In early 2018, learners/ākonga, parents, employers, iwi, communities, educators, and the Government, started to talk about what New Zealand needs from education now and into the future, and how to make this happen. The statement above is the vision that has arisen from these conversations. It's grounded in New Zealanders’ aspirations for education – to enable every New Zealander to learn and excel, to help their whānau and communities thrive, and to build a productive and sustainable economy and an open and caring society.
The consultation on the draft National Education and Learning Priorities and the Tertiary Education Strategy outlines five objectives for education. These objectives run across early learning services, schools and tertiary education. They are:
Objective One: Learners at the centre – learners with their whānau are at the centre of education
Objective Two: Barrier free access –great education opportunities and outcomes are within reach for every learner
Objective Three: Quality teaching and leadership – quality teaching and leadership make the difference for learners and their whānau
Objective Four: Future of learning and work – learning that is relevant to the lives of New Zealanders today and throughout their lives
Objective Five: World class inclusive public education –New Zealand education is trusted and sustainable
With 60,000 years of genius and imagination in our hearts and minds, we can be one of the groups of people that transform the future of life on Earth, for the good of us all.
We can design the solutions that lift islands up in the face of rising seas, we can work on creative agricultural solutions that are in sync with our natural habitat, we can re-engineer schooling, we can invent new jobs and technologies, and we can unite around kindness.
We are not the problem, we are the solution.
So reads the Imagination Declaration, written by 65 Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian students aged 11-18. The Declaration is a challenge to the Australian prime minister and education ministers to involve young people – and Indigenous Australians in particular – in making policy about their future.
When you do things that work, you should tell others about it. sharing lessons and insights spreads disruption and encourages other communities to work in similar ways.
Each of our groups has a story of the heightened credibility in their communities of working disruptively due to their communications and sharing insights. Some groups have accessed collaborative funding outside of their region for their disruptive work.
The growth of positive learning relationships in communities is integral to the goals of CEC. Our groups have told us that their CEC projects have influenced the families, whānau, children in their communities to raise their expectations as to how they should be treated by different groups and agencies.
Because of CEC, whānau can use their voice and be heard and explore things that matter to them. Providers are starting to recognise the power in whānau voice, they are listening, taking notice and changing things because of it. We heard about more awareness in the CEC communities of a more community-centric way of working.
Lots of providers or people are starting to come to our CEC groups because they seeing lots of opportunities to participate. There are more open conversations about education going on in communities and with providers. Some of our CEC groups are challenging others to think outside the box and giving them the information and skills to do that.
Whānau are being offered a different version of education and success rather than the one (academic results) that are always pedalled to them. Through CEC they are seeing that success in education is not only achievement, it is also being able to self determine what is important to you and get there yourself. Communities are in a better position to define what success means to them. Because of that, our CEC groups tell us that mana is being given back to whanau.
The CEC communities are self-determining. They set their own vision, and work to their own plans timelines. We work this way because we believe that by building the capacity of funded groups to develop shared educational goals within their communities is more likely to lead to community members taking ownership of the educational achievement of every child in that community.
Groups told us that the JR McKenzie Trust enables their self-determination in these ways:
They are given the freedom to take hold of CEC, to give it shape, to be able to respond to the needs of their communities.
They are given time and space which allows for relationships to form, it allows time for people to think through things, to get beyond the "have I got a solution for you" through to “what was my problem”.
CEC doesn't come with a solution, and communities are not required to start with a solution. This allows people and groups to find their values and operate off their value base.
Having the support of the JR McKenzie team builds trust, and trust builds confidence. And from confidence, comes credibility. All the CEC groups have grown in their ability to stand and engage with the world in their own right.
We problem solve together, we value each other, we are positive, we build rather than destroy. We are developing a model of partnership which is based not on resource and money but on how we value each other and how we value the contributions we bring to the partnership.
We believe that our CEC communities will be increasingly recognised as important partners in improving education if they ensure active and authentic participation through bringing diverse voices to the table and ensuring funded activities are responsive to the aspirations of whānau, hapu and iwi.
The CEC groups tell us that active and authentic participation is all about people and relationships and the creation of trust and belonging. They are there to facilitate, coach and mentor. Helping people with their self determination and pride in who they are unlocks their aspirations, gives them permission to go out there and achieve those aspirations. Most groups actively work with whānau so they can take ownership. That builds further trust, particularly with young people.
Moreover, creating their own theory of change and building leadership helps the groups be future-focussed.
Activities that groups use to create active and authentic participation include interviews, regular ongoing meetings, having good representation from rangatahi on their board. They make sure events open after hours. They hold lots of meetings, involve people from all ages, work alongside other organisations to bring in other voices and they are present at lost of community events as well. Lots of leaders and staff from the CEC groups sit on a lot of other groups so they are constantly receiving information about what is going on it their communities.
Our groups also actively remove barriers to participation. They take people out of their worlds and into new worlds, like taking young people to parliament and giving them opportunities to participate in ways they may not have imagined. They advocate for people to be involved in what is happening in their community and broker their participation.
Some of the groups told us about moments when education providers realised that the CEC activities were engaging whanau in a really meaningful way and wanted to get involved or wanted to invite the CEC group to the table. Some got offers of co-funding for planned activities. We heard that one teacher said "this is the first time I really understand my students and feel close to them“ after a CEC activity
Our second pou, collaboration, is about having good quality relationships based on mutual respect and trust. For the JR McKenzie Trust, this means applying the principles of grantee-centric practice and adding value to funded groups where we can with our experience and philanthropic knowledge.
