The biggest update to education in New Zealand in nearly 30 years was introduced in Parliament this week by education minister Hekia Parata.
“The Education (Update) Amendment Bill is about enabling schools to provide a flexible 21st century education focussed on the achievement of every young New Zealander,” says Ms Parata.
“The overall approach of the Bill is to enable choices that ensure parents and whanau have options for their children’s education; early learning providers, schools and kura have flexibility to meet the particular needs of their students; and that those students are getting real results.”
The Bill provides for a government statement, the National Education and Learning Priorities (NELP), setting out its objectives for education. For the first time early childhood education providers, schools and kura will have clear objectives set, through the NELP that this Bill proposes.
“The purpose of the NELP is to move to a system that is not just about delivering education, but about student achievement, with clear accountabilities for ECEs and schools,” says Ms Parata.
“With this legislative change we’re making it clearer to our educators what success for students looks like. We’re also enabling them to be innovative and creative with how they deliver education in this digital age.”
One of the proposals in the Bill is to modernise online learning through the establishment of Communities of Online Learning (COOLs).
“COOLs will be open to as wide a range of potential providers as possible to gain the greatest benefits for young people. This innovative way of delivering education offers a digital option to engage students, grow their digital fluency, and connect them even more to 21st century opportunities.
“There will be a rigorous accreditation process alongside ongoing monitoring to ensure quality education is being provided.”
There is an option for parents and schools to enrol new entrants on the first day of a term closest to the child’s fifth birthday. At the earliest children could start up to eight weeks before they turn five, although parents will still have the option to delay their child starting at school until their sixth birthday.
Other key proposals include expanding the current power for school boards to include working for other education services in a Community of Learning. For example, a school board could provide accounting services to an early childcare centre (ECE) or another school or kura.
Where schools aren’t doing well a proposal in the Bill allows the ministry to step in at an earlier stage. Another proposal gives the minister the power to combine school boards if that would provide an effective route to resolving ongoing issues.
The introduction of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill follows an extensive round of consultation at the end of 2015.
“The Bill takes into account the feedback that we received from a whole range of people through the consultation process last year,” says Ms Parata.
“There will be another chance for people to have their say during the select committee process, and I encourage anyone with an interest in education to make a submission.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to create an education system fit for the future, focussed on lifting the achievement of all young New Zealanders.”