Assistant Principal and economics and business teacher Mark Snoad looks at some hot education issues, including is tradition enough? thinking differently, are we preparing students for a future that doesn't exist? prophets of doom, and more

Assistant Principal and economics and business teacher Mark Snoad looks at some hot education issues, including is tradition enough? thinking differently, are we preparing students for a future that doesn't exist? prophets of doom, and more

Today's Top 10 is a guest post with an educational perspective from Mark Snoad, Assistant Principal and economics and business teacher at Ormiston Senior College in Auckland.

As always, we welcome your additions in the comments below or via email to

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See all previous Top 10s here.

1. A Principal’s challenge: Too dangerous!

When the Principal of Auckland Grammar speaks we should listen. For isn’t Auckland Grammar the the best school in New Zealand? The property prices in the Grammar zone certainly indicate the high esteem in which the school is held, with families paying whatever price is necessary to give their sons the best education possible. But how do we know it is the best education possible?

Words like legacy, tradition, heritage and the pursuit of academic excellence fit Auckland Grammar like no other. But is it enough? Is the ability to reproduce memorized information in a time-pressured exam situation the best we can do? Is Auckland Grammar the shining light in the encroaching darkness of ignorance, or are they the stubborn bastion of an outdated view of the world?

"We are going to be going into a deep, dark place in what I see as a lack of responsibility by the adults for the children in this conversation…I frankly believe that the removal of NCEA Level 1 in the manner that they are describing it - literacy and numeracy and even having a conversation about does financial and civic literacy fit into that definition of literacy - is a very, very dangerous start." - (NZ Herald, 28 May 2018)

2. A student’s plea: prepare us better!

When a student speaks we should listen. For aren’t they our future? Aren’t they the ones that are experiencing first-hand the education we are so forthrightly fostering on them? Or does their opinion really not matter? Some might argue that teenagers lack the experience, insight and perspective needed to make judgements about the quality of the education system. But maybe that is just another outdated view of the world.

Students are excited and passionate about learning. They care about the world. They care about their place in the world, and they will be the ones most impacted by the rapid changes taking place in the world.

“Ask students how food production will drastically change in the next 15 years, how the internet of things will likely influence the way our future world operates, how rapid advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and drones will drastically change entire industries and most will struggle to provide a meaningful answer. That isn’t our fault. We aren’t taught or shown it in school. This is a travesty for us students and a sad indictment on our education system. But, to be fair, most teachers and educators aren’t aware of these things either.” - (www.Education, 28 May 2018)

3. A writer’s encouragement: we must think differently!

What is the goal of education? Is it about producing work-ready young people, able to be highly productive employees that will improve our international competitiveness? Or is it about equipping young people with the skills, attributes and characteristics that will enable them to learn, and keep on learning? Or is it about developing young people to be active, engaged and informed citizens?

Or is it all of the above? Should the goal of education be to prepare young people for life, work and citizenship? If so, then what models of learning are needed? What paradigms need to change?  Teaching only for test success is surely not going to cut it any longer.

“We are still trying to ‘tweak’ an outdated model - akin to believing you can transform a 1915 Model T Ford into a 2015 Ford Focus by adjusting bits of it, one or two at a time. The reality remains - the fundamental way secondary schools are structured for learning have changed very little in the past century. We still maintain a model that was designed for a world that no longer exists and based on theories and beliefs that have no place in today’s world” - National Business Review, 29 May 2015)

4. So, are we preparing students for a future that doesn’t exist?

What are the skills our young people need to be equipped with? How do we know? Can we examine the skills needed in the past to inform us about the skills needed in the future? It is certainly something which adults are more comfortable with. We understand curriculum, subjects and exams. We understand percentage marks. But is that still the best we can do?

We can’t all create our own private schools like Elon Musk, and we probably don’t want to. Not if we want to foster citizenship, social cohesion, understanding and tolerance. But maybe we do need to seriously think about what and how we teach.

“In order for people to keep up, adapt, and work alongside effectively with highly capable machines, they will require a very different set of skills. So the skill transitions are going to be quite substantial. That’s why we’re having a conversation now, and we’re starting to have a conversation about retraining and reskilling, especially for mid-career workers, who may have grown up in one environment with a certain set of skills and are now having to move into new occupations. Or, even if they’re in the same occupation, that occupation now requires a higher level of skills in order to be valued and continue to be effective.” - (McKinsey Global Institute, December 2017)

5. Prophets of Doom.

Near the turn of the 20th Century, the world was grappling with a seemingly insurmountable problem – horse dung. The horse was the epicenter of economic activity, with the complete dominance of the horse continuing on for the foreseeable future. A worldwide meeting of urban planners in 1898 collapsed due to the absence of any possible solutions.

What is our horse? Is it exams? Is it assessment? Is it the belief that the most important tools a teacher should employ are control and authority? Is it timetable? Is it single isolated subjects? Is it qualifications? Are we unable to envision a possible future without our much beloved ‘horse’?

