Saturday, February 14, 2009

Latest Learning Matters Column

Schools have certainly taken on a much larger role in our communities than they were originally intended to. Schools were set up so that teachers could teach knowledge and skills in what was considered to be the important subject areas and so that students could learn these things. The result is that students emerge from the other end either with necessary qualifications to attend university or the necessary skills to be employed to do the range of jobs our communities needed done.

This situation has certainly changed in two main areas. The first is that schools now seem responsible for areas beyond these subject disciplines. Schools are now called upon to be responsible for developing self-esteem, promoting acceptable values, addressing issues such as obesity, and providing a wide range of sporting and cultural experiences even down to free and expert coaching. This is all important stuff and schools, especially when they form strong partnerships with whanau and the wider community, do a great job within these areas.

The second area is hugely important and I am not sure if the wider community is fully aware of its importance. I am talking about qualifications.

It is impossible to make the point strongly enough that every child must gain national qualifications while they are at school. There may still be a few low-paying, usually seasonal jobs with little real long-term security, which are available for people without qualifications, but these types of jobs are declining fast.

Schools must have as their main priority the achievement of national qualifications for everyone of their students.

The good news is that this is a possible reality for every student. We have the proof at Opotiki College. Once again, the 2008 NCEA results have shown that every single student who completes five years of schooling at Opotiki College is guaranteed national qualifications. Not one student who completed 5 years failed to achieve NCEA.

The results from the Year 12 group (those who have completed 4 years of secondary schooling) are particularly impressive as well. 85% of those who completed 4 years with us achieved NCEA Level 2 – only 13 students failed to do that and the vast majority of them achieved Level 1. Those who have neither simply need to complete one more year and they will achieve one of the NCEA qualifications.

At Year 11 (3 years of secondary schooling) 65 % achieved NCEA Level 1. If the other 35% return and complete a further year they are almost guaranteed qualifications at the end of Year 12. The guarantee is rock-solid if they complete the further two years available to them!

A student, for whatever reason, who drops out of school in Years 9, 10 or 11 is choosing a future without qualifications so therefore a future without secure and rewarding employment. A student who stays for a full 4 or 5 years is making quite a different choice with hugely different consequences for their future.

The bad news is that we as a school cannot do this alone. Every responsible adult in the family and every adult who has an influence over a young person must make that child attend their school every single day and, preferably, in the best possible state for learning.

As far as national qualifications are concerned if you get them here we will get them there. Inspire your child to aim for at least 4 years, but preferably 5 years, of full attendance at secondary school. If this happens there will be a whole lot of learning and learning matters!

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