At last the dirty secret that educations has by and large brushed over is to be brought into the open with a serious review of absenteeism in the school system. All power to their arm. This issue has been known but ignored, been open to remediation but no action that has been effective.
And mostly that is because no-one owned the issue. The hoary old reason, the plaintiff cry of “we have no resources” – seemed to be enough to quell the concern of the community. Well, the community that cared because sections of the community were complicit in taking their children out of school, preferring instead of sending students to school, to take holidays in the South Pacific, or to be able to galavant around the snowfields of the south.
I first wrote of this issue in the 1990s. Some might remember Education Review: The Back Page. And my effort to bring this to attention has continued through to this blog, EdTalkNZ to the present time. I was also also an early-alert agent of the question the growing phenomenon of NEETs (indeed I even launched a document in the early days that drew to attention the existence of this group that was relatively unknown back then. NEETs are the alumni of truants and those groups that do not go to school or are selective in turning up.
Back in 2010 I gave a presentation at the Eastern Institute of Technology which beat the drums I was beating then, and which was typical of the many presentations (at that time being on a mission to explain the Tertiary High School opening that year at Manukau Institute of Technology).
20% of 16-year-old students were not at school when they turned 16-years old and became legally able to leave school – most of these students must have had parents / guardians who turned a blind eye however grudgingly.
30,000 truants from secondary school each day (this was in 2010 remember- the number of secondary and primary truants are getting up to the 80,000 mark).
School stand-downs were running at 4,000 a year (in 2010).
4,500 students were leaving primary school but failing to enter a secondary school (in 2010).
80% of youth appearing in the Youth Court have left or are absent from school (in 2010).
48% pf school leavers going to a tertiary provider successfully completed a postsecondary qualification (2010). This issue has been replaced by the pattern that 50% of secondary school leavers in the Southern Auckland area leave school not intending (or perhaps not knowing) where they will go in the next year (in 2019).
Meanwhile by 2010 the number of NEETs had grown to something between 17,000 and 25,000. Why the huge range? New Zealand was grappling with getting clear definition – who should or who should not be included in this category – youths seeking a job for instance?
My point is – those statistics are from 12 years ago. And the statistics of today have finally drawn the Government to say enough is enough. NZ has deluded itself with thinking that we have a great schooling system – what we have is a bipolar system where one half does well and the other half does not.
It is abundantly clear that the issues can be addressed but only if there is some courage in understanding the reasons why the system has broken down. Hard solutions will be needed. and hard solutions can be found. Answers lie in the Ministry having the courage to stop the rort that allows students to stay at home – the parents must be hauled into line but only if the outcome of the review leads to a system in which students are motivated by an appropriate curriculum, taught well, one which has purpose. Parents also need to see a purposeful future for the children.
Secondary Tertiary Programmes show that students can be motivated if they see the promise of a future. Ask one of the 45,000 students who have found purpose in programmes that give a glimpse of the future.
But breaking news, its official folks – 40 %of New Zealand’s school students are playing hookey!