Skills: Action Now

July 13, 2016

“…we’re about to be late for tomorrow.”  Alvin Toffler
 Toffler, the author of Future Shock who died at the end of June, issued the famous wake-up call above to an earlier generation. Will  too many learners currently in New Zealand’s education system be late for tomorrow’s  new world of work?

Education Leaders Forum 2016 Tomorrow’s Skills will help educators  understand the implications for all learners of technological , economic  and social Shift and the  fragmented future of work , which will bring both threats and opportunities.  Forum participants will also access timely strategies and resources  for preparing learners now to adapt to the future by developing an appropriate skills portfolio.

Yesterday’s Schools?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,” Alvin Toffler
 “Tomorrow’s Schools” was implemented a quarter of a century ago in a world which no longer exists. Drones, electric cars, 3d printing, hover boards and virtual reality will all be our collective reality as we move into in the Fourth Industrial Revolution which transcends the digital revolution of the last 50 years.

Wireless farming  is a reality in the Waikato and an example of much more than number 8 wire ingenuity. My stepfather, who immigrated as a 10 Pound Pom in 1951 and got his first job as a tie-wearing herd tester in the Waikato, would be flabbergasted.

In a digitised and globalised new world the nature of work is changing rapidly in terms of what is done, where and by whom, with huge implications for education and training. As technology becomes more pervasive, traditional trades disappear and a different mix of skills is demanded by employers .

The ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations in order to seize the opportunities presented by these trends and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

21st Century Skills: A different mix

In today’s world, technical and digital literacy is of equal importance to English literacy and it is essential that progress be made in the way we educate and prepare our children.” Ian McCrae CE, Orion Health
The term “21st Century skills” contains the idea that the demands of the 21st century are sufficiently distinct from those of the previous century to make educational reform a necessity. Instantaneous access to information and the speed at which it dates have rendered an information-based education system redundant.

Education is not only about preparing people for the world of work, but employment readiness and adaptability are imperatives. Laying and strengthening the foundations for transferable cognitive, social and ICT skills is a lifelong journey from early childhood.

A 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit report sponsored by Google Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future shows how evolving business needs, technological advances and new work structures are redefining what are considered to be valuable skills for the future.

The EIU’s extensive research programme examined to what extent the skills taught in education systems around the world are changing. It inquired into the extent to which 21st Century skills, such as digital literacy (including coding), creative problem solving and live and distance teamworking and collaboration are complementing traditional skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

The recent – and some would say belated -announcement that digital technology is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand Curriculum picks up on the importance of preparing children and young people for a future where digital fluency will be critical for success .

The integration of skills

“Teachers need to understand that these are not taught skills but modelled skills,” B. Schreuder
Are young people learning the skills they need to adapt to New Zealand’s rapidly changing workplace?
21st Century skills cannot be taught in isolation: they must be integrated into every learning area via group projects, not bolted on as additional subjects for individuals, so that social and cognitive skills development becomes inseparable from knowledge sharing.

To be work ready students need to understand deadlines, to be able to work under pressure and to prioritise. They also need ongoing opportunities to gain experience of public speaking, networking, multimedia production and non-digital creative pursuits in music and the arts.

Opportunities and Threats

“Recent discussions about the employment impact of disruptive change have often been polarized between those who foresee limitless opportunities in newly emerging job categories and prospects that improve workers’ productivity and liberate them from routine work, and those that foresee massive labour substitution and displacement of jobs. Both are possible. It is our actions today that will determine whether we head towards massive displacement of workers or the emergence of new opportunities.’  World Economic Forum report The Future of Jobs 2015

People are on the move, changing jobs more often and switching careers or taking a portfolio approach to how they earn their living.

Work changes bring both opportunities and threats. There is the obvious risk of increased employment insecurity. More than half of the new jobs in advanced economies since the 1990s have been temporary, part-time or self-employed. At the same time the “portfolio economy”, self-employment and new business startups present big opportunities not available a generation ago.

Up to two thirds of new job entrants are getting their first job in roles that will either look very different or be completely lost in the next 10 to 15 years due to automation.

The changing economy certainly creates risks for individuals as well as organisations. As business models change, often abruptly because of disruptive technology, people will have to master multiple skills if they are to survive in such a world—and keep those skills up to date.

