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Tag: celebration

New Directions: Let’s not flag in our efforts


It is time to put national back into our national day – Waitangi Day.

It is anachronistic that the focus has swung so resolutely to the North of the country when the facts don’t support such a development.

Yes, the talking that led to the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi started in the North and a significant set of signings were completed there. But the treaty is a Treaty for the whole of Aotearoa New Zealand and signings took place in many other places. And yet there is little sense of this in the activities and media coverage of 6 February each year. On 4 July in the USA Philadelphia does not reign supreme in the activities.

Here are some suggestions:

  •          Give status to a number of Treaty celebrations on that day, certainly one in each major iwi rohe and city. And this means genuine commitment of government involvement at all of these.
  •          Privilege the day by making it a National Holiday – a genuine national Holiday up there with Christmas Day and Good Friday – that means all shops shut and a holiday for all! Make the organizing principle one of whanau / family. Have a great emphasis on sport, cultural activity (orchestras, music, performance), on street parties and picnics, of fireworks.
  •          Let’s get rid of that stupid Guy Fawkes Day and make 6 February our big fireworks occasion.
  •          Issues and discussion and korero could still be associated with the day but perhaps be formalised into a wider set of discussions that have as a standing agenda such key elements of effective race relations as educational outcomes, health standards, quality of housing, income equity and so on. The political issues of the moment could also get an airing. This forum could be run up North or even be spread through significant marae in Aotearoa New Zealand on a topic basis – education to Ngai Tahu, housing to Ngapuhi, health to Tainui, political issues to Ngati Poneke – and they could shift around each year. Above all they would rise above the stunts of the past few years which typify the actions of those who style themselves as protesters and the media that indulges itself in a feeding frenzy on them.

It could be that such hui are clustered around 6 February and need not necessarily happen only or even on that day.

  •          Schools would have a valuable part to play – a programme could be developed for say junior, middle and senior schools to focus as that day approaches on Aotearoa New Zealand on appropriate aspects of national identity, bicultural responsibility and New Zealand values (starting with Maori values and considering the implications of these for all Aotearoans/New Zealanders. The environment and our relationship with it could also be a focus. Famous New Zealanders might also have a role (and this would go beyond rugby types).
  •          That brings us to the flag. Yes, let’s get a different flag that is about us. But the silver fern on a black background has been so bastardised by its use in sporting arenas, and whenever and wherever flag waving is deemed necessary, it can never assume a status that rises above that or being mere bunting, much like that strung around second hand car salesyards. Let’s take time and care to get this right and then we treat it with dignity – no flying it all night, letting it touch the ground and so on.

Schools would teach students to respect it and we would behave in a mature manner about it rather than the foolish response that greeted Minister of Education Merv Wellington in the early 1980s when he asked for no more than this.

No doubt there will be mixed reactions to some of this but we need to realize that the symbolism of a National Day and the way we go about celebrating it and the things we do to emphasise its importance are the very things that bind us as a nation.  New Zealand has a chance to get something right here. Working on a solid but still developing base of biculturalism we could give expression to what true pluralism might be in the 21st Century.

In 1940, Allen Curnow writing in celebration of 100 years (sometimes called the “first hundred years”!) since the Treaty was signed. He wrote a very lovely couplet in a poem “Landfall in Unknown Seas”:

Simply by sailing in a new direction

You could enlarge the world.

The facts of history and the impact of legends tell us that this is how Aotearoa New Zealand was populated from the very first arrivals up to those new citizens who were signed in on 6 February. And it is a process that we can continue – it is a simple matter to change direction and our world can be enlarged in so many different ways.

Our Waitangi Day (Norman Kirk in 1973 changed it to New Zealand Day but that only lasted a year or so) can be our special day, a day of joyous celebration, of reflection and challenge, about us as a complex group of people sharing this most blessed spot in the Pacific.


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Party at Hekia’s Place – BYOE Bring Your Own Excellence along

It looks as if 2014 is shaping up to be somewhat unusual for education in New Zealand – three key developments are happening.

In March a set of Education Festivals will be held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Developed by Cognition Education and with the four key themes of COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, COHESION and CELEBRATION.   The festivals are co-ordinated by Cognition Education with the support of the Ministry of Education and will coincide with the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession, jointly hosted by the OECD, Education International and New Zealand through the MOE.

The festivals focused on two key dimensions, the performance of students, teachers, schools and institutions in our community and the proud record New Zealand has inspired improved educational achievement in other countries by sharing our expertise and systems.

The press education receives is generally at best miserable and at times plain negative. I have frequently pointed out that the profession too often contributes to this. Here is a golden opportunity for education to put on its best clothes and strut its stuff in public and rather then spout clichés  about a “world class education system” , to allow the outcomes of the work of schools and other education providers be seen and enjoyed by a wider community. Let the work and skills of our students be the push for the excellent brew that comes out in most schools.

An added opportunity is to be able to do this while an international community of educators is here as our guest – a chance not only to show and teach but also to listen and to learn. The participating countries at the 4th International Summit are the top 20 education systems as measured by the PISA  results and the five fastest improvers.

This is a unique opportunity for New Zealand to learn and to gain insights into how we can match achievement data with greatly improved equity measures.  Both the festival and the summit will allow us to share insights with others and to learn from the insights of others. This is not a bragging contest but potentially could be a fine week for education n New Zealand.

The Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata is behind both of these initiatives and her leadership deserves strong support from the sector and from all levels within the sector.

The third element that could lift the image of education in New Zealand is the announcement, also from Minister Parata, of the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards to be introduced for 2014. The tertiary education sector has had just such a set of awards for about 10 years and they have been markedly successful under the astute leadership of Ako Aotearoa.

This new set of awards will focus on early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling and collaboration between secondary schools, tertiary providers and employers. This last award – collaboration – is particularly pleasing coming at a time when it is emerging that pathways between sectors will be a critical feature of the new environment that will allow us to address equity.

Ands that brings us back to the festival and the summit. We need to see these three developments as a set of tools that the education system can use to create a better education sector, one characterised by collaboration, by clear evidence of excellence and by a commitment to improved equity of outcomes. We will do this in part by seeing collaboration (bringing the fragmented sector together for the festival) and celebrating (excellence in teaching through the awards) as necessary to lifting our game. Necessary but not in themselves sufficient – long term change will require us to make a habit of collaboration and celebration.

In summary:

  •          Festivals of Education  – Auckland (21-23 March 2014), Wellington (29 March 2014) and Christchurch (23 March 2014)
  •          The 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession – March 2014 
  •          Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards – entries close 31 March 2014

Roll on March I say.



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