What's wrong with our education system?

World-renowned education specialist Yong Zhao has been speaking with Auckland educators.
ALASTAIR LYNN / FAIRFAX NZ

World-renowned education specialist Yong Zhao has been speaking with Auckland educators.

A world-renowned education specialist says New Zealand's education system is at risk of being "seduced" by testing.

University of Oregon professor Yong Zhao has been speaking with Auckland school managers and principals about the future of the education profession.

While New Zealand is considered to have a progressive education system, Zhao warns we are focusing too much on the past.

"We believe that a good education is represented by good test scores," he says

"But for me, that's the best of education in the past. We're trying to provide an education machine that produces like an assembly line. These kinds of jobs are gone."

Zhao has published more than 100 articles and 20 books analysing the implications of globalisation and technology on education. 

He says assessing the quality of education through National Standards figures and testing like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a mistake.

"I don't think New Zealand needs to be competitive on a global scale. It's too small a country. You need to find your niche.

"Teachers really want to do more for their children, that needs to be supported.

"We need education that supports the development of unique skills to a level that [children] don't meet standards, they are their own standards."

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Standardised testing is not preparing children for the jobs of the future, Zhao says.

"It's all existing solutions to existing problems. All the standardised testing can do is put people in the bell curve."

Zhao says this simply creates natural psychological winners and losers.

"At the age of 7 we take a test and we determine if we're going to be a helpful person to society. Children don't have the confidence that they are successful.

"If we have many bell curves each individual can be exemplary in their own way but education doesn't allow for that."

Children need to be taught principles of creativity, problem solving and confidence, Zhao says.

"All these mechanical jobs will quickly be gone so humans need to become more human.

"No matter how advanced a machine is, it can't experience creativity or understand what's worth doing. We have to prepare our children to create their own jobs."

 - Stuff

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