Microcosm or Time Capsule?

L > C  For an organisation to survive its rate of learning must be equal to, or greater than, the rate of change in its external environment.” Reg Revans
How well is the education system preparing young people for the future of work? It would seem that many young people are not being prepared for the right jobs and roles. Many are enrolled in fields of study that will be radically affected by automation.  They will need to learn how to learn and how to unlearn.

For all the outlier progress in some pockets of educational innovation, the world of education is not changing at the same pace as the world of work and the rate of technological disruption. Education at all levels needs to be a microcosm of the changing world not an anachronistic time capsule.

All involved in education and training need to reinterpret the world through new lenses not extrapolate the future from past experiences and present perceptions. Only then will they be able to truly help learners navigate their personal pathways to the future.

*Upcoming Event The tenth annual Education Leaders Forum Tomorrow’s Skills-Pathways to the Future will be held on 23 & 24 August 2016 at the Waipuna Conference Centre in Auckland. ELF16 is about the seismic shifts happening in the world of work, the demand for different skills and the implications for education at all levels. More at http://www.smartnet.co.nz/ 

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2016- Tomorrow’s Skills

 

 

 

 

 


Novopay: An Incis-ive Report from Muddle-earth?

June 16, 2013

“The problems with Novopay have affected public trust and confidence in the Ministry of Education and also the wider public sector.”                  Novopay Report

Apart from those numerically numinous teachers who like an activity-based approach to the study of statistics and probability, Novopay’s game of unders and overs has been very annoying, especially for many of their colleagues. But it’s time to come in spinner and get some perspective.

So far the Novopay system has cost $24 million more than expected, though the blowout was likely to increase even further. But on the political Richter scale it is a mere 3.4 compared to an INCIS 9.1

INCIS was the name of the Integrated National Crime Information System designed to provide information to the New Zealand Police in the 1990s, but which was abandoned in 1999. By then it wasn’t integrated, it wasn’t national and it certainly wasn’t a system providing much timely information, but it really raised the bar in being a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money. By some estimates NZD$110 million swirled down the INCIS gurgler in the 1990s. Though the project was abandoned, parts of its hardware and software infrastructure are still in use today.

Edge of Chaos

At least Novopay lumbered into flight, if somewhat prematurely. Post-Report it is no dead duck, despite the guns being pointed collectively skyward from early May with people waiting for a different kind of report. There was plenty of ducking for cover.  Not getting all the ducks in a row in the first place was the big problem, as the Novopay Report makes clear.

Not Novopay ducks

Not Novopay ducks

There is a web-footed welcome to the finished product: “Welcome to the Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay website. The Minister responsible for Novopay, the Hon. Steven Joyce established the inquiry to address the issues and concerns surrounding Novopay – the education payroll system.”

Joyce is, of course,  the Minister responsible for the Novopay mop-up, not the cock-up. The role of the Ministerial Inquiry was to conduct a fact-finding investigation into Novopay from the outset to the present day and was led by the Lead Inquirers, Mr Murray Jack and Sir Maarten Wevers, to the accompaniment of Goodnight, Irene.*

Educhaos

The inquiry found Talent2, the Australian contractor tasked with implementing the system, has been swamped with technical difficulties which built up a tsunami of compounding errors. This was not entirely news: “The impacts of the well-publicised Novopay failures have reverberated across New Zealand”  for months. Those at the whiteboard face have not been backward in forwarding their error ridden payslips to the media*.

It has all very annoying and very time-wasting, but it is not quite in the league of, say, formerly Solid-as coalminers being wrenched from the coalface by sudden redundancy.

Just after the report was released Anne Jackson Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary (tertiary, international and system performance)  chose walking over planking by responsibly tendering her resignation. She said the decision to resign was hers alone and that there was no pressure put on her to quit. “I remain deeply committed to education and the principles of public service. That is why I have taken this step today…” A colleague followed last Friday. In fact there have already been three major MoE resignations, counting Secretary of Education Lesley Lonsgtone, though that was not solely Novopay inspired, nor pressure free.

