Tuesday, November 16, 2010

New Zealand #1 in Education

 “Sometimes we don’t realise what we’ve got, because we are too close to it.  We see the faults and the flaws, but not the beauty of the whole thing.

We see ourselves as individuals in a tiny population living in a tiny country tucked right down in the bottom corner of the world and we have absolutely no idea how great we are, or how great we can become. We suffer from the “we’re just wee sprats in the big ocean of the world – what could we possibly know – or change – or achieve?” type of thinking.

But we aren’t.  Kiwis pack one heck of a punch!

For example, here we are living in the country that has been classified as the #1 country in the world in education! We don’t realise it, because we are in the middle of it – to us it’s normal, and in fact, we can see lots of ways to improve it – which is good, because that means we’re hell bent on doing it even better!

New Zealanders – ordinary Kiwis like you and me, can be world-beaters.

 We ARE world beaters!

One of the scariest and most challenging tasks I’ve ever had was taking a team of Future Problem Solving students to compete in the States in the International Finals. These were four 14 yr old students who had won the title of NZ Middle Division champions and who now had to compete against 64 other international and State Champion teams.

We were Kiwis! Sprats! Minnows!  Could we do it?

We returned from the USA carrying the biggest trophies we had ever laid eyes on (they do things big in the States!).

Was it a fluke?  No.   Was it just the school I taught at?  No.

That was 16 years ago.  Since then, year after year, NZ Future Problem Solving teams carry off major prize after major prize.  These students come from places like KeriKeri, Matamata, Invercargill, and some places that are so small I can barely find them on the map! Of course there are teams from the major cities as well.

Along with other NZ schools, I was lucky enough to take NZ teams to the International Finals 6 years in a row. I don’t need proof that NZ is ranked right up there in education – I had State Directors besieging me with questions: they wanted to know what it was we did back here to make our students so good.

The NZ education system is world class.

I believe my teams were so successful both because they were part of the NZ education system, and because I taught them that the essence of achievement is to work hard at what you can control.
You CAN’T control the level of ability of your opponents; the mood of the judges; whether or not one of your team mates gets sick on the day...
You CAN control:
                        how much preparation you put into something;
You CAN control:
how well you work as a team member; (you’re never ever really flying solo in life – there are always others working with you) and
You CAN control how much you are focussed on the task in hand.

If you are as prepared as you can be,
and you put everything you’ve got into it,
then you have at least as much chance as the next guy to be a world beater.”

About 10 days ago I had the privilege of being the guest speaker at a Senior School Prizegiving. I drew inspiration from the news featured that declared NZ had been rated as number 1 in education.  This blog is an extract from my speech.
 (Email me if you want a copy of the full speech - J)

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