Standard Approach Stifles Young Minds

HOW was your child's school report? Mine showed arrows on a line to tell me where she sat, according to the National Government's education policy of standardising her with the rest of the country's primary school children in her year.

This is despite all the evidence and research that shows how different brains develop at different times and in different ways, how some are great at counting and others can talk more words. And then there are those who are better at climbing trees and making (and throwing) mud pies.

I get that as parents we all want to know how our children are getting on, but there is now far too much focus on testing than letting children thrive on their own journey of learning.

Each child is now graded either above, meeting or below a standard. I'm still not sure what my child is actually being measured on or against, nor does it provide me with any new learning and development techniques she is gaining, in fact this part of the report is remarkably lacking on detail.

And at 6, she can also see for herself - there is a green arrow (that's standard) and there's a purple one (that's her). What an inspirational way of supporting success, being told from an such early age where you fit.

These national standards were somehow meant to provide parents with the knowledge and comfort, or concern, of where your child is at and as parents we are expected to accept and trust it. And then for the school, it is used to justify its achievements; validating the hard work their teachers are putting in, day after day, as the paperwork mounts and there less time to spend on doing things like discovery learning or away from the classroom tied to a desk.

Education will always be the greatest tool we can give our children to succeed in life. In New Zealand we once had a full and flavoured school curriculum, which was the envy of the world.

Where we fed up growing minds hungry to learn and expanded their brains in all sorts of different "Kiwi" ways - both in and out of the classroom. But with the National Government's focus now so set on testing to a standard as the measurement of success, we've lost our leading edge.

Today we are living in a transformational time of advancing technology and globalisation. And not only to keep up but to get ahead, I think we should be investing more in ways that help children grasp greater skills in learning how to become more agile thinkers, where they can adapt their different talents to continue succeeding in what is fast becoming a very different working world to the one we were educated and prepared for when we left school.

The future of work is not how we've known it. Gone are the nine-to-five, 40-hour a week lifetime jobs and careers to retirement. There is no such thing as a secure job, and we are already seeing that it is not unusual for people to work two, three or even four different jobs to make their weekly income.

Now I'm not saying that this is a bad thing, I'm saying we need to educate our children better for their world so they can embrace this exciting future, which offers new careers, opportunities and lifestyle choices.

And this is why I believe it is vital that instead of introducing standardisation, we should be doing everything possible to break down this type of testing regime.

We should acknowledge and recognise from a very early age how each and every child learns differently and what they like doing and help them set their own learning journey to building a lifetime of success - wherever that takes them. And we should be committed to making sure we bring back more time in the school day to spend doing and creating things and being active outdoors.

As our young children advance through this exciting time in education let's open our eyes to the new education possibilities ahead, rather than getting stuck on making primary school years about reaching national standards.

Growing little minds should not be boxed in.

Kids' achievements should not be a means to pitching schools against schools just so this National Government can try and prove it's creating education success.

Primary school is meant to be the best years of your childhood life, so let's not make them standard, make them extraordinary.