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Month: April 2015

A Broad View of ANZAC Day Abroad


I have spent ANZAC Day overseas on a few occasions. And there is a power in such experiences that seems to intensify because it is away from home.

Australia seems to declare party time once the solemnity of the morning services has past. I have seen this in Sydney and most notably in Melbourne. Again this year our own TV news showed a pretty boistrous and liquid game of Two-Up at which the atmosphere was captured by some young fellow who slurred and leered to the camera the sentiment that “they suffered for us so we are going to party for them.”

Perhaps one of the most moving was years ago in Singapore where as guest of the High Commission we were taken out to the ANZAC Memorial up on the hill looking over the straits of Jahore. There was still a military presence in Singapore then and so the ceremony had an appropriate degree of military ceremony and circumstance. As daylight seeped in the ceremony was moving in a way that brought a lot of things (including ourselves) home.

The last ANZAC Day I attended in Australia was on the outskirts of Brisbane at a splendid Dawn Service with a real suburban feel to it. The Guest Speaker that morning was Douglas Blackmur who many NZers will remember as once-upon-a-time CE of NZQA!

Solomon Islands – ANZAC but Australia really back in the 1980s – but this was full of meaning as stays were usually punctuated by snorkelling over the many WWII shipwrecks and coming across the metal detritus of a war.

This year has seen an unprecedented build-up given that it was the centenary of the Gallipoli landing. The energetic genealogical sleuthing of my brother has only in the past few months tracked down a missing Great-Uncle who we through was at ANZAC Cove that day in 1915 but this was a view sustained entirely without evidence. But the mystery has been solved.

The second son of our Great-Grandfather, William Ernest CAMERON was something of a character. He wandered around NZ (including mining activities in Waihi) and Australia settling in Tasmania. When war broke out he joined the queue and enlisted in the AIF 12th Battalion which shipped out to Egypt and Gallipoli. He died on 25 April 1915 as his company attacked up towards Walker’s Ridge. He was fighting for Australia and, because of that, for New Zealand. Both his life and his war were short.

This year I am in Samoa for ANZAC Day and the dawn service was a warm and appropriate gathering of local, expatriate and visiting folk who clustered around the clock tower in the centre of Apia. The always splendid Police Brass Band and a platoon of police dressed in ceremonial white gave the whole event a rather significant degree of the military origins of the day.

When I was at school, the School Cadet Unit from each school in Hamilton would march from the main street of Hamilton to the cenotaph on the eastern banks of the Waikato River. Hundreds of schoolboys in their military uniforms accompanied by staff dressed in the uniforms that had in many cases seen war service. As I got into the senior school I bacame a member of several brass bands and later, in Auckland, the Band of the 3 RNZIR Queen Alexander’s Own Regiment.

For me ANZAC Day was essentially a day of music and I think that element has diminished over the years. “Abide with me”, “Lead Kindly Light” and others were the staple diet of the day. No more it seems.

I think I despise quite a few things about nationalism, but 25/04 does have an unmistakeable feeling that home is home.


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Success most schools would die for!

There is a lovely story hidden in among the NCEA results and commentary (NZ Herald, April 9, 2015).

At first glance the appearance of Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) seems to be a mistake – what role does a tertiary education institution have in a list of NCEA results? And the results themselves seem remarkable: Level 1 – 100%, Level 2 – 91.8% and Level 3 – 83.3%.

In 2010, MIT opened the School of Secondary Tertiary Studies (Faculty of Education and Social Sciences) , also known as the Tertiary High School, the first of its kind in New Zealand.  This programme provides a pathway to success and employment for students who in Year 10 (age 14, Form 4) faced the prospect of little or no success.

A focus on the essential skills required in education and training is placed in a context where students simultaneously undertake their schooling (NCEA) and tertiary education focusing on career and professional qualifications across a wide range of disciplines. The claim is that the MIT Tertiary High School “does not take students out of school, it keeps them in school but they will not be at school.”

The results speak for themselves. Students in their second year of secondary schooling who faced failure and the risk of dropping out have a future in this different pathway characterised by success academically, gaining industry-recognised vocational qualifications and leaving with a high prospect of employment.

The New Zealand education system has unacceptable levels of disengaged students bringing great disadvantage to individuals, families and communities, and with a compounding negative impact on economic development and growth. There are no winners in this scenario.