“The problem did indeed seem intractable. The larger and richer that cities became, the more horses they needed to function. The more horses, the more manure. Writing in the Times of London in 1894, one writer estimated that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure. Moreover, all these horses had to be stabled, which used up ever-larger areas of increasingly valuable land. And as the number of horses grew, ever-more land had to be devoted to producing hay to feed them (rather than producing food for people), and this had to be brought into cities and distributed—by horse-drawn vehicles. It seemed that urban civilization was doomed.” - (Foundation for Economic Education, FEE, 01 September 2004)

6. What’s really going on in Finland?

Finland, with a population of about five and a half million people, often ranks amongst the top 5 or 10 countries in the world for education. Why? What are they doing right and can we learn anything from their approach to education?

One interesting characteristic is the lack of standardized testing. Teachers are instead trained to issue their own tests. While it might make it difficult for the media to produce league tables, or for parents to decide what is the ‘best’ school, it does seem to foster greater collaboration and cooperation between schools. We may not hold this to be important, but it is a feature of the Finnish system that is working for them.

“There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded. The people in the government agencies running them, from national officials to local authorities, are educators, not business people, military leaders or career politicians. Every school has the same national goals and draws from the same pool of university-trained educators. The result is that a Finnish child has a good shot at getting the same quality education no matter whether he or she lives in a rural village or a university town.” - (, September 2011)

7. The Graveyard of Creativity.

The most watched TED talk remains the talk given by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006. Entitled “Do schools kill creativity?” Sir Ken Robinson contends that we don’t grow into creativity, we instead grow out of it. Or, to put it more correctly, we get creativity educated out of us.

A 2016 report by the World Economic Forum suggested 16 skills that students need for 21st Century. Along with foundational literacies there are competencies such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and yes, creativity. So how does our education system, how do our schools, help our students develop these competencies? How do we create the conditions for creativity to flourish?

“And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents. And we squander them, pretty ruthlessly. So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status…Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.” - (TED Talks, Ken Robinson, TED 2006)

8. Innovation Ready.

Tony Wagner, a Harvard education specialist, believes that current education programmes do not consistently add the values and teach the skills that matter most in the marketplace. There is at least one New Zealand provider that would wholeheartedly disagree with Tony, and that is Young Enterprise.

I am unashamedly biased in favour of enterprise education. One of the most powerful learning experiences I have been involved with is the Young Enterprise Pitch or Dragons Den activity. A group of students pitching their idea in 5 minutes to a panel of adults. 21st Century competencies abound. As does the surge in confidence and belief after students achieve what they thought they couldn’t do.

“Today,” he said via e-mail, “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’” - (New York Times, 30 March 2013)

9. Wanted: Teachers.

Of course, we cannot discuss education without discussing the most vital element, teachers. And although using the PPTA as a source may risk cries of bias, the statistics being presented are well worth examining. In New Zealand we have more and more students being taught by less and less teachers, teachers that are all aging.

And we are not alone. It doesn’t require an extensive search to identify an alarming global trend of a teacher shortage, even a severe one. Which begs the question, where are we going to get more teachers from? We can’t very easily import them from other countries. There’s likely to be a shortage of teachers in those countries too.

“Student numbers are growing at a rapid rate – there will be 10 percent more secondary school students by 2025. It’s affecting students right now; there aren't enough teachers.  Four out of every five secondary school principals have had to cancel classes, cut courses and leave vacancies unfilled because of the shortages. New teacher numbers are dropping; the past 10 years have seen a 38 percent decrease in the number of new secondary teachers graduating. Teachers are getting older; the aging teacher workforce is making the teacher shortage even worse. More than one in five secondary teachers is over 60.” - (

10. Better Work Stories.

In hopefully an acceptable break from TOP 10 convention, I thought to finish by sharing a few real examples from my teaching career of the creativity and genius of our New Zealand young people. All of which are true…

A Year 13 Economics class in Mt Roskill studying Monetary Policy…

Teacher: “Do you know why the Reserve Bank Governor gets such a high salary?”

Students: no response

Teacher: “Because of all of the bank notes he has to sign.”

Students: still no response.

Teacher: “You’ll see his signature on all of our currency. He sits at his desk with a big pile of unsigned banknotes on one side and he takes each one and signs it (teacher shows this action). It takes him a very long time.”

Overenthusiastic student at the back: “Sir. Sir!”

Teacher: “Yes?”

Student: “That’s stupid… why don’t they just give him a stamp.”

A Year 12 Economics class in Ormiston, investigating how the EQC gets its funds…

Student: “Every policyholder has to pay the EQC $67.50.”

Teacher: “And what does policyholder mean?”

Student (after thinking for a bit): “It means the government.”

Teacher: “The government?”

Student: “Yes. Every time the Prime Minister comes up with a new policy, EQC charges them $67.50.”

A student leader on a Duke of Edinburgh tramp on Motutapu Island…

Teacher: “Is everything alright?”

Student: “Yes.”

Teacher: “Why didn’t you answer your radio?”

Student: “Sir, a cow stole our radio.”

Teacher: “What?”

Student (emphatically): “A cow stole our radio.”

