Views on Education

Babies learn incredibly fast. They learn to crawl and walk, to speak a language without even doing any study. As they grow older they learn to interact with others and even how to be diplomatic with their parents. How do babies do it? Surely they don’t have any special learning powers, it just comes naturally. At about the age of about six or seven children suddenly lose these learning powers. This co-insides with the enforcement of a curriculum on them by a teacher. Gone are the days of exploring what you want to explore or the days of learning what you want to learn. Gone are the days of self-directed study and the days of rapid learning. Now you must learn what a bunch of adults sitting up in Wellington think you should learn and furthermore you are legally required to do so.

Self Directed rather than enforced learning should be at the core of the green party’s education policy, and this learning needn’t be restricted to the classroom. Education needs to be integrated into the wider community. For example, if a child has an interest in cars, then pottering about in a mechanics’ workshop is probably the best way for, even a young child to learn about cars. Not sitting in a classroom.

The responsibility of deciding what should and shouldn’t be taught needs to be taken out of the hands of a few boring old farts and made much more public. The processes involved need to be much more transparent and anyone should be able to have a say. The people most qualified to pass judgment on the education system are the students themselves. Senior students and recent school leavers should have a say on what is taught and how things are taught, and their opinions should be highly valued.

Life skills education and especially alcohol and drug education needs a totally new direction. The current system is fundamentally flawed. Young people, at some stage in their lives are going to make a decision as to whether or not they will take drugs or alcohol, regardless of what other people say, so it is no good for teachers to stand up in front of a class of kids and tell them that drug are bad and that they mustn’t be taken. Teachers should teach with the knowledge that a certain number of children in their class will choose to take drugs. The teacher can then teach the facts and teach how to take drugs safely.

Political education is an area of teaching that is currently non-existent. Such education needn’t influence students’ views or be in any way bias. Politics affects us all and we should be taught the difference between right wing and left wing and the difference between communism and fascism, etc. Our system of democracy is based on that used by ancient Greeks and Romans. On a certain day of the week everyone (well, all the men) would get together and have their say. Any one in New Zealand is entitled to have their say on a political issue yet we are never told in school that we can make submissions or write to an MP free of charge. Most people don’t even realise that you can join a political party whilst under the age of 18.

Thousands of people in New Zealand have bad backs. I have no doubt that this is directly related to the standard of seating in school. Chairs should be comfortable and soft.