Kirk Hope: New Zealand among the best in developing skills for the future

While there may be concerns here that over assessment in the classroom comes at the expense of learning, an ...
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While there may be concerns here that over assessment in the classroom comes at the expense of learning, an international study found New Zealand's education system is among the best in the world at developing skills for the future.

OPINION: New Zealand leads the world in future skills.  

The Economist's worldwide education for the future index has surveyed education systems around the world to find which are best at preparing their citizens for the future – and New Zealand came out on top.  

The study considered what the future might look like, and what kinds of skills people will need to prosper in that future.

Kirk Hope, chief executive of BusinessNZ.
CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF

Kirk Hope, chief executive of BusinessNZ.

The Economist sees the future as 'globalised economic systems' dominated by services and digital technologies.  People's work will take place within a global (not national) setting, within people-oriented service industries, and will be increasingly digital and technological in nature.

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This view of the future has big implications for the world's education systems and what they deliver.

Students will need the skills to manage and manipulate technologies, as well as having the human skills to succeed in service industries and working environments generally.  And student achievements will be measured against world, not national, standards.

The digitising of everything will have a big impact on learning.  Learning will become less about 'knowing stuff', and more about what can be done with that knowledge.

Traditional learning, focused on passing exams, will be under threat.  Learning will be more about continually developing complementary skills needed to grow, or be employed in, business.

The Economist says schools will have to teach students to 'learn how to learn'.

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Project-based learning involving collaboration and problem-solving will be more important than rote learning and regurgitation of facts. 

Curriculum and assessment frameworks will have to be focused on future skills needed, not the skills of the past. 

Classrooms will need to be integrated with the outside world and the workplace, rather than being isolated from the rest of society.  And education institutions and teachers will require increasingly large investment.   

It may come as a surprise to find that The Economist views New Zealand as the world's most successful country for future skills, but it appears that our strengths make the difference – in holistic learning, curriculum and assessment frameworks, digital preparedness, education investment and being a free and open society.

Our schools do well in holistic techniques like project-based learning, where students grapple with a subject in depth, across several disciplines, developing skills in a real-world context.

New Zealand's curriculum and assessment frameworks are viewed as being world-leading in delivering and assessing future skills. 

(This strength may not be readily apparent to us here, with local concerns about some over-assessment in schools at the expense of learning.)

Digital preparedness is another strength, with 98 per cent of schools connected to fast, uncapped broadband. 

New Zealand's fast uptake of 'bring your own device' learning is also viewed approvingly. 

The survey notes that individual digital devices allow students to have personalised learning at their own pace, with the capability for algorithms to track performance and allow teachers to identify and address individual students' needs.

The survey finds New Zealand scores well in terms of government investment. 

While teachers are underpaid compared with those in many other countries, the investment in education overall is very strong. 

And finally, New Zealand scores highly for being a free and open society – a key strength in an increasingly global environment.

The Economist says our success stems from the fact that we are a "small and remote country that knows it has little choice but to be globally competitive," and from our systematic government-led approach to making education "fit for the future".

It's good to know how we compare with other countries for future skills. 

We may have concerns about how well the education system is delivering todays' skills, particularly science, maths and technology – and we should continue to grow our capability and capacity in the teaching space - but it is heartening to know that our education system is well geared for the future.

Kirk Hope is the chief executive of BusinessNZ

 - Stuff

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