It turns out that the noise of the radio (walkie-talkie) attracted the attention of some cows, who came to investigate. The student leader, looking up and seeing the cows, panicked, dropped the radio and ran off. The still functioning radio became the focal point for the cows and thus the student leader surmised that a cow stole his radio.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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One of the best Top-10's in a while - thanks

Not convinced that Finland has the best education unless education isn’t measured by the academic ability of school leavers.
My research indicates that Finland has been dropping down the rankings with its novel approach to education whilst East Asian countries that focus on exams have been rising.

I guess more of them are able to pay for A grade passes

Perhaps not the best, but certainly the fairest.
The PISA rankings are a farce as many countries use these as a one-up on other countries..some are even prepared to 'prepare students' for these international tests. Interesting you mention the East-Asian countries above as focusing on exams.

What I constitute as a successful student: Confident, an ability to collaborate with others including adults, apply skills and knowledge learned, demonstrate resilience when faced with challenges and finally, have some passion about something that will make them happy and contribute to society.

Idealistic, yes. I've worked with students who to be frank - are lost of their identity and purpose in life.

As a teacher of 16 years, having taught in the UK and NZ it is clear that NZ is following a competitive model based education system where results and league tables allow the well-to-do parents to cherry pick the best schools and subsequently the more engaged and motivated teachers.

We've all heard the stories from inner-city schools in London/Birmingham/Manchester etc where kids from the estate run the place and relief teachers predominantly from the antipodes get in and out before they are toasted.
There is no teaching or learning for that matter in these schools and the problem is evident in some schools around NZ. Some Auckland schools will soon or later experience similar problems because of this modelling of education in NZ and the teacher shortages which has raised media attention in the past 12 months.

With less than 25% of students heading off to University, then how does our education system currently work for the other 75%?
If we keep ramming Algebra and English Lit down the throats of students who aren't necessarily interested then what is the point?
Perhaps focusing on soft skills and identifying areas that are applicable to the workforce are necessary for their future careers. Employers will often argue some young people don't have the social skills or reliability or stick-ability in the workplace.

I thank Mark Snoad for this article and if anyone is interested in a good book "The disobedient teacher' by Welby Ings highlights many of the issues associated with NZ education but provides plenty of insight as to what incredible young people we have in this country even if they don't top the PISA rankings internationally.

Thank you. ""Confident, an ability to collaborate with others including adults, apply skills and knowledge learned, demonstrate resilience when faced with challenges and finally, have some passion about something that will make them happy and contribute to society."" that is not a bad target.
However there is room for some variety - meaning all students should have some confidence but some need it injected in and others need more humility. There are a variety of adult lives (thank the lord) so for some teamwork is essential (say large scale laying concrete) and others in solitary tasks (say using a concrete cutter to make expansion gaps once it has dried). I like your 'some passion' - the use of the 'some' is critical.
Is it true that less than 25% go to uni? I remember a few years ago in Scotland it reached 50%. There certainly seems to be an excess of tertiary education - meaning the only purpose is getting the paper qualification not actually learning something that will be useful.
Our society gives kudos to money; the solution to education is simply giving teachers more pay - very simple. Of course a sane society would reward teachers with pay inversely related to the age of the kids - teaching 5 year olds is more demanding and far more important then teaching 17 year olds (besides I could to the latter but not the former).

"" what incredible young people we have in this country "". Really? Do you mean Kiwi kids are more incredible than the kids in other countries??

Not in comparison to other countries and besides, many of our young Kiwis travel, become entrepreneurs and have talents far greater than any of us 'older' folk could wish for.

That is the problem when we compare students from other countries with our own.
A Japanese student, proficient in Mathematics as a mechanic may not have the problem solving skills of a less proficient Kiwi Mathematics student.

Simply put, the sooner we stop comparing one another the better we will all be for learning and our future.
It's a pointless exercise that tells us very little about the 'human' component.

Typical pseudo-progressive stuff from those who have climbed the greasy pole of educational leadership which requires strict religious commitment to current groupthink in education: MLEs, group inquiry projects, endless trotting out of Sir Ken (who has never taught full-time, let alone in a tough school), zealous love of "21st Century Competencies". It's all very standard upword stuff and classroom teachers are forced to listen to overpaid consultants spout it at annoying PD meetings whilst secretly dreaming of getting some actual marking and planning done.....

Problem is, despite all the hoopla and "reform" of our education system with lots of ipads and authentic cross-curricula inquiry projects and an end to traditional subjects etc, our children are less literate, numerate and worse prepared to be active participants in the economy and polity than ever before. What we are churning out is a huge amount of educational inequality where middle-class kids get the gaps filled in at home or by going private or by buying in grammar zones, whereas poor kids are left to suffer the progressive pedagogy and don't develop the automised skills of literacy and numeracy that are required to succeed in education.

Most teachers I talk to moan about three deteriorations: behaviour, literacy and numeracy. It gets worse each year. So many students enter Year 9 way below standard and then can't cope and end up taking tourism or retail because maths and science are beyond them.

I would be much more enthusiastic about the 21st Century learning stuff if you could show me strong evidence of improvement in social mobility via education in NZ in the last 10-15 years. Sadly you can't. Education is no longer the way out for working class kids.

I'm a socialist. But I want nothing to do with the so-called progressive education methods. They aren't progressive.

cs... Well said.

