New Zealand academics visit school district

  • Oct. 7, 2009 5:00 p.m.

Submitted article-Last week Professor Russell Bishop of the University of Waikato and Doctor Mere Berryman from the New Zealand Minsitry of Education visited Haida Gwaii as part of a three-district visit to British Columbia in order to provide advice and assistance in establishing a new education project here in BC.Since 2001, Dr. Bishop and his colleagues have pursued a project called Te Kotahitanga, which has brought about sweeping changes to the success rates of Maori children in New Zealand schools. Graduation rates for Maori students have increased dramatically; some schools have gone from having 20 percent of their graduating class being Maori to around 80 percent.The Te Kotahitanga project focuses on changing teaching pedagogy primarily at the junior secondary level in New Zealand, although it is now expanding to earlier and later grades in that country. The new instructional techniques encourage higher expecations and standards for all students while changing many of the approaches to learning new school materials.All students in New Zealand, Maori and non-Maori, achieved higher returns on standardized tests after going through the project. School District 50, along with districts 59 and 74, as well as several other provincial organizations, are looking in to adapting Te Kotahitanga principles to a “made in BC” change in instruction.The visit, described by Superintendent of Schools Angus Wilson as “a wonderful whirlwind,” involved several meetings with band education administrators and council members, trustees, elders, and school staff. The two New Zealanders also had the opportunity to visit several district schools, the Skidegate Haida Immersion Program, and to do a little bit of sight seeing to Tow Hill and beyond.The visit will help the professors “contextualize” the strengths and weaknesses of the BC school system before providing advice on how the three districts should proceed.”Certainly all of our research and evidence shows that this kind of approach fits quite nicely into our vision of successful students, who leave our schools with a real world choice,” says District Principal of Aboriginal Education, Joanne Yovanovich.