New Zealand is in the midst of lots of changes. Some of it is politically driven but most of it is driven by a real desire to improve education in the country and really grow how education can make a difference among both students who have had access to technology and the students who have been removed from that opportunity for economic or social reasons. One of the interesting things about New Zealand is how national assessment and benchmarking has affected how the leaders think about the quality of their education system. One of the things I heard quite a bit when I was in New Zealand was the solid performance the country has had on PISA and TIMSS benchmarking tests.
For the countries and the students who are doing well and achieve high scores on the tests it can be a source of amazing pride throughout the country. It seemed like everyone I talked to was reflecting on the fact that New Zealand’s education system was fairly healthy comparatively from around the world. And that’s good. It’s good to see a country take pride in their education’s success and successful outcomes. On the other side of the coin, I encourage education leaders to just not focus here, because fundamentally you don’t want to not only rest on the education progress you’re making but also take too much into any one measure. We’ve got to continue to innovate and elevate our education expectations regardless of one or two national assessments that happen every few years. Ultimately, we’ve got to continue to push hard.
I was excited to see the leadership in New Zealand is embracing that challenge and seeing that the way in which technology can make a difference and impact in the country is certainly nowhere near where the potential lies. There’s lots of amazing conversations happening around how do think through everything from 21st century skills integration to how do we think about digital access to accessibility, technology, and making a meaningful impact. There’s also a fundamental connection to the industries and industry motivating elements like entrepreneurship as a key focus in the education system.
Although New Zealand may have good test scores, there’s clear motivation from people to continue to make improvements, and I’m confident they’ll continue to be a world leader and push for change that can be helpful for the rest of the world to look at and learn from.