Getting different results requires school systems to work in different ways and programmes such as the MIT Tertiary High School lead the way.

Earlier access to vocational education and training has been shown in many studies to be an effective means of re-engaging the students heading towards the point of dropping-out.

The world has changed and with it the nature of economies, the capacity of employers to take on unformed novice workers, and the demands of employment. Where once doing not so well in school was able to be compensated for by early employment with sympathetic employers, failing in school now is highly dangerous.

The education system has to pick up a challenge now that, despite the rhetoric, it has never faced in the past. It must now prepare each and every student to make a meaningful contribution to their family, their community and the country and young people who are employable.

Currently we fall well short of this and will continue to do so while we resist the reality that in order to get different results, the education system will have to work in different ways.

Not all students will succeed in a school. There should therefore be multiple pathways that open up for them to continue their education as distinct from their schooling in different settings.

The MIT Tertiary High School is one example of a pathway that takes students who have little hope of reaching high levels of achievement in the school pathway. It is not a better pathway per se but it is a different pathway and for those who succeed because of it, a far better pathway.

Opening the Tertiary High School in 2010 required legislative changes for students to be enrolled at both a school and a tertiary institution, for funding from both sectors to be used, for the duty of care to be shared between providers, and for students under the age of 16 to be educated in a place that is not designated as a school.

There is now no impediment to creating new pathways for students who do not feature in the NCEA success rates.

The NCEA results of the MIT Tertiary High School form one piece of evidence that working differently can bring different results. Failure to accept this is simply to deny the opportunities and the results that come from working differently to young people who face becoming yet another grim statistic of failure.

Stuart Middleton is Director of the Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways at Manukau Institute of Technology.




Rushed justice is crushed justice

The issue of the miscreant rowers was overlooked in amongst all the fuss. The issue was not the appropriateness of the school’s response nor was it the insertion of lawyers and injunctions into the process.

Put simply the issue was this: Why do some young people not sometimes seem to have an innate sense of right and wrong.  Here were two kids – let’s not be impressed by their athletic prowess – who took it upon themselves to leap on the baggage system at Auckland Airport, an act that was in itself contrary to the law, reckless in its lack of regard for safety, plainly stupid on every count and quite the sort of thing we have come to expect in the YouTube obsessed and hyped-up environment that young people grow up in and lust after.

So what is a school expected to do in response to this?

Well taking them out of the rowing boat at the last minute would be an excellent punishment but more so on the seven others than on the offenders.  Collateral damage doesn’t just happen in war!  A hastily put together process to consider and administer justice seldom works and even less so in the heat of the moment.

Placing them under “house arrest” might have been considered.  That would see them denied some of the pleasurable moments that the other members of the team might have. This a sort of remand on bail because ahead of that they would face the hearing and the sentencing. To try and conclude the matter away from the school and in a hurry was ill judged.

If the ongoing safety of the group had been an issue the perpetrators should have simply been stood down and sent home but it wasn’t so no useful purpose would have been served (see above).

It was my experience that often when there is an incident in a school environment or activity, there is often a demand for swift action – “justice must be dispensed and seen to be dispensed”.  In a way that is somewhat reminiscent of the British District Officer in George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant, the decisions made in school discipline cases seem often to be made pour encourager les autres rather than to treat with fairness, balance and appropriate severity the miscreant student or students. I remember on a number of occasions as a Principal in a discipline hearing arguing along the lines that “this sort of behaviour can’t be ignored, we couldn’t run a school if everyone behaved like this.”  Was I on these occasions just a little bit scared? Just like Orwell’s officer?

The judge that granted the injunction simply decided that the punishment did not fit the crime and the situation took a couple of Gilbertian turns as newspaper columnists waded in with demands which suggested that Guantanamo Bay was too good for the likely lads and /or that this was the end of the power of Principals and the Boards and perhaps western civilisation with it.

It is probably a good thing that Principals and Boards are reigned in now and again. I am told that it is not unknown for disciplinary hearings to be attended by lawyers. I am told that sometimes that they are necessary.

There is an old saying that “justice delayed is justice denied.”  It might just as much be the case that justice rushed isn’t justice at all.  The quick trip by the Principal with lawyer in tow didn’t seem to help much in this case.

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