Couldn’t agree more. Sadly, our younger generations will be prime fodder and slaves to the new Chinese owners of the future NZ. However, they’ll be too busy on their iPads playing games to notice.

I saw a graph somewhere showing the maths attainment of the bottom decile of Chinese students (the poorest) out-performed the top decile of UK students. Now that says something about the value of direct instruction, deliberate practice, whole class teaching and the sheer bloody minded conviction that all students can learn if taught properly and if culture and society decide that education has value. We have ourselves to blame if the East Asians out-innovate us all.

Does being good at math equal being good at innovation?

Learning by rote most certainly does not. Innovation comes from creative thinking, rote learning pretty much hammers that out of a kid.

In a high-tech world it will be the key to the STEM field which is where the key innovations take place and where the good jobs will be. That's why I take a keen interest in my child's maths.

That's good but not all kids are good at maths, in fact, I believe there is a similar thing in maths as dyslexia in reading. I think I may be one of them. I can read the page of a book in nothing flat, but put numerals in front of me and they just swirl around on the page.

Perhaps a few have a learning disability. I believe good teaching is the key for 99%. Otherwise why would there be such huge cross country differentials. Why do kids do so much better in East Asia at maths? Genetic superiority?

Could be? Not beyond the realms of possibility. You also see Asian kids shining in music and golf (Lydia Ko, Danny Lee), and in that I see parents who have forced kids to be what they demand them to be. Lydia Ko is quite possibly all golfed out, already and what is she, 20 21? Then we see little kids playing complicated music, but tell you what, I struggle to see any soul in what they produce, do they compose their own music? I don't think tiger parenting has that much to recommend it, what happens to all those who don't make the cut?
You harked back to a time when education was much more disciplined (torture) but you failed to mention that for those who went on to greatness there were thousands an thousands who did not, who were illiterate, living in the same world. We seek to educate all, not all have the same ability or talents.
There is plenty of room for structure in children's lives there is not much for force. And kids need to be kids, I wonder if Lydia Ko would have preferred climbing trees or painting or even calculus to playing golf, did she get a chance to experiment and find out?


Our future generations being slaves seems rather optimistic.

You are right and we are up to the generations coming along after the gamers, who are ignored and neglected, silent, while their parents play whatever the latest game is on the Playstation.
I saw that exact scenario a couple of days ago on a job in a house, dad home with toddler, flat out on the Playstation, toddler just standing there, thumb in mouth, dad not speaking to him or playing with him, engrossed with what was on the screen. I spoke to the wee one, no reaction. I was going to speak to the guy (none of my business, but all of my business) but by the time I'd finished the job I was doing he'd stopped and moved on to Netflix or something.
Nice family, but I feel so sorry for wee kid and all the other wee kids like him.

And when kids come into school with low verbal ability it all snowballs from there.

What happens outside of school is more important than what happens within. We now expect teachers to be pseudo parents. That is a bloody big ask when there is 30 of them in front of you.
As I said somewhere else, kids default setting is to learn, if it wasn't we would be well extinct by now, if they are not keen to learn, then somewhere along the line it has been destroyed in them.

4. No we are not, and "working along side machines" is just one vision does not make the future so.
5. When looking at the outflows from rivers where the Amish pre-dominantly live/farm we see a environmental problem from, yes animal manure. So the Q is when oil has gone and we are back with organic farming techniques will be have even worse environmental problems?

Comes back too too many people every time.

Of course this as normal falls on deaf ears as the common belief is we can exponentially expand for ever on a finite planet....

This shortage of CO2 is really getting out of hand. "Food wholesaler Booker is rationing beer and cider because of a shortage of CO2 used in carbonated drinks.

The Tesco-owned retailer, which is used by bars, restaurants and traders, is capping customers to 10 cases of beer, and five of cider or soft drinks.

It is more evidence that a scarcity of CO2 is hurting the food and drink sectors, and comes after Heineken and Coca-Cola faced disruption.

Scotland's biggest abattoir has halted operations because of the gas shortage.

Quality Pork Limited (QPL), at Brechin, which puts 6,000 pigs a week through its production line, stopped operations on Tuesday afternoon because it ran out of CO2 used to stun the animals before slaughter."

Humpf. Sounds like not a lot has changed in the last fifty years. I found the whole education process difficult, as much a survival course as anything, and I was fairly bright. There was interesting content here and there, but I think the fault lies elsewhere. The subjects I did best at were the ones where there were real concepts, not wishy washy twaddle. I couldn't stand history or geography, but once you leave school these are fascinating subjects. These subjects were taught as conceptual concept free zones, unlike physics or metalwork, which were concept rich.

I suspect the problem lies in academia itself, where it is in a silo and not subjected to the rough and tumble of feedback from reality then a situation arises where the most abstract theory becomes mistaken for the most useful. Contrast that with Rutherford. His experimental work discovered something unthought of and unimagined, the atomic nucleus, completely outside the theoretical possibilties of his age.

History and geography are wishy washy twaddle without real concepts?

No, they are fascinating rich subjects that were taught appallingly badly. Just like in the first cartoon. I just don't think it was the teachers' fault, some were excellent teachers.

