How New Zealand education builds appreciation for cultural differences

donald trumpIf you look at current world events, such as #Brexit or #Trump, it’s not hard to conclude that ignorance of other cultures leads to prejudice and intolerance. Changing people’s prejudices is not impossible but ongoing conflicts around the globe show it’s difficult. The place to really tackle these unfortunate human habits and build a better future is to overtly address them in your nation’s education system. I wonder how your country’s education is tackling them? At what levels and in what form are these issues systematically addressed by your education system? IMAGE CREDIT

Not just tolErance but full appreciation

This is where I can proudly explain how New Zealand’s approach to educating appreciation for other cultures is both systematic and multifaceted. To be clear, New Zealand has not solved or completely eliminated issues around race, culture, and tolerance, but the initiatives it has implemented as integral parts of its education system have made a serious start at addressing these concerns. This small Pacific country has woven the development of cultural understanding into its education, from government level down to every classroom. It’s not just a topic in our curriculum but a requirement in how we approach everything at school. It also forms part of our professional development requirements to remain registered as a teacher, a process that expects growth every three years.

The two New Zealand schools in the video below are not typical as they are both exclusive schools teaching generally the children of the most affluent in the country. But because of this, this video acts as a good example of how prevalent cultural respect is in New Zealand schools. Even in the most conservative, traditionally “white” schools, the cultural respect is still successfully encouraged.

Why such a strong cultural focus?

nz curriculumsIt helps that New Zealand is bi-cultural with a founding treaty demanding the strong union between to strikingly different cultures. Our geographic situation also places us within easy reach of multiple asian countries making Auckland, in particular, a cultural melting-pot. Ive been to 3 schools that boast over 40 nationalities amongst their students. All government departments have an obligation to represent both Maori and Pakeha (European colonial cultures) equally in all processes and initiatives. This means we don’t just have one national curriculum translated in two languages but have two curriculums that share the same values and goals but outline very different culturally sensitive approaches to achieving them.

Developing culturally respectful learning

In New Zealand, teachers are expected to professionally develop to such an extent they are required to maintain a portfolio of growth and development in 12 professional practice criteria, Three of which directly relate to cultural respect and awareness. They are stated as:

  • demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of all ākonga(students). Take all reasonable steps to provide and maintain a teaching and learning environment that is physically, socially, culturally and emotionally safe. Acknowledge and respect the languages, heritages and cultures of all ākonga
  • Demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa New Zealand. Demonstrate respect for the heritages, languages and cultures of both partners to the Treaty of Waitangi.
  • work effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand. Practise and develop the relevant use of te reo Māori me ngā tikanga-a-iwi(
    the language and culture) in context. Specifically and effectively address the educational aspirations of ākonga Māori, displaying high expectations for their learning

Teachers must provide evidence each three years that their practice has grown in respect to the criteria above. This leads to government and teacher driven supportive resources and networks that help teachers develop their practice in helping young people become respectful and appreciative of each other’s cultures and customs. I would go as far to say that there are few places on earth more peaceful and safe as New Zealand. Given its education system, this will only improve further in the future.

I have covered most aspects of New Zealand education in my book A Learner’s Paradise: How New Zealand is reimagining education. Here’s the Ad:

 

_____________________________________________________________

Richard Wells Author pic SMLAuthor: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12
Deputy Principal in a New Zealand High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International Speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

_____________________________________________________________

Advertisements