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Tag: Lockwood Smith

Talk-ED: Is it Time for a Report on Education in the 22nd Century?


Out for the constitutional walk one afternoon recently I looked up the road and saw a silhouette that seemed familiar. One which I had seen many times in the 1980s and through the 1990s, one which was something of a cartoonists, delight.  It was the former Minister of Education (and other things) and Speaker of the House, Hon Dr Lockwood Smith.  I crossed the road to say hello.

The 1980s had been characterised by  the second of the reform trio – administration, curriculum and qualifications – while the 1990s were to belong to the third, qualifications reform.  Lockwood Smith was to feature prominently in both the tail-end of the curriculum reforms and the front end of the qualifications reforms.

I stopped to chat with him and among other things I reminded him of his commitment to seamless education. His smile, already broad, increased and clearly he saw this particular theme as one of considerable foresight which saw a different future for many students.

He was right. The key policy document that carried this message was developed and promulgated under his watch.  Education for the 21st Century (MOE, Wellington, 1993) sought to paint a picture of a seamless education system – one which flowed from the home right through to post secondary qualifications and entry into the workforce.

The key description of this seamless education system is premised on the fact that the curriculum and qualification reforms which resulted in the New Zealand Curriculum and the National Qualification Framework, had created the context in which seamlessness was possible.

Individuals, the document tells us “…will be able to undertake education in more than one setting at the same time and have their achievements recognised through the Qualifications Framework regardless of where they work or where they are enrolled.”  It would be a future in which students in senior secondary school, the report suggests, “could combine regular school courses with polytechnic or university courses and workplace training provided by local industries.”

This was in 1993!

The policy document wanted schools, tertiary institutions and private providers to exploit the greater scope they would have to  “enter into arrangements with each other or local industries.”  Not only that but secondary schools would have the an opportunity to offer courses which have previously been available only at polytechnics or universities. It was an opportunity that was offered but not taken up. It would be another 20 years before there started to develop a tentative start to such a proposal.

This policy was well owned by the then Minister, Lockwood Smith, who the document describes as “currently working with the education community to design a way of resourcing this seamless education system to allow these education opportunities to flourish, and to build an education system for the twenty-first century.”

The opportunities offered by Education for the 21st Century were simple and well within our reach in 1993 when they were proposed.  It is only since the implementation of the Youth Guarantee policy that movement towards the goals of the report have become discernible.

The diagram that was progressively built, through the first twenty or so pages of the document is in itself interesting – I like to think of it as an early model for some of the thinking that is now looking at the development of multiple pathways with its clear links between parts of the system.

While the lines that demarcate the different levels of education are still there and clear and straight and and less diffuse than I might like them to be, the attempt to create relationships between the parts is what might be thought of as an early prototype of the more connected system that we know is so critical if students are to succeed.

Missing is the role played by industry training but these were early days in the shift towards ITOs and new training schemes. It was at that time slowly dawning on people that industry  training needed to be revived.

In addition to the general philosophic material, the document also proposed a way forward for funding – the five emphases were access to Parents as First Teachers programme, increased access to information technology, opportunities for second language learning in forms 1-4 [sic], establishment of kura kaupapa Maori and increased participation in tertiary education and training. It would be interesting to see what our five emphases might be today.

I recollect that it was around the time of this report’s release in 1993 that the battle over qualification reform really started up and became a great distraction. Again a thoughtful contribution to the qualitative improvement of education for many young people became less important than that protection of territory.

I wished Lockwood well for his forthcoming tour of duty as High Commissioner in London and he thanked me for crossing the road to say hello. I then carried on my merry way reflecting on the opportunity lost back in 1993.







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Pathway-Ed: Tales from the Past #1 – Seamless is not shapeless

Stuart Middleton
27 January 2011

I bumped into Hon Dr Lockwood Smith the other day and mentioned to him that I still go back to the policy paper he released in 1993, Education for the 21st Century, a document that despite its worth had not had as much impact as it should have. Perhaps it made the mistake of including targets – New Zealand education has a deep allergy to targets. Perhaps it was the fact that it linked targets to funding – New Zealand education has a belief that funding is an inalienable right. Or perhaps it was that it contained a set of ideas that were a little or a lot ahead of their time.

“I go back particularly to one section,” I admitted.

“That would be the part about seamless education.” he said without hesitation.

Got it in one.

The notion of seamless education was a vision of a system in which “New Zealand will have a system under which it no longer matters with which provider or in which educational programme students are studying. All learning will lead to qualifications within the same framework.”

 The National Qualifications Framework and the new school curriculum were in their early stages of development or implementation and discussion around the country was hot. Startled by the fear of academic contamination the university sector didn’t want any part in it. A noted academic described unit standards as “intellectual finger food”. Oh dear, they were fractious times.

But in that section were even more revolutionary ideas:

  • that students would be able to undertake education and training in more than one setting at the same time”;
  • that  senior secondary school students might be able to “combine regular school courses with polytechnic or university courses and workplace training provided by local industries”;
  • institutions could enter into agreements with each other;
  • schools would have the “opportunity to offer courses which have previously been available only at polytechnics or universities”;
  • “Industry training organisations will be able to develop training programmes both on and off the job to meet their industries’ future needs.

This was 1993, 17 years ago and only now do we start to see serious progress starting to emerge in these things. Well, to be fair, ITO’s have got on in implementing this vision for the 21st Century but the rest of the system has been slow to respond.

Instead of seamless education we have seen a maze of Berlin Walls erected to repel any advances into our territory or our business at our level. The victims in these battles have been young people shot by educational failure before they had a chance of going over the top.

The minefields were laid. Time served became cemented into the system – you can’t do that you are only in Year XYZ. You can’t teach in this sector because you don’t have the correct degree – this sector has to have this degree because learning is so very different at this level. Oh yes, NCEA Level 1, that equals Year 11, NCEA Level 2 that equals Year 12 and so on. Financial penalties were inflicted on students who wished to leave school at the legal leaving age but before the age of 19 years to continue education and training.

What was meant to be an exciting new future became a living nightmare for students who for a whole variety of reasons could not find success in such a fractionated system.

You see, the notion of a seamless education is about the learner not about the teachers and the administrators and that still remains the key philosophic shift that needs to happen. “What is best for this learner?” has to be a more urgent question than “What can we do?” or “What’s best for us?” Making decisions based on what is in the best interests of a learner leads to good solutions which demand that we work in an integrated fashion, allowing students to move at different paces in different settings. It also means multiple pathways rather than the straight and narrow road of the academic secondary school programme.

So… we have to allow students who wish to access career and technical education sooner to do so. In a seamless education system this will mean that students who are coping well and succeeding needn’t spend so long in a school (this in a week when the university continues to cement entrance to the completion of the 13th year!). Those up against blocks should be able to easily move sideways to undertake more appropriate programmes in different places.

Seamless only appeared shapeless because people wanted it to fit the existing system.

We would all agree that education must provide strong foundations, and a wide range of opportunities thereafter, to meet the diverse needs of all New Zealanders. The education system must be without barriers to participation and life-long learning.

Actually, dear reader, the previous paragraph was the final paragraph of the section on THE SEAMLESS EDUCATION SYSTEM: A VISION FOR THE FUTURE published seventeen years ago.

We missed a grand opportunity back then.

Come back Lockwood, all is forgiven.