- Slides: 11
An education system beyond colonisation Presentation to Alternative Aotearoa Forum 25 July 2020 Liz Gordon Quality Public Education Coalition
Early Childhood Education plays three crucial roles in our society: Te Whāriki aspires for children to be Provides care and support for young children in an competent and confident learners and era when most parents are required to be in paid work. communicators, healthy Provides a world-leading curriculum and pathways in mind, body and spirit, to school; and secure in their sense of Provides high level opportunities and strong belonging and in the aspirations for young children knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society.
Early Childhood Education QPEC supports the aspirations of the sector that high quality learning be delivered to all children in Aotearoa. We note that the following barriers exist to achieving the goals of Te Whāriki: No requirement that all teachers be qualified High levels of privatisation in the sector Huge socio-economic inequalities in the resources available to meet curriculum goals and No programmes to encourage social diversity among the next generation.
Early Childhood Education Alternative Aotearoa must support a policy of high quality, free public early childhood education for all with a focus on top class learning delivered by qualified teachers. Early Childhood Education must play a frontline role by achieving the above goals in ways that move beyond colonised views of race and gender hierarchies and class systems.
A fundamental reform of the schooling system The review of Tomorrow’s Schools in 2017 -18 was primarily concerned with correcting the most devolved system in the world. While it made some good recommendations, most were not taken up by the government. While a lot of the decolonisation protests of recent times have focussed on cultural icons such as statues, we continue with a colonised schooling system that fundamentally influences the whole of Aotearoa in ways that are always damaging and sometimes deadly. Alternative Aotearoa must call for fundamental reform of the education system.
A colonised system Colonisation brought formal schooling to Aotearoa and immediately established it as a gendered, ethnically divided and class-based system. Our schooling system was based on eugenicist assumptions about hierarchies of human ability which had, and continues to have, profound effects on our youth. Schools are ranked against each other according to where they are located and who goes to them – and the ‘best’ schools are perceived as the richest and whitest. Everything about schooling is hierarchical: location, population, examination system (and results), the teaching workforce and boards of trustees.
Exclusionary tactics The curriculum is also arranged hierarchically, with ‘good’ students doing academic subjects and others in applied and vocational areas. That division between thinking and doing is strongly embedded in our society and our schools. The basis of our school organisation is not community but discipline. Schools are by nature exclusionary. You can get suspended for not having a haircut, for not wearing a prescribed uniform correctly or for being a person with a disability that is not properly managed. We desperately need an inclusive, diverse schooling system, based on bottom up models of discipline and learning. Humans are programmed to learn but society puts up barriers.
The best education for all? Schools are not there to educate all children to the best of their abilities. Human ability is constantly undermined by competition between students, rankings and examination results. What should be a place where every person gets the best education that human society can offer is a site of massive exclusionary practices, where those excluded are blamed for their own position. Some people think that bullying and discipline problems are a function of the students at a school. We need to turn this on its head. Schools, by their nature, generate, enable and tolerate bullies.
Higher education Thirty years of neoliberalism has nearly destroyed the democratic ideal of the public university. User charges and student loans have saddled new generations with debt. From the 1990 s on, the ability to charge international fees to foreign students has made the institutions severely dependent on that source of funding, leaving huge fiscal holes in budgets, Devolution, marketisation and competition have all created a toxic atmosphere where institutions brag about their world rankings, create ever more farfetched logos and self-promotion and have oriented their whole kaupapa towards attracting $$.
Staff In some universities staff are required to churn out quotas of Ph. Ds and yet there are few new jobs (and sometimes shrinking positions). Young staff are therefore forced into precarious work, working from contract to contract on others’ projects. I do want to acknowledge that fabulous teaching and research work takes place within our universities, but that is because of the quality of the staff, not the quality of the system. Systemic reform is sorely needed.
Final words We spend, as a nation, billions of dollars on education every year. We may need to spend more to nationalise the system. But spending is not the main challenge facing education. The main challenge is how can we develop an education for Aotearoa that educates all our people fully and removes all barriers, political, social and economic, to human learning in this nation. The greatest strength a nation can have is not in wealth or military power, but in having a society of people who have not been left behind. Education is a powerful tool for democracy and equality in Aotearoa.