Making the Connections, and Closing the Gaps - Is it really that hard?
While debate continues at the political level about exactly who it is policies should be targeted towards, the reality remains that there are significant gaps across a range of indicators between different groups in New Zealand. A failure to close these gaps has severe implications for New Zealand politically, socially and economically.
A recent Department of Corrections census reports that approximately 75% of all prison inmates, male and female, have no school qualifications. The question is, of course, to what degree there is a causal link. What is clear is that a failed learner is more likely to end up in prison.
Michael Resnick of the University of Minnesota has pulled together extensive research which shows that if you connect young [and not so young] people to learning, negative behaviours such as violence, use of drugs and alcohol etc. which are so costly to individuals, families and society are markedly reduced, levels of learning achievement improve, and as a result life's consequences are enhanced. We don't need research to tell us that; we can all tell stories of people whose lives have turned around when they switch on to learning.
In spite of the fact that concern about the kind of statistics highlighted in the Department of Corrections report has been expressed, in my personal experience, for at least 30 years numerous initiatives have failed, for example, to close the gaps between Maori and non-Maori educational achievement. One can't help but wonder therefore whether policy advisors and political decision makers have failed to come to grips with the real issues, and have instead focused on treating symptoms, rather than causes; have lacked the willingness or ability to make the necessary connections, and have failed to capitalise on what we now know on how to bring about improved learning for all children.
This article is about the connections, or more accurately the lack of connections, between national policy directions and what extensive international research is telling us about the nature of intelligence, how the brain works, and how people learn best.
Reprinted with the permission of the 21st Century Learning Initiative.
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