One of my engineering lecturers told us that he believed his job was to tell us how to find information sources and then to use them. Any rote learner would have been left behind despite dedication to their aimed result.

Yes but in order to use those resources you need to be able to read them, understand them, perhaps follow the equations and formula and diagrams in them and then use them to formulate an essay or complete an assignment. That requires you to have fully automated English and maths "skills" (as much as I hate that overused word). You need to be able to take that knowledge for granted in order to devote your attention to higher level research. Unfortunately our kids arrive at high school often very far behind where they should be and a good chunk of them never attain functional literacy and numeracy. "Rote learning" in the sense of knowing how to write effortlessly, knowing how to read efficiently, having had exposure to a vast vocabulary, having lots of fully automated mathematical knowledge (like being able to add two fractions or find a lowest common denominator or understand how to factorise a quadratic or convert a decimal to a percentage) is vital for higher learning. People underestimate the cognitve load imposed by not having those abilities automatised. Our kids are at risk of not having those skills sorted. Every year universities moan about the standards and how they are dropping. Note how reading levels are dropping - i.e. PIRLS - and not just for poor kids - for all our kids. Half of NZ's 9 year olds can't add two three digit numbers -TIMMS 2012. This is because the basics are being neglected because they are seen as "boring". Direct instruction and deliberate practice are needed and if young kids don't get them enough early on they rarely catch up later on.

See my comment above about the near catatonic toddler while his dad played playstation or whatever. For all that technology is leading us forward, much of us is imprisoning and destroying us.
Kids default setting is to learn, it actually has to be knocked out of them. It is very easy for most kids to learn to read and write, bar a few exceptions with particular learning disabilities.
One thing I noticed with my grandkids, all taught alternatively, is that left till later, reading and writing almost comes by itself, it needs not a lot of pushing if not done too early. Forcing it earlier compromises the creative, storytelling ability of kids who live in their own imaginations for quite a long longer than 5 years old.
While education among Asian people is pushed earlier and earlier, I believe the ability to be creative and to innovate lose out, art, music and inventiveness suffer.

In my experience as a teacher, Chinese and Asian kids are the most creative and successful because they have a solid academic base to work from and are extremely hard-working. Creativity needs a foundation of knowledge - Shakespeare studied hard to become who he became. You should read about the strict academic Eton education of John Maynard Keynes - the likes of which today's best and brightest could never manage. The rigour of it is what gave us the breakthrough of the General Theory. The myth of the drone-like Chinese nerd is a myth.

Are you teaching them here or there?

School is just another stage in life's journey. If you want to learn you will. If you don't you won't. Back in my day you were forced to learn. These days... I'm not so sure. But there's a lot of people out there who just don't want to learn. Anything! And there are people out there who don't value our education because it's mostly in English. Then there are those who will travel half way round the world and pay good money to be inside our education system. Each will take from it what they will. I wish I'd listened earlier. But that's my problem.

That's a cop out. Kids don't know what's good for them - any parent can attest to that. Adults need to take control and ensure that they learn whether they want to or not. Otherwise they are crippled for life both in economic terms and the fact that art, culture, literature, science are all closed avenues for enjoyment and fulfillment. It's not your problem you didn't learn as a kid. It's the adults around you not caring enough. My child would like nothing more than sitting around eating lollies and playing Minecraft all day or watching Cookie Swirl infomercials on YouTube. But I force her to read, do her maths homework and eat cabbage. Our education system gives up on kids who appear to "not be suited to academic pursuits" way too quickly cause it's "hard".

Anyone send their kids to a Steiner school?

My grandkids go to one, basically the philosophy is to educate the whole person and that there is no need to rush things. They do bring out creativity and inventiveness. They eschew technology until quite late. I think the kids are the better for it.

We can't even begin to discuss preparing children for a future requiring critical thinking skills when we are still allowing religious groups to come into our secular state primary schools to teach religious faith. It's an abuse of our education system and it needs to stop. See more:

I agree 100%. Our children need to learn Science, Physics, Biology etc.... An educated society has no place for the old religious social constructs also know as "Social Engineering" in our future, if we are to reach our full potential. More people have died, globally, due to religious conflicts and wars based on religion, than any natural occurance such as volcanic activity, earthquakes, even epidemics like the Spanish Flu that wiped out millions and yet stupid beliefs still kill more stupid people everyday! Enough!!

Further more, I must admit that my daughter recently graduated with a BA from Auckland University and double majored in Sociology and Criminology. She is now half way through her Honours Degree and she will agree that our existing social constructs which make up society today are to blame for so much of our current issues that still exist today. I am hoping that our younger generations have the fight and the intelligence to start breaking down these social constructions that are well past their use by dates!

As a strong atheist for over 50 years I disagree. Religion serves many purposes and has been highly significant for the majority of people and especially the more thoughtful people since historic records began. You cannot just throw it out without leaving a vacuum into which even more dangerous ideas can thrive (ref Trotskism, Maoism). Education must cover religion - explain its successes and failures - it is very difficult to teach religion without offending one group or another so maybe just an introduction from adherents is OK. No need for a regular RI class but just accept that any child who leaves school with no idea of the main religions (Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc) is dangerously uneducated. I suspect it is not a coincidence that as attendance at religious services has declined our society is often supersitious and it is hard to find a major popular film that is not centred on super-powers (the supernatural).
Trust the ability of teachers to teach critical thinking. .

