It is interesting being both an educator and a parent as you begin to see education from both a delivery and consumer's perspective. My children are now both in their senior high school years, experiencing NCEA and the extra-curricular opportunities open to them.
Earlier this week I watched my son performing as Macbeth in a 15 min adaption of the famous play as part of a local secondary school Shakespearian festival and he is currently in Dunedin representing his school in a two day debating competition. My daughter has been spending time, after school, coaching a junior school aerobics team and she is spending today as part of "Stage Challenge", a secondary school dance and performance competition that she has been involved with for the past three years. Obviously I am exceedingly proud of my son and daughter's achievements (well beyond what I achieved at the same age) but I am also extremely grateful for the time, goodwill and passion shown by the teaching staff from their respective schools who have made this possible.
The current government would have us believe that education is only worth supporting if there is a direct economic benefit from what is being taught and at a primary level this has been determined as Literacy and Numeracy. All advisors for curricula outside these two areas have been sacked and at university level the Arts and Classics have been restricted financially and questioned as legitimate courses of study. From my own experience it is precisely these creative areas that we really need to foster if we are to have people with the skills to face the challenges ahead.
My children have gained equally as much, if not more, from their interests and extra-curricular involvement. It is through these activities that they have developed their skills of critical and creative thinking, performing under pressure, co-operating as a team for a shared goal and gaining useful confidence in their own abilities. Such activities create a purpose and a context for learning new skills and the satisfaction from a successful performance or completed project goes well beyond a pass mark in a Mathematics exam.
Under the current education ministers and political regime I fear that the creative edge that New Zealand has relied on for years could be lost when huge numbers of report writers and number crunchers dominate our working culture. We really need a change of government before (like our threatened wetland areas) we are left with a stagnant economy because of the factory mentality of those who lead our education system. Mono-culture farming lessens our economic resilience and so does mono-culture education.