Other colleagues will be squirming. Even if they weren’t trying to string along their political masters and mistresses, it does seem that the advice proffered to ministers was, to coin a phrase, ropey. Some advisers obviously gave themselves more than enough rope.

Unsurprisingly, responsible ministers of all persuasions since the Novopay behemoth lurched out of the laboratory were not fingered; it was all down to dodgy advice, the biggest sin for any public servant.

A Class Action?

The class action by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association on behalf of 18,000 members against Ministry of Education acting secretary Peter Hughes is a further waste of time and resources which should never have been started. In the wake of the latest resignations, it should be abandoned forthwith.

The Association is fighting to have a statutory declaration from the court that Hughes, who has only been in the acting role a few months,  has breached his Education Act obligations to pay school staff.  The union said it wants the ministry to shoulder the blame for the fiasco. Vampire movies are inexplicably still popular, but how much blood is enough?

Perhaps it’s really a classic class warfare action ahead of next year’s general election.  On a National Radio  item on Novopay PPTA president Angela Roberts talked about “the workers” as if she’d forgotten who she was representing. “Education professionals” and “support staff” would have sounded better.

Perspective

It really is time for a bit of perspective. Frustrating though the Novopay saga has been it is not payola. There has been some accountability, with at least two out for the count, even if the lighthouse keeper’s role of the State Services Commission hasn’t really been  put under the spotlight.

It is a fact that one teacher’s bungled pay slip was just 1c.  But alongside people facing the challenge of school closures and mergers, or those suffering genuine hardship in Christchurch because of EQC and/or insurance battles, these indubitably annoying errors pale into insignificance, especially given that many schools made temporary arrangements for those whose pay was cocked up. They should be compensated for wasted administration time, but litigation is a different matter.

The Biggest Issue

The biggest issue is why in the first place the Ministry looked off-shore for a tweaked, out of the box system when clever Kiwi IT and payroll firms could have delivered the goods in a more timely and user-friendly fashion.

That’s not to say there would have been any teething problems, both system and training, which is par for the course in any large change like this which shifts a largely manual system onto an integrated digital platform. All IT systems would be absolutely fine if it weren’t for the users. But at least the support would have been at hand and the chosen IT partner better vetted.

When she resigned Anne Jackson’s role was the development of strategic direction for the education system, including links with economic policy, skills and innovation. It’s a pity that MoE didn’t activate those links closer to home. As I said in an earlier Novopay blogpost* we have talent too.

Give Kiwi skills and innovation a chance!

*Blinks

http://inquiry.novopay.govt.nz The Ministerial Inquiry
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8782110/Novopay-claims-major-Education-Ministry-scalp
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/8782186/Education-Ministry-manager-quits-over-Novopay
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8799149/Off-to-court-as-teachers-pay-rounded-to-1c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLvk-qsKonQ    Vid  The Weavers Goodnight, Irenefrom their historic re-union concert in 2008.-about the time Novopay kicked off.
Education Novovirus spreads in Muddle-earth My earlier blogpost on this.

#Lyall Lukey  16 June 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


Education Novovirus spreads in Muddle-earth

February 3, 2013

 “Talent2 multiplies the power and productivity of people… to deliver end-to-end talent management solutions that put people first.”  Novopay provider’s puffery*

Noroviruses are the most common cause of viral  gastroenteritis in humans and affect people of all ages, causing nausea, forceful vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, headache, coughs and low-grade fever. The disease is usually self-limiting, and severe illness is rare.

Not so the dreaded Novovirus, generated by the new on-line pay system for teachers called Novopay, known in some quarters as Nopay, which is somewhat harder to stomach.

It will be interesting to watch as Dr Novopay, aka Steven Joyce, Minister of Most Things, seeks to enforce Aussie provider Talent2’s bond. To date the company appears so far to be neither shaken nor stirred by the well brewed brouhaha at the Ministry of Education, the epicentre of Muddle-earth. Only after departing Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone made a tough phone call did Talent2 unleash some more call centre talent prior to the big Xmas pay.

No PayPal
Despite that beefing up many teachers still have legitimate beefs and for them the new on-line system is no PayPal.  It was to be 90% online, 10% service centre. The Parata Principle* has probably seen these ratios reversed.

