Thursday, August 07, 2014

Nigel Latta Rates Kiwi Schools Brilliant

Nigel Latta is a familiar name in every Kiwi household. His parenting advice may appeal or raise eyebrows, but is inevitably hilarious and memorable. A few weeks ago, we were honoured to host Nigel on our blog. Today, the country hosts him in our TV lounges as he discusses the way New Zealand schools work today and whether it's better than the traditional approach.

The traditional approach relied on an end-of-the-year examination system that have you a neat mark out of a hundred. You got 50%, you passed, You got 49%, you failed. But, on the day and under pressure, is that one mark really important enough to determine whether or not you're labelled a failure? What if you worked hard all your school life, but crumbled under exam pressure because of your learning style? What if you had a headache on the day of the big exam?

Nowadays, New Zealand schools offer Discovery Learning as part of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA). Discovery Learning, according to the Wikipedia, is "a technique of inquiry-based instruction and is considered a constructivist based approach to education. It is supported by the work of learning theorists and psychologists Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, and Seymour Papert."

What this means in the real world is that the teacher doesn't impart his or her knowledge to the students, expecting them to assimilate and regurgitate. Instead, the teacher guides the students towards the answer or answers, bearing in mind that there may be more than one correct outcome.

For example, a class on Soft Materials Technology (sewing in traditional speak), might design and create a soft toy that scares away monsters at night but doesn't scare the child. Doesn't it sound more fun than sewing an apron from the same pattern throughout the whole school?

In English, the students may watch a movie and discuss the character's emotional journey or the symbolism of certain objects.

In maths, kids will be learning that there is more than one way to solve a problem. If you need to add 12 and 15, you may go:
  • well, 12 is 10+2 and 15 is 10+5, so I'll just add the two tens and then add 2 and 5; or
  • well, 15 is the same as 12+ 3, I know two twelves are 24, and I still have 3 left over, so I'll add that to 24.
This helps children get strategies to choose from. Some kids will choose strategies best suited to the numbers. Others will choose strategies best suited to their own learning style.

Watch Nigel Latta go to school:

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