You make a number of false claims that require a response. You sound more like a Christian apologist than an atheist!

1. Religion serving a purpose does not justify it. Lots of delusions serve a purpose. Heroin serves a purpose.
2. Declining religion obviously doesn't mean there will be a vacuum. It will be replaced and quite possibly with something better. There is no reason to believe it must be worse.
3. Religious Instruction is not Religious Education. Religious instruction is like a Sunday school bible class whereas religious education is academic. There is no justification for RI in secular schooling.
4. Your claim that superstition has increased as church attendance has declined is baseless and also funny. Religion is just a popular form of superstition.

In response to Tainui on social constructs and postmodernism, ,I'd like to quote Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and author of the recent No. 2 book on Amazon "12 rules for life" which young men in their droves have been buying because they want some foundations, some clue as to how to take responsiblity, and who are sick of hearing postmodern fantasies at university.

“And so since the 1970s, under the guise of postmodernism, we’ve seen the rapid expansion of identity politics throughout the universities,” he said. “It’s come to dominate all of the humanities—which are dead as far as I can tell—and a huge proportion of the social sciences.”

“We’ve been publicly funding extremely radical, postmodern leftist thinkers who are hellbent on demolishing the fundamental substructure of Western civilization. And that’s no paranoid delusion. That’s their self-admitted goal,” he said, noting that their philosophy is heavily based in the ideas of French philosopher Jacques Derrida, “who, I think, most trenchantly formulated the anti-Western philosophy that is being pursued so assiduously by the radical left.”

For me personally, and Having been through university and experienced a postmodern approach to education (which is found in the social sciences and psychology), I can truly say that freedom of speech in university lecture halls has for the most part gone. Postmodernism and believing that everything is a social construct fuels the rise of the globalists who believe in equality of outcomes, no matter what. Thats just not reality. And no we can't all hold hands and play nicely all the time. But at least with some moral compasses and foundations, such asthose found in our Judao-Christian roots we have some clue as to what is right, true and just.

"Judao-Christian roots" you say? Isn't cultural Marxism a natural descendant of Judeo-Christian ideology?

We need to get back to our true roots and for that we need the forest spirits and the Wicker Man.

Jordan Peterson raises a very meaningful critique to the current climate of extreme post-modernism.

However, I think it's a mistake to refer to left or right in this context. Left and right are IMO certainly changing social constructs that have very little to do with the original political spectrum that they helped democracy thrash out. We have some cultish abomination of that now.

And the concern for me, is the cult like following that Jordan Peterson has, which is not dissimilar to the cult-like behaviour of the extreme-post-modernist crowd in western universities that he is criticising.

We do seem to have a monstrous, exaggerated extreme version of post-modernism that has taken the thought experiments to the farcical. Something akin to the 1984 thought police thinking, which is itself just as oppressive as some of the previous narratives that they have sought to replace. But it would be a mistake to go to the other extreme and dismiss post-modern thought entirely. Why do we have to set up camps on either end of an extreme polarity?

Because social media and the immediacy possible with the movement of electrons across vast networks, amplify the 'crooked timber' (Shakespeare) of our nature.

Tribalism, at the speed of light. Pick yer's virtual pitchforks and torches, which every now and then lurch into the real world, causing havoc.

Waymad, you're right of course. But it sucks *grumbles*.

I used to be a prolific user of social media, a couple of years ago, I decided it was a bunch of balls (a futile, unhealthy, unproductive time vacuum). I use it for work, but not socially anymore. If I had remained an active social media participant, i'd be even more of an embittered misanthrope than I already am.

Education needs a complete revamp.

1) Subjects should be done by topic, eg algebra 101, say over a 4 week period, with a test of some type that shows you understand that topic at the end of the 4 weeks.

2) No more end of year exams. Why should anyone (even at university) have to try & remember a whole years education. I don't have to do it at work - its a useless skill.

3) There should be a minimum set of reading, writing, maths related topics + some physical activity/education that everyone does.

4) Having done the minimum set, students should be able to progress at their own speed and do whatever topics they want.

5) There will be some topics where students have to group together to complete, e.g say, drama / play performance.

6) Teachers aren't needed, lessons can be put on the internet (NZ can copyright the lessons & franchise them). The internet lessons can be voted on so that the best NZ teachers are included in the online lessons. The lessons can be done in different styles as required to reflect the different way people learn. There was nothing worse at school as a student than having to sit through boring lessons or being taught by teachers that couldn't teach. The teachers need to instead act as guides and helping hands.

7) Clearly then it would then be possible to have topics in creativity, entrepreneurship, budgeting etc that students can take. Topics can even be process based like IB schools where a project is covered from initial objectives & research through to conclusions & lessons learned.

8) The employers could then be more heavily involved by clearly indicating via a centralised website the topics they want their future new employees to have & how many are needed. I.e. There needs to be the ability to aggregate what all employers are seeking from school / uni / polytech graduates (topics learnt) vs wage/salary - the students can then make more informed choices about what topics they want to do.

