How things can change in a year

Associate Professor Jenny Ritchie, Victoria University of Wellington
(NZARE co-president)

How radically things can change in the space of a year!  I am referring primarily to our change in government, and the resultant emphasis of the new government in generating a world-leading shift away from a purely GDP/economically-based measure of societal success. The previous narrow neo-liberal economic focus had been mirrored in narrow metrics of measurement in education via the imposition of National Standards, and more widely in the Better Social Services Targets for social policy. These arbitrary, cherry-picking measures denied the complexities of:

  • the underlying historical impacts of colonisation (e.g. see here, here and here);
  • the ongoing entrenched socio-economic inequities in Aotearoa NZ; and
  • the racism (often politely acknowledged as ‘unconscious bias’) of the dominant majority who implemented these policies and measures.

Instead, we now have a government committed to prioritising social wellbeing, and treasury is facing the interesting challenge of measuring this social wellbeing.  Meanwhile, the new government faces the challenge of undoing a raft of social ills exacerbated by three terms of a government which at best had deliberately ignored––but could well be charged with directly contributing to––the worsening conditions of school buildings, hospital buildings, social housing, mental health, and so on.

Last year at our NZARE conference at the University of Waikato, Professor Cynthia Coburn (from Northwestern University in Chicago) explored some of the dilemmas with regard to policy decision-making in education and discussed how researchers might better serve and influence education policy-making. Listening to Cynthia’s keynote, I realised how vital it is to maximise the opportunity we have in this current moment of government policy-making receptivity. As educational researchers, we have a window of opportunity at this moment to convey key findings of our research to those people who can ensure that our early childhood services, schools, and tertiary education settings are the beneficiaries of wise, research-informed policies.  The Ministry of Education has initiated wide consultation regarding major educational reforms (see also here and here), and it is vitally important that our research is given due attention in this process, and not lost in the cacophony of voices that have been sought.

As educational researchers, many long hours, days, weeks, and months are spent designing projects, gathering data, analysing this data, and writing this up in research reports and academic journal articles. We sincerely hope that key messages from our research will be noticed by those in positions of influence. Over the past year, this blog, Ipu Kererū, has aimed to provide teachers, researchers, policy-makers and the wider community with synopses of recent research. We hope these resources will continue to reach an ever-growing audience and will contribute to an ongoing conversation about educational issues, strategies and priorities.

And later this year, our NZARE “Shaping the Futures” Conference focuses on transformation:

The conference theme this year,

‘Celebrating transformative educational research, policy, and pedagogies that foster the wellbeing of people and planet’,

speaks to the power of our role as researchers and as educators, in shaping the future of our country’s educational policies and practices.

Our conference whakatauākī,

‘Māui Taumata Rau’, 

inspires us to seek transformative pathways that may lie beyond the normative conventions.

The conference will be held in South Auckland, a diverse and dynamic region that is alive with energy and with vibrant young educational activists such as the Kia Aroha Warrior Researchers, whose writing for Ipu Kererū was the material on this blog that received the highest number of readers in the past year.

Please join us at this exciting conference to celebrate the power of research in transforming not only educational practices, but the future possibilities for our children, our youth, our wider society and our planetary wellbeing.

The call for abstracts for “Shaping our Futures: NZARE Conference 2018” is open until 7 August 2018.

Please visit the conference website for more information on keynote speakers, the call for abstracts, venue/accommodation and other matters. Registration information will be available in August.

Jenny squareJenny Ritchie is an Associate Professor at Victoria University of Wellington and the Co-President of the NZ Association for Research in Education. She has a background as a child-care educator and kindergarten teacher, followed by 25 years’ experience in early childhood teacher education. Her teaching, research, and writing has focused on supporting early childhood educators and teacher educators to enhance their praxis in terms of cultural, environmental and social justice issues. 

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