For our CEC groups, it's about building collaborative relationships across and within communities. They told us that the collaborations in their own communities enable them to grow their mana to enable them to keep going.
They have become sustainable through these collaborations.
The collaborative relationships and grantee-centric practices of the JR McKenzie Trust adds value to the groups by:
Giving them time. Everyone seemed to appreciate the patience and the JR McKenzie trust way of working, enabling the time to scope, the time to think and the time to do it right.
Collaboration with the Trust has enabled groups to build their capacity, to tell their stories better. It brought tools for groups and for the communities.
It brought knowledge and links to isolated communities.
It brought autonomy, confidence and made it okay to be wrong.
There was also a little bit of money that came out of it.
Our groups noticed that the association with the JR McKenzie Trust enabled a bit of a conversation change when they talked to funders. One group said that all their funding applications this year have been successful.
The Connecting Education and Communities project is guided by 6 pou (pillars), which refer to our principles of practice, which are outlined in our Theory of Change. They are:
A strong vision
Active and authentic participation
Self determining communities
These pou guide our practice; they define the ways in which we work with each of the six CEC communities, and in turn they help to outline our expectations of they ways in which we would like to see the CEC groups work with their communities.
Our first pou is a strong vision. We believe that if we keep our vision front and centre of our decision-making and funding activities then we are more likely to see interaction and collaboration between partners who share our vision.
At our hui in November 2018 we asked our groups to feed back to us what difference it makes when they apply the 6 pou to their work. They told us:
All groups have their own vision, which is strongly linked to the JR McKenzie vision of building a socially just and inclusive Aotearoa New Zealand. Their vision helps them tell people what they are about, it adds to transparency and it adds to accountability back into the community for what they are doing.
Groups say sharing the vision helps them broker relationships, facilitates learning and conversations, leverages community partners, gets other people enthusiastic and keen about what they are doing.
For many, CEC is a long term project with a objective of policy change. The vision enables things such as legacy, empowerment, enabling, responsibility, advocacy, brokering.
The social justice focus of the JR McKenzie vision is important and has helped shape the work.
The Google dictionary tells us that education is “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction”. The Google dictionary, it would seem, has a knack for making things that should be fun (adj. amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable), rather boring (adj. not interesting; tedious).
Thankfully, none of the Change Makers at the Whanganui Learning Centre who are part of the Connecting Education and Communities project looked up the definition of education online, preferring instead to redefine education as support, awhi, a space to share, a goal to achieve or a dream to make real. The Change Makers meet regularly every week to look at what’s happening within their own whānau and community and come up with ideas how to change things and make them better.
In September, the Change Makers are connecting their whānau and communities with education through the Whanganui Festival of Learning, which is themed around identity and journeying, and will be headlined with a waka exhibition. The exhibition looks at waka as the vehicles, such as canoes, sailing ships, cars, boats or planes, that have brought families/whānau to Whanganui or to Aotearoa/New Zealand. The goal of the exhibition is to have each whanau share their journeys and in doing so to connect with education, and each other.
Change Makers Bree (second from left) and Emeline (middle, seated) along with (seated from left) Lucas, Mareca and Ulamila. Standing are Gail Imhoff, Jen McDonald and Margie Beautrais. [Photo: Wanganui Midweek]
UPDATE SEPT 2018 700 children and whānau groups contributed their waka to the Festival of Learning. The response to the festival was so great that the waka couldn’t fit into the Whanganui Regional Museum’s temporary premises and a second display had to be created in another venue. Whilst the Festival of Learning has now finished, the museum will continue to offer a programme about waka hourua and emphasising whakapapa to participants.
You can read more about the waka and the Festival of Learning here, and here, or see the Māori television coverage here.
Having the ability and the aptitude to react quickly to changes in community circumstances and demands around education is critical to our CEC projects. For Te Hā o Mātauranga | Learning in Kaikōura, navigating the educational and employment changes after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Kaikoura in November 2016 was essential in ensuring their community had the capacity and capabilities to become part of the rebuild.
For Kaikoura whānau, the earthquake not only destroyed road and rail links, demolished houses, ripped up roads and railways and sent acres of land hurtling into the sea from massive landslides, it also displaced many community members out of work as the fishing, tourism and hospitality industries became temporarily redundant.
In its infancy at the time, CEC project Te Hā o Mātauranga saw the need to quickly support and upskill community members who were struggling to gain employment. They partnered with Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu to provide the He Toki Step Up programme, a short course aimed at helping participants achieve the minimum credentials to access employment opportunities after the quake. Together, the partners recruited 17 participants, who received training in civil construction alongside ‘soft skills’ of career planning, CV writing and interview skills. All participants were able to access driver licensing training and tests. This in itself was a huge task which required significant forward planning, not least of all because the lack of traffic lights made it impossible to sit a test in Kaikoura, and access to towns in which a drivers licence test could be taken was severely restricted by road damage.
Altogether, of the 14 participants who completed the programme, 8 found full time. employment after the short programme, 5 of these in jobs created after the earthquake. A further three participants continued with part time work, and two returned to school.
In the two years since the earthquakes, Te Hā o Mātauranga has continued to offer the community of Kaikoura the mix of practical skills, soft skills and competencies required by the future working environment, alongside the community planning and goal setting needed for communities to flourish, and in doing so play an important role in helping to connect their community with education and learning for the 21st century.