How are you doing? I mean … at educating your country’s children? I live in New Zealand and from the evidence I had in 2015 when I wrote my book, A Learner’s Paradise, we have the best education system in the world. Knowing it was great, you can imagine how excited I was when this year The Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, created by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation, concluded I was correct! New Zealand has the best education for preparing children for the future. Let me take you though the highlights of where the index and my book align.
I might have used the term “reimagine” in the subtitle of my book, where as the Future Index went with the word “redefined,” the real difference between the two works is that my book didn’t just describe the details and systems covered by the research but also the journey New Zealand went on to achieve it’s top ranking.
New Zealand ranks 1st thanks to factors like university-industry collaboration, a curriculum framework that takes into account skills for the future and high quality of teacher education.
Where The Economist and I agree
Let’s take a look at the key agreements between The Economist and me, as a practicing teacher in the highest rank country and the author who claimed it to be A Learner’s Paradise!
- Curriculum Framework: The NZ curriculum generally stops short of demanding specific content. It highlights key competencies and concepts but trusts teachers to build a relevant curriculum for the specific students they teach.
- Teacher education and support: The federal government heavily funds teacher development but for accountability, expects on-going professional inquiry into one’s own teaching practice to be shared as part of maintaining a practicing certificate.
- Money: New Zealand does spend the highest percentage of GDP on education but it’s spending that money wisely that makes the difference . Across the country, we spend considerably more money on schools servicing poorer communities. This helps level the playing field somewhat. Kiwis get confused when I highlight that areas of the USA actually run the opposite system, where poorer schools get less money! Public schools also have autonomy to spend as they see fit.
- Policy Implementation: The extent to which a government trusts its teachers is an issue I highlight in my book. In both my book and The Economist’s research, there is a correlation between the success of countries in being future-ready and how they show a willingness to trust teachers to decide, shape, and implement policy. In New Zealand, teachers are encouraged by the Ministry of Education (regardless of the governing party) to work together in shaping how the curriculum is implemented.
- Cultural diversity and tolerance: This is the biggest standout for me, especially as I was born in the UK and get to enjoy appreciating kiwi lifestyle and education more than those born with it. Both pieces of work highlight that the New Zealand curriculum is internationally focused in developing world citizens as much as engaged kiwis, but to work here is to be inspired by cultural acceptance and engagement. As a educator in New Zealand, I am not only expected to use all three official languages (English, Maori, and Sign) but display an understanding in my practice, that Maori have different expectations as to how they approach learning and supporting community.
Want more than just the stats?
It’s worth checking out the full report as it covers much more detail in regards to why some rich countries don’t do so well and specific trends that lead to success. They also provide an interactive spreadsheet “Workbook” file that takes you through all the detail in the data. But if you’re interested in how New Zealand became ranked number one, then you may be shocked to hear me recommend my book, A Learner’s Paradise: How New Zealand is reimagining Education. It covers each element in the system and how both New Zealand went about creating such a flexible, Future-ready system, and how I became so inspired by it as a practicing educator.
Here’s the video produced by the index about skills for the future: