• Paul Tupou-Vea

Education Wars

Updated: May 6, 2018

According to CAPP's Strengths Profile, one of my top "realised" strengths is "Incubator". This means I like to think things through at great depth (all things!) before making decisions or taking action. Combine that with a few of my other top strengths like, Mission, Self Awareness, and Strategic Awareness, and we have a dedicated over-thinker.

Needless to say there is often a cacophony of ideas swirling, like that scene from Pirates of the Carribean, where there's a storm, a battle and an epic whirlpool in one, but for me its just in my head, most hours of the day. I'm working on using those strengths more wisely, but anyway...

Some of the things, swirling have been education-centric - reading debates on whether New Zealand's education system should adhere to the old knowledge-based curricula versus those who support a ''21st Century-skills"-based curriculum has been a bit of a head-scratcher for someone who has a background in social science and youth development (among other things).

It looks like this to me:

Over-simplified perhaps? Having followed the discourse, I don't think I've overstated the situation.

Sometimes it feels like this:

Its almost like neither of the schools of thought in question have are open to leave their position on the continuum long enough to examine the issue up close, from all angles, including from inside the issue itself.

Lets hold the phone just a moment though. If you were in the market for a new car, in order for you to determine the "ideal" waka (vehicle), you'd consider a number of factors. Asking, "What do I need this car for?, What is its purpose?" would be your starting point, no? You wouldn't run out and buy that sporty coupe if you had three kids to tow to school and practice everyday, because you've already said "I need this car to be able to do x, y, z."

I'd argue that it's time we re-examined SERIOUSLY, what the purpose of compulsory schooling is (excuse my shouting). I.e.: What are the major priorities, the x, y, z, that must be addressed in a thriving education system? I incubated that thought for so long, that the new Education Minister, here in NZ actually began a related conversation with the education sector.

It is imperative though, that it is not just a conversation that the sector has from their entrenched seats on a continuum of pedagogical belief. Wider input is needed. I want to hear from the person at point 'Z' that has a better angle on the issue.

Incidentally I have purchased some point 'Z' real estate myself. Having spent the last six years in a boarding school environment, relating my 15 years in youth development and doing some hefty research on the matter over that duration, including a base of Social Science and my current post-grad study - I have had time to be in the issue and around it to peruse it from many different angles and incubate too. Part of being "in" the issue for me has been reflecting on my experience as male, Pacific learner - one of the lowest achieving demographics in the OECD, along with Maori males. And with that perspective I ask this:

If we were to satisfy both schools of thought, that school leavers at the age of 17 and 18 years had the academic knowledge to thrive in an academic setting, AND had the soft-skills to achieve in professional settings - is it an ideal education system/ curriculum - if we still have incredibly poor youth wellbeing? Can we say that we have a great schooling system if we still have one of the worst youth suicide rates in the OECD? Will either strength lead to a decrease in our appalling rates of bullying?

"But these are schools, its not their function, to fix these problem!"

Response: Where else in society will these issues be addressed? Again - school education is by far the biggest medium of public investment in young people in any society. If they leave this medium academically qualified but under-prepared for the rigors of life, is that success?

"But, the NZ government is looking at putting a counselor in every school".

Response: Even if this was to happen, there is some evidence to say that the demands are already far beyond the capacity of a school counselor. More notably though, these solutions occur at the bottom of the cliff. Counselors and nurses are extremely important for youth wellbeing! But they are also reactive as opposed to proactive, so unless the the causes of ill-being are thwarted, the demands on teachers, health professionals and on young people will only increase.

"So what's this alternative, eh wise-guy?"

Wellbeing Education (WE) or Positive Education in every school. For the students' , staff and for parents too. Each of those three parts is crucial. There is a whole bunch of science to support this justification, but that's for another blog post!

I can hear collective groans and grunts from my colleagues in schools, as this sounds like a proposal to put the final straw on the camel's back. Believe me, I know how hard you work! And this is another reason why Wellbeing Education is so important.

While you wait for the next blog you could:

a) head over to https://conversation.education.govt.nz/ and have your say about what you think needs to happen in education in NZ, or

b) check out a podcast I did recently for Dr Craig Harrison at the Millenium Institute of Sport & Health, touching on some of these issues but leaning towards athlete development: http://news.autmillennium.org.nz/athlete-development/ep-48/

c) I'll be writing about Positive Education and Wellbeing Education shortly - in the meantime you might snack on this write-up if the suspense is killing you

Thanks for visiting Clifftop! Get in touch if I can help your organisation get on the Wellbeing Education train as a pioneer!

Ngā mihi nui,


#wellbeing #educationreform #curriculum #positiveeducation #wellbeingeducation

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