There is even talk of former provider Datacom, one of our largest and most successful technology companies, being placed on standby to pick up the pieces. (DataSouth won’t be on any new shortlist).

Fire Proof?
“My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what’s really going on to be scared.” PL Plauger

Norovirus is rapidly inactivated by either sufficient heating or by chlorine-based disinfectants. The heat is now really on Talent2’s Novovirus but our trans Tasman neighbours can be fairly phlegmatic in the face of conflagration. Will Joyce fire them?

On the disinfecting front  he’s already called a Ministerial enquiry which should be reframed as an enquiry into the Labour Ministers involved in the initiation of the long-winded and bug bound development process and the three National Ministers who signed off on all systems go when they palpably weren’t. The planned pilot fell off the radar well before this so the resulting systems crash shouldn’t be a surprise to those in the know. They should be really scared.

NZ has Talent Too
Our education system and support systems like pay ought to be indigenous. There has been a post colonial binge of off-shore recruiting for many public sector posts, including in education. Top people shouldn’t be helicoptered from elsewhere and dropped in it, as were Janice Shiner, erstwhile TEC boss and Lesley Longstone -or Pippi Longstocking, as she was unkindly called by some.

 Dramatic change in education doesn’t require imports. The important thing is the synergy between  reforming ministers of education and the chief civil servant: think Dr Clarence Beeby, longserving Director of Education from 1940 and Education Ministers like Peter Fraser and Terence McCombs.

Systematic change should be organic and come from within rather than being grafted on. It’s fine to study other education systems like Finland’s, not for facile answers but for the purpose of asking questions about our own system and challenging its practitioners. Answers need to be refracted through the lens of our own culture to meet our own needs and goals and implementation needs to engage all those involved.

Digital Divide or Digital Dividend?

One question: if it had been a new  Kiwi on-line pay system, with local support and fewer bugs,  would there still have been at least in some schools, a culture gap and a training gap in moving to a largely on-line system? Would any such gaps  correlate to the digital divide between Yesterday’s Schools and Today’s Schools. What would the digital dividend have been overall?

The solution: Avon Yap
A home grown solution for the Minister is to immediately contract the newly set up HR PR company Avon Yap, operating under the corporate umbrella of the TalentToo brand.

As the name suggests, Avon Yap is an outspoken Christchurch-based consultancy which has learnt from recent seismic and the city episodes* and is not afraid to work with Wellington’s movers and shakers. Avon Yap also knows nothing about payroll systems but can offer a better class of PR to tarseal over the cracks and flossy up financial fissures with flair.

Its  corporate missionary position is: “TalentToo divides the power and productivity of people in order to create new jobs… to deliver start to start public relations solutions that put people out first so we can handle the fallout.”

The service centre is in Brisbane. Who are you going to call….?

*Blinks

http://www.talent2.com/home
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8254079/Teachers-owed-12m-thanks-to-Novopay
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/the-education-cluster-bomb/ The Parata Principle
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETxmCCsMoD0  Money Money Money Music video by Abba (C) 1976, possibly the year Novopay was first mooted.
Seismics and the City -When a City Rises  21 March-Be there!

 #Lyall Lukey 3 February 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other (even) less serious blog

 

 


The Education Cluster Bomb and the Parata Principle

October 1, 2012

 ”This will enable decisions about the schooling network to consider housing developments and surrounding infrastructure. It will also facilitate engagement with parents and learners to ensure they play a significant role in deciding the type of education provision that meets their community’s needs,”  Hekia Parata, Minister of Education

Engagement with parents and learners? What about principals and teachers?  More like enragement over the last fortnight because of the way the seismic shake up in education in greater Christchurch has been mismanaged.

There have been enough recent Big Brother announcements on the wider earthquake front without a Big Sister pronouncement to boot. Still feeling rather bruised and fragile, citizens have had to be passive recipients of recent proclamations on the 100 day Central City Recovery Plan, more residential red zoning and the off hand extension of the timeline within which democracy is going to be returned to regional government in Canterbury. The latest shock waves affect several schools, the hearts of their communities for young families and the not so young.

