Peter Mazany: Charter schools 'vital' for some students

Peter Mazany argues that partnership or charter schools will permit rapid changes vital for some students.

Our target is to double the effectiveness of teaching and learning in half the time. File photo / Getty Images
Our target is to double the effectiveness of teaching and learning in half the time. File photo / Getty Images

Our company Schoolsims NZ has submitted an application to start a Partnership School/Kura Hourua.

I and some of my colleagues have taught or have positions at tertiary institutions in New Zealand. I have received prizes for my work when teaching at the University of Auckland as the most distinguished teacher and as the MBA teacher of the year. I do not and will never have a teaching degree and without the partnership schools initiative, this opportunity to start a school and prove the value of our teaching and learning methods would never have been available. I am sure that some of the other applicants are in the same position.

We are working with about 50 schools and provide them with an effective form of simulation-based learning for NCEA accounting with a large computer-based component.

Our target is to double the effectiveness of teaching and learning in half the time and half the cost over a range of standards in NCEA accounting, business studies, and maths.

As an example, our method increased average pass rates in a sample of NCEA level 1 accounting classes from 75 per cent to 95 per cent with significantly less time input from teachers and students, with such results exhibited across all deciles.

In addition, there is no marking for teachers to do as our "system" auto-marks the assessments. The teachers become advisers and mentors, solving the more difficult problems that students may have and helping motivate them.

Our method can produce huge benefits in results, efficiency, flexibility, speed and cost. When students are backed by immediate support, online or in class, they are less likely to get lost and lose motivation; poor performance can be identified immediately and remedied.

Monitoring through automated data-analytics allows quality standards to be maintained and outlying students and teachers to be easily identified and managed. The additional time saved can be used for the holistic development of students through activities such as outdoor workshops to instil environmental awareness and community spirit, as well as opportunities to develop great health and nutrition practices, gain work experience and develop values in integrity, accountability and responsibility.

In the Schoolsims partnership school we will apply the same approaches to young solo parents from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds. Because of family this group has a very distinctive set of needs that require both a high degree of flexibility, convenience, responsiveness and support.

Of course, others can apply to join our programme too as our innovative approach works for a broad spectrum of the student population and is not specific to this group. Young boys from lower socio-economic backgrounds are proving to be amenable to interactive and practical types of learning and our method is likely to work well for them also.

These are ideas that are getting into the mainstream schools now and there is no time to lose. The lower performing groups are those costing our society a huge amount in legal, prison, health and other social costs including general apathy, the loss of useful productivity towards society's goals and also the personal cost to the individuals.

Using our system, mainstream schools can provide learning a lot more effectively and efficiently; teachers can be provided with more support so that they can focus on teaching and not the compliance and administrative issues. Partnership schools allow these ideas to be implemented far more quickly.

Possibly not all the partnership schools will succeed immediately. However, if their performance is measured and monitored quarterly and managed appropriately, then their viability or unworkability can be ascertained quickly and funding withdrawn if necessary. Student performance will not be impacted negatively since most of the target students are now failing.

Provided the process is transparent, ethical and leads to good morals and values, then the schools should be allowed to operate as they deem fit.

Dr Peter Mazany has a MCom (Hons) from Auckland and a PhD from Yale.

- NZ Herald

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