Speech to the Global Education Industry Summit – Jerusalem, Israel
Shalom. Tēnā koutou katoa and warm greetings from across the Pacific.
Thank you for the invitation to participate in this Summit. I appreciate the opportunity to share New Zealand’s latest chapter in our ever-evolving education story, and how we’re preparing children and young people to be confident participants in their highly connected and increasingly innovative world.
Ours is a small nation with a far reach and big ambitions.
A critical part of realising those ambitions is to ensure that every young person gets the best possible education so they can be successful in New Zealand and internationally.
That means making sure our education system is characterised by high-quality teaching and excellent leadership so that our young people leave schools as well-rounded, curious, creative problem-solvers, sought after at home and around the world.
With young people globally connected like never before, we need to equip them to be confident lifelong learners. Being prepared for the innovative world won’t just be about what they know, but how they can apply that knowledge.
Quality teaching is recognised by all education systems around the world as key to raising the quality of learning and raising achievement. The question for me as Education Minister is how do I support our teachers and principals to better prepare our kids for the future? The approach I have been taking to answer this is to focus on and improve big system levers that create the conditions in which teachers teach, principals lead, and kids learn.
These include legislation, funding, professional learning and development, data, infrastructure, school and pre-school operations, and post-school options. I’ve distributed our ‘puzzle card’ which depicts these system levers together with references for anyone who is interested.
New teacher and principal roles
One of the major education initiatives in New Zealand that I’ve been responsible for is Investing in Educational Success. It has three parts – the formation of Communities of Learning, the establishment of a Teacher-Led Innovation Fund, and incentivising experienced principals to lead struggling schools.
A core part of this initiative is a formal configuration of early learning providers and schools into Communities of Learning that track the pathway of individual students through their education, from 0-18 years of age.
This new way of working is bringing schools and early childhood education providers together, sometimes for the first time. Instead of the child being the focus of this teacher this year, they will be the focus of all teachers every year as they progress through their Community of Learning. That’s our ambition. Breaking down barriers, easing transitions and ending decades of roll competition.
This initiative focusses on lifting student achievement through shared student data, which is collectively analysed and collaboratively implemented - as well as offering new career opportunities for teachers and principals.
I’m delighted that more than half of New Zealand’s schools are now in Communities of Learning. We have 148 Communities across New Zealand with over 1,260 schools, providing for 410,000 children and young people. That’s very pleasing for just over 18 months of implementation!
The Communities are funded to recruit expert teachers and leaders into three new roles: an overall Community of Learning Leader – a new flat and facilitative leadership role; an Across School Teacher with considerable expert teaching practice working across all schools in the community; and Within School Teachers, exemplary classroom based practitioners – all of whom complement the full body of professionals in the Community to support the achievement challenges of their Community.
To consistently produce life-long learners who will be confident in the innovative 21st century world, we need every teacher to be striving for excellence in their teaching. Communities of Learning will enable already excellent teachers to share best practice with their peers so that we can lift the quality of teaching in schools across the country. We want best practice to become common practice.
Teacher-led Innovation Fund
Another part of the Investing in Educational Success initiative that will be of particular interest to this Summit is our Teacher-led Innovation Fund.
This fund fosters teams of teachers to work in partnership with experts to develop innovative teaching practices to raise achievement. The aim is to support teachers’ bright ideas and scale up what works across the education system.
The fund has captured the imagination of teachers and is resulting in some really exciting projects. It has been so successful that I have sourced further funding to expand and extend the fund.
Shortly before I left New Zealand, I visited a school in the south of the South Island of NZ which has received funding from the Teacher-led Innovation Fund to establish an urban farm on school land to grow… critical thinking!
They are building bee-hives made out of recycled materials and selling them around the world; turning food waste from the school into liquid fertilizer and will be using this for the plantings on their farm. In addition, they are partnering with another school to foster literacy through sport and in class movement.
Another project at a different school saw it link up with the local airforce base to learn about physics.
These innovative projects are all about reaching out to others to use real world examples to inspire and engage students in areas like science and technology.
I’m really excited about what other projects our innovative teachers can come up with to inspire our inventors and innovators of the future.
Developing teachers’ skills required for the use of technology
We have to support teachers to develop their skills and capabilities in digital technologies.
We’ve all had the experience of coming across a new piece of technology and that feeling of not knowing how it works whilst a toddler whizzes through it showing you where their favourite app is!
Keeping up with the changing face of modern technology can be tough.
Digital fluency is the new universal language of the 21st century. To participate successfully in society and get the jobs and careers they want, our young people will need to be confident using a broad range of digital technologies in a variety of settings.
Earlier this year I made the decision to explicitly strengthen digital technologies within our national curriculum for schools.
We are now working collaboratively with education and industry experts designing, developing and implementing new curriculum content to support students to gain the skills and knowledge they need to be confident creators and users of digital technologies. Our teachers have to also be confident with new technologies. To ensure they’re well-equipped to support modern learners, we are making major changes to improve our centrally-funded professional learning and development support.
We are changing not only what we focus on, but who delivers it, and how schools and Communities of Learning can access it.
Communities of Online Learning
A further milestone in navigating our way into innovative education in New Zealand is the provision in our education legislation currently going through our parliamentary process for Communities of Online Learning.
I see this new option as supplementing, complementing, or even fulltime provision of online learning. Use of digital technologies, communicating through digital space, creating and innovating are becoming central to 21st century success.
The common theme for New Zealand of building excellent teaching practice comes from encouraging collaboration and innovation. Providing the best support we can to those teachers willing to act on their ideas and think creatively not only inside the classroom but outside of it too. We are building a coalition of the willing.
It is in all our interests to support our young people to strive to be the best they can, to reach for the stars and to start realising their potential.