Missed the Cluetrain

As the tsunami of letters to The Press attests the natives are restless but not voiceless about “we know best” decisions, especially if information on which they are made is partly withheld rather than being fully shared. The Cluetrain Manifesto is now 17 years old but some organisations still haven’t got a clue.

Ministers like opening schools, not closing them-ask Trevor Mallard. But for obvious geological, geographic, and demographic reasons there has to be some major post quakes rationalization of education provision in the wider city, with 4400 unused desks.  Many families have left the region; others have moved west and teachers and resources have to follow.

It would be unreasonable to expect a continuation of the post quakes moratorium on staffing changes. Resources have to flow to where the people are now-and where they’ll be when the much vaunted rebuild gets into full gear, with more than 20,000  new workers in the city, many with families.

The sad thing is that the bungled announcement of the initiatives may have inoculated some school communities against some real education changes needed, earthquakes or no earthquakes.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule and the law of the vital few, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The principle helps manage those things that really make a difference to results. Business management consultant Joseph Juran named the principle after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

The Parata Principle

The Parata Principle states that 20% of each Ministry of Education policy announcement will cause so much smoke and fury by the way it is arrived at and delivered that it will be difficult to see any virtues, let alone necessities, in the other 80%.

So it was with the withdrawn class size averaging proposal earlier in the year when the Minister was given a statistical hospital pass by her ministry. Parata initially said that about 90 per cent of schools would either gain or have a net loss of less than one full time equivalent teacher as a result of the combined effect of the changes, hardly justifying the-sky-is-falling-again response in some quarters, but omitted to point out the somewhat larger effects on the other 10%.

So it also was with Canterbury education shake up announcement on 13 September. 173 schools out of 215 were not affected by the announcement-exactly 80%.

Schools assembly
…Blue’s the colour of the sky In the mornin’ when we rise … Green’s the colour of the sparklin’ corn In the mornin’ when we rise…”
Colours  Donovan & Joan Baez 1965*

When they rose that morning, many principals had little idea of the scale of changes about to be detonated. As they arrived at the schools assembly to hear an announcement marred by confusion and mired in bureaucratic terminatorology, principals were given colour coded name tags according to whether their schools were in the proposed optional (or optional proposed) categories of purple “rejuvenate” ( eu-than-ase); orange “consolidate” and green “no change”. The use of colourful weasel words didn’t help schools given a Don’t Come 2013. The blues were soon on parade.

In a (very) mixed media combo consisting of a starter video, ministerial miniseries from Earthquake Minister Brownlee and Education Minister Hekia Parata, it was announced that 13 Christchurch schools would close and 18 could merge. Five Aranui schools would also combine into an education “cluster”. Since they are going to physically be on one site in Hampshire Street a “huddle” or “mob” would have been more appropriate.*

Then principals were then engaged in a DIY breakout activity Find out the Fate of Your School by flicking through the folder of bumf. Look there it is, right at the end!

Feedback and feedforward
”As we move from recovery to renewal, we have an opportunity to realign services with changing community needs and ensure our investment delivers better outcomes for learners and the wider community…’In line with community feedback, we are taking the time to get this right because the benefits to Christchurch and wider New Zealand are tremendous…”  Gerry Brownlee

Community feedback was just about to start, though a lot of people would have appreciated the opportunity for feedforward. Minister Parata said the region’s education sector and wider community had “signaled” support for new approaches to education and this included greater sharing of resources and capital. To achieve that, schools had been grouped into clusters based on their geographic location.

 The Thinking?
…Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinkin’.. Colours 

Just how much thought had gone into the proposals and where was the vision, the big picture? These had been the strengths of the rather draconian 100 Day Central City Plan V1 launched by Minister Brownlee only a few weeks earlier to reconfigure the city after the last of 1600 commercial buildings is demolished. While this was a totally top down process, it picked up on the earlier CCC run Share an Idea exercise in 2011 which allowed thousands of people to initiate ideas not merely respond to them. The 30 July CCDU launch had sold the big picture by articulating clear design principles without getting bogged down on the details, which included some tricky property time bombs.

Now the Earthquake Minister was telling the principals that the region’s education sector had experienced huge disruption since the earthquakes. This was not an entirely novel insight. It certainly had and the sector had shown great flexibility in coping, from site and resource sharing and running learning shifts to more use of mobile information technology.  Teachers and students at the electronic whiteboard and Blackboard face did very well: NCEA results for the region were outstanding despite the dislocation at home and at school.

