OPINION LEADERS Schools 2025: Who Will Lead?

Imagine future in which teenage students are based not in one location but spread throughout the community – in businesses, factories, marae, shopping malls, sporting academies or museums.
Instead of expecting single school to be expert in everything, students might rely on an education adviser who brokers suitable mix of programmes. Students might learn accountancy from an accountant, biology from vet, and business administration from captain of industry.
This possibility of schooling being delivered within networked society is one of four scenarios devised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and being used by Secondary Futures: Hoenga Auaha Taiohi www.secondaryfutures.co.nz project set up to encourage discussion about the role and purpose of secondary schools in 20 years’ time. It invites consideration of what young New Zealanders will need in order to be successful in this future world, and how institutions, and those who work in them, might respond to meet this need.
Traditionally, schools and the wider education system focus their strategic planning on the next three to five years. But the world is changing at an unprecedented pace and educational leaders of the future will need to navigate waters that have yet to be charted.
Research commissioned by the OECD puts New Zealand in group of the second highest performing countries in reading, maths and science. However, we had wide distribution of achievement scores in each subject. Disparities between different groups of students should temper celebration of these results and suggest reason for promoting change.
New Zealand is sectorised society: education, business, health and other sectors have had little interaction with each other. In the future, the sectorised approach may not produce the best outcomes. Educational leaders may need stronger relationship with business and the wider community to ensure schools produce students who are adequately equipped to work and live in an increasingly complex environment.
A key issue is who will lead the secondary schools of 2025. In keeping with other countries, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand could well suffer school leadership crisis. Already, one third of teachers are over 50. Another third are aged 30 to 50, and only half of them are expected to still be teaching in 20 years’ time.
Teachers now under the age of 40, and especially those under 30, are likely to be in position to assume leadership roles by 2025. This represents only nine percent of the current workforce, situation aggravated by the growing attrition rates among recent graduates. Almost one in 10 secondary teachers left the profession between 2003 and 2005.
In the health sector, we have seen much of the leadership move away from experienced clinicians towards career managers with range of different backgrounds – and often from outside the health professions.
Instead of being consequence of years of service or institutional loyalty, could leadership be deliberate professional choice made soon after graduation? Leaders may spend only year or two in the classroom, at most. Making educational leadership career choice might also prevent classrooms being robbed of good teachers.
If such transformation occurs, strategic leadership may be more desirable than charismatic, “heroic” school leadership. The ability to analyse and respond to sound evidence may become more important than having high level of community support, or political acceptability, or popularity with students.
Leaders face critical challenges in identifying future directions, discerning the macro-trends and their impacts on education, forging alliances and enthusing staff about the desirability of change, rather than portraying change as burden accompanied by extra classroom and administrative demands.
A New Zealand academy similar to the National College for School Leadership in the United Kingdom might help build sustainable leadership capacity.
Secondary school leaders of the future will have to compete in global environment. Schools will be expected to modify the curriculum to meet the demands of growing international student body, and to forge global networks to make it easier for New Zealand students to study overseas.
New Zealand is likely to become an exporter of secondary education. Our teachers are already prized overseas: in future, school leaders will also be part of global job market. Schools will have more opportunities to develop courses to be ‘sold’ for use in foreign classrooms and to develop campuses in other countries.
The uniquely New Zealand aspects of our education system may come under pressure from global agendas, but the next generation of educational leaders should be in position to feel excited by the pace of change and convinced our students can hold their own with the rest of the world.

Mason Durie is chairman of Secondary Futures and deputy vice chancellor (Maori) at Massey University in Palmerston North.

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