Archive for September 2021

Walls that stymie progress.

Forced stay at home regimes might look like a bit of a punishment but I prefer to see it as an opportunity. I am currently working towards a project the sees me going through papers and books stored in boxes and ignored over the past couple of years. This is proving to be quite a stop/go process. It is very easy that a paper one has enjoyed personally and previously catches the eye and half an hour later you are focussing on that paper to the exclusion of the rest. The same with books that might have been, in all -honesty, skimmed and put aside. Its starts with a flick-through that stops with a feeling that there is a chapter that demands closer attention.

One such small book in which Sir Kenneth Baker[1] (a.k.a. Lord Baker of Dorking) brings together a set of educators that subscribe Sir Kenneth’s view that the solution to raising educational outcome would be achieved by a focus on the age group 14-years to 19-years, challenging the obsession (in England) on the primary/secondary transition at age 11+ and the curriculum offered between that point and age 16-years when students leave school prepared for very little it seems.

One of his oft-quoted points made when asked why 14-19 and the answer is: “well, 11-years is too early and 16-years is too late.” In short, our current major transitions might not be serving students’ learning effectively.

His book is a collection of reflection from an international set of educators engaged in putting effort into creating effective vocational and technical education for the target group. A contribution from Alan Smithers[2] challenge the plausible arguments about education. 

A selection of his views.

“Take the sweeping generalisation that academic courses keep options open and vocational course close them down. While it is true that vocational courses have a specific purpose, it is good courses whatever stripe that that enhance opportunities and poor courses that restrict them.”

“Truancy has increased fivefold from Years 7 to 11!”

“If the assumption is that young people do not know what they are good at, what they like and what they want to do after nine years of required school attendance, then the quality of that education has to be questioned.”

It seems to me that the sectors we use these days ate arbitrary, not necessarily productive and based on premises lost in the mists of time. They have lost their purpose and do not serve students well.

There are many different structures used throughout the world – have we ever challenged the placement of sector boundaries in New Zealand?

More on this later, it’s back to the boxes for me!

  1.  Baker, Sir Kenneth, (2013), 14-19 A New Vision for Secondary Education, Bloomsbury Academic, London/New York.
  2.  Alan Smithers is Professor at Buckingham University and is deeply engaged with a variety of reports for the UK Government relating to education.

Catalogue of Change

Covid has seen New Zealand working in ways that are new, testing and perhaps not as temporary as we might like to think. 

Schooling

It is inevitable that the question of whether to shift the holidays to compensate and recognise that the students have missed a lot of term time thanks to Covid will always be a bit controversial. It is one of the times when it seems to me that all the positions taken around this issue have merit. I might have thought that the Boards of Trustees could contribute to this discussion.

In the history of New Zealand education there were considerable times when there were breaks in children being at school, often this was on a regional basis rather than the whole country and lessons were one way or another continued at home. The Correspondence School was prominent in the help given to teachers and schools at that time and many students, now much older, recall with pleasure the arrival and the departure of the canvas satchels in which the lessons were dispatched and collected on a weekly basis during the period when schools were closed. Those who once were young speak of the delight in getting the satchel which the teachers distributed and collected.

But that was then, this is now and things have changed.

Coffee #2 and Impact

I was amused the other day to hear a coffee shop owner in Wellington adamantly stating that it is time public servants “got back to work” so that they could keep coffee shops operating. As much as I realise that getting the business flowing again is important, the thought that people are only working when they “get back to work” ignores the fact that they are “back at work” and it is called working from home.

There have been some quite clear indications that there will be a number – some say 15% – who will not return to the coffee shop but continue to work from home. This was once thought to be difficult to control but it seems to have proved easier than we might have predicted. MBIE was reported last week to have 50% of its workforce doing their job at home. Many of those who are working at home will not “return to work” but remain being at home, perhaps playing role in their young children and older youth education, and drinking their home-made coffee!

Access to Goods and Services

My computer ink arrived the day after I ordered it, brought to me by a courier – who would have thought?

Finally, Tertiary Education responds

Tertiary education has long spoken of distance learning and flexible access to learning. The change to on-line learning is widespread in many of the tertiary education institutions. These are changes that will be difficult to turn back from, just as it will be with schooling as it is at home, and keeping coffee shops working but at a scale and number that is driven by customers rather than custom, and with tertiary education increasingly abandoning requiring students to gather in a certain place at a certain time to learn. Once issues of access and equity to post-secondary education and training are solved there will be great advances in tertiary education. Change in education does not come easily and perhaps not in business and commerce.  But when change happens we should be wise enough to hang on to the best of it.

Covid or Coffee? The Lowdown on Lockdown

Where did this mania for drinking coffee come from! It seems to be to the middle classes and the rich what Kentucky Fried is to the great unwashed. It’s nuts. Well. Quite literally.

What has happened to New Zealand when we experience a lock-down of a week and that culminates in countless people revealing that their biggest, most passionate wish when they come out of lock-down where they have enjoyed many good thing such as food as fine as they can cook, drinks to whet their whistle and the companionship of a bubble which cis as good as those in it, is to have a coffee. They strut outside the coffee shops holding their prized coffee out front as if it is some piece of golden, religious paraphernalia and show smiles that dangerously run the risk of damage to their faces. They Oooohhh, they Aaaahhhh and assure us that they have been on tenterhooks just waiting for release to have their first coffee and slyly admit that they have been waiting for this first coffee, it is to them a kind of Waiting for Godot experience.

The coffee culture has been a somewhat fast development in New Zealand culture, and I blame the invention of the take-away cup. It alone revolutionised the purchase of coffee to take with you whatever you are doing and wherever you are going. It has the power to influence the design of motor vehicles with the creation of those round spaces with have an opening with the ability to keep your precious cargo safe. I read the other day that electric cars will in time be fitted with AMCM capability. These small Auto-Mobile-Coffee-Machines will keep you supplied with the best coffee available long after you run out of power through a small solar panel on the back of the mirror.

I am a veteran of coffee drinking as my parents back in the 1950s served coffee made with chicory. Mr Google tells me that Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the daisy family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink…. In the 21st century, inulin, an extract from chicory root, has been used in food manufacturing as a sweetener and source of dietary fibre and the essence was used to make coffee.” 

Be warned, coffee beans are said to be very expensive soon and Chicory Essence could well make a comeback. If you have read the description above it is certainly a talented plant with more uses than simply making coffee.

My Mum must have known a thing or two because we didn’t know anyone else who drank it! And this information comes as a surprise as I thought over all those years and until now that Essence of Chicory was made from industrial waste such was the putrid taste which we tolerated as the drinking of “coffee” was considered a treat.

But on reflection I rate this coffee thing and its drinkers ahead of the untold numbers who crave for and descend on the house of Colonel Sunders and others to feast on take-aways which I note are now known as take- outs! There is no doubt that we are becoming known for our culinary practices. 

Whatever happened to Dinner Parties, shared picnics under the trees at the lake, and drinks at five? And by the way, my favourite coffee at the moment is an Americano!