9) School zoning should be done away with. Where there is excess demand for a school, parents can bid to send their children there. Those schools would receive reduced government funding & the other schools more.

#9 - haven't you read the Auckland real estate ads? Parents are already bidding for schools they prefer.

Sounds in part a lot like the system we already have. Problem with this "chunked" module style learning is that it doesn't promote holistic subject knowledge or long term memory of concepts. Hence universities moan their intake doesn't have adequate maths preparation sporadically in the media - "oh but we DID algebra for six weeks" - come on.... You can't do algebra for six weeks and then say you have grasped it. It makes for shallow knowledge and a lot of catch up is needed at tertiary level. Once over lightly is the NCEA reality.

Antidote to all this pseudo progressive stuff - Katharine Birbalsingh's Michaela School in London - proving poor kids can achieve academically and don't need to be relegated to the "oh let's develop their soft skills" scrap heap. Watch this space. I suspect their first GCSE results will be very good and prove that a neo-traditional approach works.

The have a no excuses discipline policy, an emphasis on knowledge and using cognitive science to ensure lots of repetition and revision and self-quizing to fully absorb concepts. Listening to these poor black london kids speak French with gorgeous accents is amazing. Looking at the rigour of their maths curriculum is amazing. Encouragement to recite poetry. Vegetarian lunches every day with the teachers in a family meal setting (something poor kids don't always get - family meals where you discuss art and politics).

And it is a non selective school in Brent with largely non-white poor kids. But they have got smart people teaching them who reject the current orthodoxy. Check them out for a change rather than always privileging the edu-jargon team.

There have always been kids at school that won't learn,but years ago they could still get a job.
Kids that won't or can;t learn have increased 10 fold since pre schools started.The kids are missing out on education by parents.

Schools and education are great except they don't do the really imporrtant stuff. Grit and determination and a knowing right from wrong are far more important than anything learned at school.

A friend was telling me about a Jewish boy arriving in Auckland after the war age 11 with zero English and zero schooling after surviving a concentration camp for 5 years. Ended up as Auckland Grammar top scholar. It doesn't seem to matter how you teach what matters is determination to succeed and of course some inborn aptitude.

The things with 7. and the Ken Robinson Ted talk is that it's nonsense. Utter nonsense.

Some of the greatest flourishings of human creativity and inventiveness came during periods of education that was the most autocratic, rule focused, strict and formulaic.

The Victorian British invented and solved problems creatively on a monumental scale... and what was the Victorian British education system like? Did it waft around fretting about how to nurture creativity or were the kids taught by mind numbing repetition, rod and stick?

What about Ancient Greece and Rome? What about during the Renaissance and the Enlightenment? Was school a fuzzy place where teachers fretted about nurturing creativity? How was the modern art movement gestated in occupied France? Errrrrm.

Creativity is part of the human brain. There is nothing we need to do to encourage it, if anything creativity abounds more in response to oppression and hardship than any special condition created in some contrived education style.

John Knox revolutionised Scotland, they had literacy over %80 when the UK was %30. Look what it enabled the Scotts to achieve.

Both Ms Ninja and you are correct. Literacy is almost (but not quite) essential for any progress. BTW I thought it was 100% universal education in Scotland and less than 30% in England.

you could well be right. I am often wrong.

Probably not as often as I. My informant about Scotland was probably Scottish. However having experienced secondary school education in England (Crewe & Birmingham) and then finished in Scotland (Inverness) I can confidently assert that 55 years ago Scotland had a better system. It was genuinely possible to meet people brought up on crofts who went to university, obtained a degree and then returned to the family croft. Education for the sake of education - a wonderful concept.

Interesting that these schools were all religious. People may not like the idea of Christianity but its' hard to deny the world we live in has been shaped by it.

In China, Hung had a dream that he was visited by God and Christ, he had a deeply spiritual experience, he declared himself the brother of Christ, He went on to ban opium, the binding of feet, prostitution and slavery, he gave property rights to all, including women.

He started a total war in China,he had a vision of a 'heavenly kingdom' the heavenly war resulted in the deaths of millions, some estimates are that more people died in China between 1850 and 1864 than were killed in WW1. Imagine how the world would look if he had won?

He had contact with Jesuit missionaries before his spiritual transformation. My Chinese friends tell me that even today many of best schools and universities in China are Jesuit run, that many honourable businesses are run by christians and that christianity is exploding. Soon China will have the worlds biggest christian population.

The Jewish Torah is the first 5 books of the bible, which is basically the' teaching of the law'. The impact the Jews have had on the world is immense when you think there are only 14 million of them in the world. %.2 of the world population has been awarded %23 of Nobel prizes.

"This means the percentage of Jewish Nobel laureates is at least 112.5 times or 11,250% above average."

Abraham was not born a Jew but became one, as did Ruth the ancestor of King David. So I take it you can choose to be Jewish.