The Education Minister followed by stating that a strong education system, from early childhood to tertiary, will be critical to the redevelopment of greater Christchurch and its economy in the wake of the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011:
“This is why the Ministry of Education has worked with the community and the sector to develop a Plan for renewal that will meet the educational needs of children and young people, and support social, cultural and economic recovery.
This will involve an investment of up to one billion dollars to develop greater Christchurch as a leading education community positioned to set new standards of excellence in teaching, learning and research.
It also offers a unique opportunity to take an innovative course of action that will improve the delivery of education, extend the options available for learners, and lift student achievement.
The plan for education renewal considers the needs of Learning Community Clusters …”

Post quakes education in Canterbury has been a fascinating laboratory of locally generated ingenuity and innovation. John Laurenson, the Head of Shirley Boys’ High School had posted some innovative post quake ideas for education in East Christchurch on YouTube in June .* Three months later, as top down met bottom up head on like two colliding tectonic plates,  he was blindsided and blindfolded like several of his fellow principals.

Media management: out to launch?
How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101

The devil wasn’t just in the detail, it was also flagged right up front in capital letters in the inept way the announcement was planned and executed in both its professional and media dimensions.

Media management or lack of it was all straight from the manual of How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101, with no obvious  subsequent credits having being earned for the companion programme How to Shelter from Fallout from Panicked Pigeons and Bolted Horses 201.

There was confusion between firm “proposals” and various “options”. The inclusion of the “option” of possibly merging SBHS and CBHS –leaked by NBR and picked up by Stuff before the optimistic embargo expiry time-was rated an emphatic “Not Achieved” in Geography, History and School Culture and brought into question the credibility of other options and proposals (or were they proposed options and optional proposals?)

There had been two rounds of post-quakes education shake up meetings held over the last year or so with hand-picked people, but there seems to have been no meaningful segue to the Renewing Education in Greater Christchurch launch.

Some schools down for closure or amalgamation as firm proposals had prior briefing (a whole one hour prior to the launch), but not CBHS and SBHS, whose geotechnical status had not yet been made available.  Media management on the day fell short. The Ministry didn’t make it easy for participants and media to access online information in real time. In an age of mobile social media and 24/7 news outlets placing an unrealistic 4pm publication embargo only encouraged some media outlets to also go off half cocked while denying principals and Board of Trustees Chairs with the information to pass onto their colleagues.

Not in my schoolyard
“It’s sad for those schools that are involved in closing and merging and we’ve got to sit down, we’ve got to talk about how we can positively work with those proposals and ensure we’ve got a good strong, efficient, effective network for learning in Christchurch.”  Trevor McIntyre, Headmaster of Christchurch Boys’ High *

On Newstalk ZB  and Radio New Zealand the day after the announcement Trevor McIntyre said that while the shake up of Canterbury’s education sector will be difficult for many, a reassessment was needed. Before the announcement, he said, Christchurch principals had been fully aware of the need for changes in the region. But specific proposals for individual schools, he said, are a lot different than generalised discussion about change and renewal across the region.

Banks Avenue School could either be relocated or close as part of the proposals. Principal Murray Edlin said while it will be hard for many, the reorganisation is needed: “Because we’ve had an earthquake, there needed to be a reassessment of what the education provision is for Christchurch. What is really pleasing to see is that this is [only] a proposal, so it certainly gives us an opportunity to have some reaction to it.”*

Some of the other initial comments were less printable. The repercussions of the percussion were suddenly far wider than envisaged. Schools in the west and elsewhere were now on Death Row, not just those in the more affected east.

That Certain Feeling? No Minister

“Christchurch has been very tired but I think suddenly there is a new energy and feel … “I expected people would get upset but we had to give certainty and that’s what we’ve done,” Education Mininster Hekia Parata.

Expectations are very important in education. The Minister ensured that hers were self-fulfilled by managing to simultaneously panic parents, alarm students and irritate principals- the whole trifecta- and provoke calls to the ramparts with banners and posters trivialising the issues but providing a useful steam releasing valve for people sick off fighting earthquake battles and wanting their children’s schools to be havens of normalcy in the new post quakes  abnormal .

