New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association / Te Wehengarua (PPTA) Education systems principles for secondary education - these are extracted from Secondary teaching into the future (2007).
What follows is a set of education systems principles against which PPTA would judge proposals for change in secondary education, and which would guide the union’s responses to the ‘wild cards’ that the future may throw our way.
The paper does not limit itself to a particular timeframe as constituting ‘the future’. PPTA takes the view that we are constantly moving from the present into the future, and at all points in this process, we need principles and a vision to guide our decision-making.
The first set of principles are the Learning principles:
Fundamental principles about how education systems should function
The learning described in the previous section cannot happen successfully for every student, irrespective of their situation, without the support of a well-resourced public education system. The principles below set out how the system should be supporting learning both now and in the future.
There must be equity of access to quality education
There must be a national system of public schools
Public schools must be responsible to that national system
The state must be responsible for supporting schools on the basis of need
Education is a shared responsibility
High quality teaching and school leadership are critical factors in successful learning
Educational policy-making is most successful when it is inclusive of practitioners
Educational outcomes are influenced by social and economic factors
There must be equity of access to quality education: System principle 1
Students are not equal in the levels of advantage they bring to their schooling experiences. It is the system’s responsibility to ensure that schools are able to redress such inequity, so that all students can benefit from education. It benefits all of society when all students are able to achieve to their full potential. From this fundamental principle, all others will flow.
Implication for the future: The system will be committed to equity of access to quality education, and equity of educational outcomes.
There must be a national system of public schools: System principle 2
Equity of access requires the state to balance the freedom of local schools to meet their local community needs and the requirement of the whole society to ensure all students have equity of access to education and develop as citizens of that society. This balance can best be achieved through a national system of public schools. Within that public school system, there will be kura where Maori cultural values and practices are dominant and students do all or most of their learning in Te Reo Maori. All schools must be supported by high quality national curricula and assessment systems.
Implication for the future: The public school network will continue to operate as the guarantor of equity of education.
Public schools must be responsible to that national system: System principle 3
While schools and teachers are professionally accountable to their students and their families/whanau, they must also accept a wider responsibility to a national system provided by the state on behalf of all its citizens. Individual schools, principals and teachers should behave collegially to ensure that their actions do not impact negatively on another school or its students.
Implication for the future: The state will promote collaboration rather than competition between schools and between teachers.
The state must be responsible for supporting schools on the basis of need: System principle 4
The state generates income from citizens to provide, amongst other services, a public education system. There must be elements of this provision that are needs-based, because school contexts vary. At the same time, a coherent national system is required. Schools must be adequately staffed with trained and qualified teachers, and with sufficient ancillary and support staff to enable teachers to focus on their teaching responsibilities. They must be properly funded to keep up with the pace of technological change.
Implication for the future: Schools will be fully resourced by central government on the basis of need.
Education is a shared responsibility: System principle 5
Through collaboration, the ability of students to achieve to their full potential is realised. The responsibility for education needs to be shared between state, school, teachers, students, families/whanau and the wider community. Teachers will be enabled to work collaboratively with other professionals to enhance their own learning and their ability to meet the needs of their students.
Implication for the future: Education will continue to be seen as a shared responsibility.
High quality teaching and school leadership are critical factors in successful learning: System principle 6
The primacy of quality teaching and school leadership has become part of fashionable rhetoric, but recognition of it needs to be demonstrated in practice, not just words. This requires that teachers be resourced for ongoing professional development to support enhanced subject knowledge and pedagogy, including quality access to ICT as a tool for their learning, and to enhance their capacity to provide pastoral care to students. It also demands that the work environment of teachers supports their physical and emotional health so that they can do the best possible job for students. Students’ needs and rights must be able to be met within sustainable workload demands and practices for teachers.
Implication for the future: The system will recognise in practice the primacy of high quality teaching and quality leadership.
Educational policy-making is most successful when it is inclusive of practitioners: System principle 7
The history of educational policy-making is littered with examples of policies that had little or no positive impact in classrooms because they were developed without the expertise of practitioners. This can be true at the school level, as well as at the system-wide level. Democratic and inclusive policy-making accesses the expertise of teacher unions, professional and subject associations and other sector representative groups. Teacher unions are valued for their professional leadership. They are seen as part of ensuring that the public education system in New Zealand grows and develops in ways that benefit students and New Zealand society.
Implication for the future: Policy-making will be inclusive of practitioners, including teacher unions.
Educational outcomes are influenced by social and economic factors: System principle 8
Recent policy rhetoric suggests that teachers are the primary influence on student outcomes. In fact, when all factors are taken into account, the characteristics of the individual teacher have a rather small influence on the learning outcomes of a student. Most of the factors that influence student success come from outside the school gates. As long as politicians and policy makers continue to ignore this reality, unrealistic expectations and pressures will be placed on schools and teachers to be the silver bullet for social and economic problems.
Implication for the future: Policy-making will recognise that schools must be supported by broader economic and social policies.
The learning and education system principles are developed further:
The future is impossible to predict with certainty, so no vision can be guaranteed to become a reality, but PPTA outlines here its preferred future scenario for secondary teaching.
Encapsulates PPTA’s longstanding aspiration for the professional role of secondary teachers: trained and qualified teachers who have equitable access to high quality ongoing learning.