Digital curriculum must be thrown out: educators must wrest from corporates

My source in the ministry says The Digital Technologies Hangarau Matihiko Curriculum Reference Group was dominated by technology corporates who proceeded to produce a fully-fledged curriculum abounding in steps and outcomes with a computer programme in preparation for teachers and the review office to check out ‘progress’.

It was made clear that the corporates involved wanted to monopolise services and products for the digital programme and, eventually, to extend the process to the wider curriculum such as maths, reading, science, and social studies. In quiet corners they talked how the programmes could mean savings to the government in teacher numbers. When asked, Nikki Kaye will say that there were no plans to do this, which is correct, but there are understandings.

The corporates are quite explicit that they can only provide their product and services at the price they are offering if the Communities of Learning are functioning in business-like way, that is with a non-educational professional acting as CoL leader.

Whetu Cormick captured it all well in his latest NZPF newsletter. The first paragraph, in particular, is beautifully ironically nuanced:

Minister Kaye announced a multi-million dollar injection of funds for technology this week. We will be asking to partner the Minister in establishing how that money may be applied. For us it is about looking at the creativity we could harness from new technologies, rather than looking at another curriculum subject with standardised progressions or ‘progress outcomes’.  New Zealand is a country built on the strength of our inventions and creativity and in technological ideas, we are world leading.  We want to return our education system and curriculum to focusing again on the individual talent in each of our young people and drawing that out.  Going down a path of standardisation is nurturing mediocrity.  That’s not what we are as New Zealanders and I am confident that mediocrity is not our current Minister’s idea of education either.

Last week, I promised to report on the highlights of our recent executive meeting. The big discussions were on Communities of Learning, progressing our Māori Achievement Collaborations PLD and Initial Teacher Education. Here I will report only on the CoL discussion and discuss other issues in next week’s newsletter.

Communities of Learning (CoL)

The main points noted/discussed were:

  • The disempowerment of communities, removing control from local schools and their communities through their Board of Trustees, and strengthening of central control
  • Many schools are not willingly joining CoL but feel coerced, bullied and threatened by fear of missing out
  • The intent of CoL in respect of functions beyond collaboration has never been made explicit despite specifically requesting the Secretary for Education to address these.  What began as a welcome injection of funding for schools to formally collaborate on shared issues and concerns is now starting to look like the biggest system change since Tomorrow’s Schools.  It is becoming clear that CoL are morphing into  a ‘complete system change’ where responsibility for every educational function could be devolved to the CoL
  • It is  clear through our survey feedback that the role of the lead principal cannot be sustained by a current school principal and may in time be replaced with an executive administrator with good business management and financial skills who would take over allocation of all of the operational and other funding streams, staffing and management functions including property, utilities and facilities management, provision of all services including special education and lead network reviews and the school principal’s role could be reduced solely to leading the learning in the CoL schools.
  • The Education Act Update with its provision to have one leader for multiple schools and super Boards for more than one school or more than one CoL neatly enables such a managerial centralised structure
  • Executive members expressed their concerns about how the CoL structure will help progress learning for the young people in their schools.  All supported collaboration as a useful way to progress learning but most did not support CoL as the best structure for collaboration to be successful.

I urge you to read the following posting of mine which addresses what the digital curriculum should attend to and avoid:

https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/the-writers-of-the-draft-digital-technologies-have-pulled-a-swift-one/

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