In the following days she wouldn’t be drawn on whether schools targeted for closure or amalgamation could hold onto hope. “We’re going to go through a process,… The point of consultation is to explain why their schools are on the proposal . . . hear what people have to say, for them to hear the detail, and then to reach a decision.”

The overhaul was “definitely, emphatically, unequivocally not a cost-cutting measure”. But to fit new needs surely it’s very appropriate for it to be at least a cloth cutting exercise, though one which appreciates the role of schools, especially in rural areas since they are often the last vestige of community now the post offices, the general store and the local church have closed. The same hold true in some suburbs.

Follow Up to Launch
“We have relied on your feedback during consultation on the Education Renewal Recovery Programme ‘Directions for Education Renewal in greater Christchurch’ Lesley Longstone, Ministry of Education Secretary

The Secretary featured two days after the launch in a full page Press ad looking inordinately cheerful in what could have been an old colour holiday snap. At least it was  in red and black. Entitled “To the people of greater Christchurch” the ad started: “As you will have seen or heard, the Government is investing up to ONE BILLION dollars in the renewal of education across greater Christchurch”.

ONE BILLION. What a capital idea! The timeframe of 10 years wasn’t mentioned and it’s not clear how much of this is new money.

 The secret  in strategy formulation is the sequence. Rather than the stages of Preparation, Response, Recovery and Renewal in terms of handling a natural disaster there is the clumsy omnibus concept “Education Renewal Recovery Programme” which scrambled the scale of changes and timelines for implementation. It all seemed rather confused not focused. Opportunities for some broadbased professional and community prior input would have been good, not just feedback.

The next day I couldn’t find anything on the MinEdu site pointing to the announcements, though Saturday’s ad provided an obviously non-hyperlinked url.*  Parata’s  subsequent “stepping back” clarification was a belated exercise in barn door closure. Since Announcement Day a flurry of phone calls, meetings and revised consultative time-lines has brought much less certainty than the Minister averred.

Over a fortnight later a letter regarding the now revised consultation period was hand delivered to the principals of affected schools last Friday. The next day there was a new Press ad under the heading Greater Christchurch Education Renewal (no mention of recovery now): “More community consultation-the next step for schools proposed to be merged or closed.”

More?  I didn’t know we had had any yet.  At least there is now a more realistic timeline for the “consultation process”. Each affected school is left to run its own process “in the way that best suits their school and their school community.”  If they want assistance Minedu will pay for an independent facilitator. “This is your chance to influence what happens.”  Not much chance of that with an atomised process but better late than never I suppose.

Beyond the Status quo

People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord

With the shift in population westwards from the munted east, there had to be more than a degree of rationalization in the provision of education in the wider city. The issues in the west, especially in Selwyn County-where the launch meeting was held-are about handling population expansion already happening apace pre quakes and accelerating since. Scaling up not scaling down is the challenge there.

The Minister’s statement that there is the opportunity to make education in Christchurch better, not just restore the status quo is fair enough, even if it got lost on the day. While some people fear a New Orleans post Katrina privatisation of education in Christchurch, given the scale of the challenges, not to mention the run on Banks, the Charter or “Partnership” school concept is a horse of the stalking rather than the Trojan variety.

This is not the time to merely paper over the physical and metaphorical cracks in education in the region. This is the opportunity to build deep and strong new foundations for differently configured learning communities based on strengthening present and new communities as they respond to seismic and other shocks, including fully coming to terms with the mobile digital revolution and with the implications of a new understanding of the principles and practices of effective learning and teaching from the work of Christchurch educator the late Graham Nuthall  and others.

It is also an opportunity to and explore new methods of governance and the sharing of educational plant and overheads both within learning clusters and with other community organisations. Many schools would benefit from sharing overheads: keeping the professional autonomy bestowed by the original Charter Schools 23 years ago but working more collegially in clusters to share resources and ideas and looking at new forms of governance and overhead cost sharing by taking the burden of property maintenance and other administration off individual principals and boards of trustees so schools can focus on the 20% of the causal factors which leads to 80% of learning outcomes.