When I went to a Scottish school they were not religious. However Scottish education does have its roots in the idea that noboy should come between you and God - church of Scotland ministers having no special authority (elected by the elders of the congregation) but being trained to assist in explaining the translation of relious texts from the original. Since the word of God was in a book literacy was given priority. So in Scotland education was a moral issue not as per England where it started so factory workers could read instructions. I am 100% English but prefer the scottish educational tradition.
Your reference to China - your comment is the 2nd time I heard of this rebellion; the 1st was Niall Ferguson who puts his own success down to a traditional Scottish education. I suspect it may have changed in the last half century. I only arrived in 2003 so it is only a guess but maybe NZ's success was the result of Presbyterianism Scottish teachers?

My daughter tried to go to Uni in Edinburgh, they wouldn't take her so she ended up in Stockholm uni for 3 years which she loved.
The Scots are different, I notice it in my cousins who have English mothers as opposed to my pure Scottish heritage. There is a book somewhere about the difference between the Scots and the English in the South Island. I found it.

When I visit Scotland I feel an empathy with the people, even though they vary hugely. Glasgow has the highest life expectancy and the lowest in the UK by postcode, the lowest being about 57 years. Dundee and Edinburgh appear very wealthy towns. My wife's cousin and his children live in Edinburgh, his children tell me the schools are fantastic. He tells me there is enormous wealth in Scotland. WE went as far north as Ned to stay with friends, I felt sorry for the Scots, a book I enjoyed was, 'in Bed With an Elephant' by Ludovic Kennedy.

Scots are different, friends have a castle in Scotland, I find the gardener fascinating, well educated to Uni level well travelled, worldly and happy to work in the garden part time while he follows his hobbies. I always thought we need mentors in schools, someone retired with time to keep an eye on a child struggling.

Just glanced at your link - the part about 'fiercely egalitarian' struck a chord. Regret for its progressive loss may be my main reason for posting to this and other blogs. Note in the Highlands and Islands it certainly didn't mean equal wealth but it sure meant 'all people are equal' - maybe that needs the perspective of an almighty God to make sense. However we are losing it.

BTW Scotland has turned to the worse since I left (1972) - it has begun to define itself by disparaging England; it has developed a sometimes racist anti-Engishness which is the more unpleasant in that it originates from the educated not the working class. I suspect your daughter ended up in the right place not that I've ever been to Stockholm. Edinburgh remains a fine place for short visits.

There is certainly a very strong Nationalist/populist movement. Scots pretty much claim everything as theirs. I find my political views strongly influenced by my egalitarian, presbyterian upbringing.

'Populist' - a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people. That has been a strong trait of Scots forever but the anti-English component of Scottish nationalism seems to be of more recent graduate origin. When my mother heard a derogatory comment about 'English settlers' she pointed out she had been living in the Highlands for 45 years twice as long as the young graduate making the statement.
Compare with attitudes in NZ. As a new Kiwi (2003) I am very proud to point out the many merits of NZ and I do use a few standard anti-Australian jokes when entertaining Australian friends but I really hate those T-Shirts with the slogan 'I support any country playing against Australia'. It is tantamont to defining being Kiwi as being not Australian.
My political views are also based on Protestant roots (in my case CofE) - that is not contradicted by my being a firm atheist for over 50 years - protestanism gave a person the right to think for themselves; in fact the duty to think for themselves - so failure to find a supreme being may result.

Thanks Lapun, I've enjoyed our weekend chat. If you are ever down our way( HB) I would love to buy you dinner.


And the Scots invented the Modern World (at least, the book on the topic presents a compelling argument), plus the American Constitution (in large part). Brunel, OTOH, was French, and much of the foundation (yep) was laid by women such as Sarah Guppy and Ada Lovelace. Let's settle for Western European, not fergetting the Scandis ( I am part Viking and have Dupuytrens to show for it, thanks, guys...fortunately mild)

A small if depressing anecdote. I have two relatives, both high school teachers, who occasionally come visit, to decompress. They both teach at a high level, but their coping mechanism professionally is sobering.

Essentially, they triage the class within days of a new cohort, into:

  1. Those who cannot get anything from the subject and who are therefore simply controlled sufficiently to prevent them foobarring the education of the rest.
  2. Those who will muddle through on their own and can be left alone for the most part
  3. Those who will benefit and need stretching, so this is the segment that gets the real 'education'.

I suspect that, loosened up and talking freely, many secondary teachers would admit to much the same technique.

These are the times in which we live....

#1 shouldn't be doing the class (just present to make politicians happy - nobody brave enough to tell their parents they are thick)
#2 this is where teachers should be teaching
#3 they can look after themselves - just hand them an advanced textbook and be prepared to answer a few questions.

The sad thing waymad, is that within 1 & 2 will be students who have learning a disability that has not been recognised or whose parents have been told they don't meet criteria for help.

I shouild probably relate, as a counter-balance, the experience of an ex-Arts HS teacher I see and talk with regularly. He had a technique which worked so well for him that other teachers came for guidance.

He identified, again within days of a new cohort, the natural leaders amongst them - the kids that other kids looked to for leadership and then emulated. He got on side with those leaders, got them interested enough in the subject that they could transmit the enthusiasm, or at least to the point where they would not interfere with his own efforts. All proceeded from that, and he counts several significant NZ artists in his legacy.

Art is an intrinsically creative endeavour, so perhaps this was the conjunction of an amenable subject and a gifted teacher. Perhaps best not to generalise too far...