Back in the halcyon days of schooling in the 50’s and the sixties what the History we had was driven by the Second World War and such events as rationing, the Spanish ‘Flu (Grandad died) and our proud success in converting grass to food.
Then, in intermediate school and the high school, we never got past the central North Island with the blow-by-blow accounts of the development of the set of power stations on the Waikato River, a feat shadowed only by the main line railway which died somewhere in the King Country when the social studies teachers ran out of steam.
What is a significant and long awaited development in New Zealand Education is the recent launch of the New Zealand Aotearoa Curriculum Refresh – full of better than good expectation with its hint of change and not the usual confidence and patter that perhaps promised difference in what will be developed.
The promise is that this next four years will take us to a place that, frankly, we should have reached long ago. T S Eliot got it right:
“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from…
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
The goals are clear:
(1) Honouring our mutual obligations to and through Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
(2) Creating a curriculum which is inclusive so that all ākonga see themselves and succeed in their learning.
(3) Making sure “The New Zealand Curriculum” is clear about the learning that matters.
(4) Making sure The New Zealand Curriculum is easy to use for teachers.)
I guess these four things need to be said but they are simply no-brainers. The first must address the shameful gaps of the past while the second is a faint hope if the picture they are asked to see themselves in lacks a strong frame. The clarity in expressing the learning students need to learn (something which has for too long escaped the complexity of educational process) is the key question. Ease of usability for teacher. I have doubts about this last one – if it means clarity, OK, if it means accessibility for Parents and caregivers, OK, if it means that students will learn, OK.
But if it means diluted curriculum then the scrutiny of who does the refresh must be rigorous? The collective educational community has brought the system to where it is now. What “refreshment” will be required for them before they start and as they go though the development process. How will teacher and all involved not only be refreshed but also be capable of refreshing their thinking and recognising the elements of the refreshed curriculum as it emerges.
That will be the tough part of all this. That is why Charles M. Payne persists with his mantra – So Much Reform – So Little Change!