A generation of innovation
Opinion piece by Pat Lynch
The boldness of Prime Minister David Lange, who in 1989 initiated the education reforms which we now call, ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ cannot be overestimated.
This year on 7th May, elections will again take place to elect boards of trustees in over 2,600 schools throughout the nation.
Historians are likely to conclude that one of the more significant legacies of David Lange will be the reform of the administration of NZ’s schools. His insight was to see that a self managing school would be more effective than one which was centrally administered.
It is of more than passing interest that political leaders from increasing numbers of countries are coming to the conclusion that schools deliver better outcomes when they are administered by local communities.
Many people forget that the governance of our secondary schools right from their inception in the late 1800’s was by elected local individuals. We therefore have a long experience in this regard.
Over the last generation the number of parents who have gained tertiary education qualifications, plus other formative education experiences, has lifted the pool of suitable trustees.
Parents today know what they want from the school they have chosen for their child and are not afraid to be frank with principals and teachers. This approach mirrors what is occurring in the health sector and in other parts of society.
While critics point to the weaknesses of the current system, redefining what is possible is always a challenge for the administrators of schools and of government leaders.
Over the last 20 years successive governments have made very helpful changes to the 1989 legislation by developing regulations which have enabled the vast majority of schools to improve their educational outcomes.
One result the self-managing school model has demonstrated is that with the right educational philosophy and effective leadership from a board of trustees and its principal, positive education outcomes do occur for young people.
NZers can be proud of how their schools are governed. It would be wonderful if proactive citizens could see their way clear to standing for election in the upcoming school trustee elections.
Not only is the role satisfying, it is a tangible way to contribute to the well being of the NZ society.
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