I am one of those people who, when in the car, often have the experience of driving, through, past or over something (no humans yet) and then go; “Flip … what was that?”
A very high achieving Year 13 student (as Blackadder would – let's call him “Bob”) from an Auckland private school contacted me to discuss the NZ education system and the data I process. Halfway through the conversation Bob said something I almost drove straight past: “Myself, and a good number of my friends no longer see the point in attending school. We know how important our qualifications are but we can learn a lot better and use time better on our own or in small groups.” Me – braking – … “wait … what?”
Keeping in mind that his school is within the top 25 achieving schools in the country I asked the reasoning of Bob and friends.
– “under lockdown we achieved at least as highly.”
– “so much time is wasted during the school day.”
– “a good number of our teachers are ineffective, humourless and not engaging at all. I can make much better use of an hour and/or my friends and I can study around a table at a café.”
– “the text books are generally good and we can supplement that with a huge range of resources now available on the internet.”
So, this isn't a student from a struggling demographic – although I would imagine some of those are staying away from school (when they aren't locked out like they are again this week in Auckland) for many of the same reasons. They don't see the point, the school/system and teachers are not engaging and/or low quality. The tragedy in many cases in the poorer demographics is that they may be yet to understand the importance of the qualifications.
Parents across demographics have been equally concerned with school/teacher quality, what is being taught, and the fraught nature of many of the social interactions. Elsewhere I have written that the covid lockdowns was like the tide going out on the education system and showing all of the rubbish and deadwood.
To give myself a little credit, even if I did not understand the full implications at the time – at the beginning of last year I helped the Villa Education Trust to establish a private, nationwide, virtual/home school called Mt Hobson Academy Connected. I am no longer employed/salaried – so I can proudly just say that the staff – under wonderful, former Willowbank School, Principal Saira Boyle – with an incredible staff – are providing a “school” of very high quality. The programme can be teacher led, in superb virtual classrooms, or they have a parent led programme (with more time flexibility) where Mt Hobson provides all teaching resources and copious quantities of guidance and contact.
It is private so there is a cost (although significant less that a bricks and mortar private school). What many of the parents have told the school is that they have understood far more deeply over the last three years the “investment” side of education for their children.
They also make the learning worthwhile, aspirational and interesting. Alongside subjects these are the five weekly Projects students work through. It is well worth any family looking for better – checking out. And … rain, hail or snow … they are open.
The first pebbles have started of the avalanche. Parents in NZ (and around the world) are rediscovering that they have the power to make significant choices about the education of their children.
We know how the Ministry of Education will respond: