Inbox: Letter to the editor

Dear editor
You mention in “New learning for new economy” (NZ Management magazine, November 2012, page 6) that there is high level of disengaged students throughout the schooling system. This might be true for some schools, but definitely not for all of New Zealand schools. Disengagement is certainly factor and early exit is problematic as well, but these issues cannot be solely laid in front of schools’ doors. In my 27 years in education I have come to the conclusion that education is very complex beast and concentrating on just one perceived solution is waste of money and time.
The reasons for disengagement and early exit are complex, but the effect of home plays one of the bigger roles in this. Where we see full cooperation with the school by parents and caregivers, and support for the student to keep the student at school, excellent results are achieved.
It is easy to use the term socio-economic factors and blame poor outcomes on this, but there are enough examples of young people that have overcome very poor socio-economic circumstances to excel. My experience shows that it is low expectations and no support by family that lead to early exit and disengagement.
I think it is time that schools are acknowledged for what they are doing within the financial and political constraints that they have to operate under. The Gateway programmes and STAR funded courses all contribute to students leaving schools with clearer understanding of what the workplace demands and I am in no doubt that where these programmes are managed well, ready-for-work students do exit our schools.
My experience in New Zealand is that most schools will go out of their way to support students that want to achieve, and will go to great lengths to help secure work placements and wider than school curriculum education.
You also mention in your publication shortage of skills. This is problem in the education sector as well, although very selective. I have on few occasions now received very few applications for certain subjects, but in excess of 50 for physical education vacancy.
Is there somebody looking at this and actually monitoring or capping the training for certain subjects? It is heartbreaking to talk to these young people with stars in their eyes and full of energy to tackle what is very demanding job in New Zealand. Only one can get the job and embark on their first career.
– Dr Dawid de Villiers, principal, Dannevirke High School

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