 Not Clusters Last Stand
“If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less”.

Earthquakes or not, all learning communities throughout the country should all be open to self-generated efforts to give 1950’s educational arrangements a shake up in a more mobile and connected age with quite different cultural dynamics.

There is a unique opportunity to pick up on some of the exciting experiments post quakes generated by school communities themselves and sometimes facilitated by regional Ministry of Education people, rather than foisted on them from Head Office.

The challenge is to make the shotgun clusters viable while still keeping community identities. Large school aggregations such as that proposed for Aranui will be like scaled up rural area schools in the city. But, whatever the savings through facility and resource sharing, for many small is beautiful. More than 150 in any community and the social dynamics change markedly.

Distributing the Future
”The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. William Gibson

The shame is that the furious furore resulting from the patronizing approach may inoculate some people against a measured and timely response to the demographic and geographic shifts caused by the four major Canterbury quakes and to the real changes needed in teaching and learning, education governance and leadership focused on diverse learning provision appropriate to the second decade of the third millennium not the 1950s..

Of course, some schools are already there and the key to their success is organic self-generated professional development attuned both to the local community and national imperatives. 

MinEdu Report Card: Not Achieved
“The ministry must improve the analysis; the poorest papers lacked a clear problem definition or a coherent framework and failed in identifying major risks,”… Review of the Ministry of Education by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

There are lingering question marks over the performance of the Ministry of Education. An independent review of the ministry’s policy advice about the time Hekia Parata took over suggests a third of its papers are “poor or borderline” and only one-tenth are “good”. The results were no better than an earlier review in 2007.  Papers from the Ministry needed to be “far shorter” and “less repetitive”. Policy advice in the Ministry was graded low. “The ministry should act as a trusted adviser, recommending the best option rather than – more often than not – asking the minister to pick from a long list of options.”*

English import Education Secretary Lesley Longstone was expected to shake things up when she started in 2011.   Parata, also new to the job of Education Minister, said then: “I’ve made my expectations really clear to the new secretary about what it is I want and the pace at which I want it,”… “I’m driving in a particular direction and I need the support and the information and the reliable data in order to be able to do that.” …. My role is to tell her what my expectations are, what success is going to look like, what that means in terms of accountabilities for her.” *

The Ministry of Education needs to accept responsibility at the top level for a poorly orchestrated launch and learn from it. When it comes to dealing with both professionals and the public  it seems that the EQC demonstrates more EQ than the Ministry of Education. More importantly there are also big question marks over the substance of the proposals in terms of their formation and their strategic articulation.

Two successive glitches in the last 3 weeks with the new education payroll, which cost schools throughout the country lots of extra administration time, didn’t help the Ministry’s credibility. But what is needed more than efficiency is effectiveness. Perhaps its time to inject some more new people into the Ministry of Education. Some local Christchurch principals, who are demonstrating beyond their own patch leadership qualities in the present kerfuffle, commend themselves as likely candidates who could balance calls for top down change with an appreciation of the need for bottom up engagement.

Bottoms up to bottom up!

Did I just hear a (very faint) cry of Bring back Anne Tolley…?

*Blinks

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7675704/Principals-in-tears-as-ministry-swings-axe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O87fFRizZY   Vid  Colours Donovan & Joan Baez Classic 1965 recording. Worth a play! 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/7678838/Cluster-schools-out-of-left-field
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7669918/13-Canterbury-schools-to-close-18-to-merge
http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry.aspx   Find the MinEdu’s change paper
http://shapingeducation.minedu.govt.nz   Oh here it is.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7682703/Little-hope-of-Canterbury-school-plan-backdown
http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/regch/792333415-earthquakes-forced-education-rethink—principals
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/6869627/Staff-being-lost-in-big-reforms-of-Education-Ministry
http://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/pif-moe-review-june2011.PDF   Review of Ministry of Education
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwtm2-S95xg  John Laurenson, SBHS Principal. Earlier innovative post quake ideas 11/6/12
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7690199/Schools-lodge-Waitangi-Tribunal-complaints
http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/7712305/Cooperative-people-quicker-to-act 

#Lyall Lukey 1 October 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https: //bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog