What ‘Under the Bridge’ documentary tells us about New Zealand society and its education system.

The ‘Under the Bridge’ documentary reveals a lot about New Zealand society and the New Zealand education system. But does it tell the full story?

The strong sense of community and aroha of the Papakura High School students really shines through. I was totally drawn in by the students whose stories were featured. They were earnest, genuine and compelling. I really wanted them to succeed.

Papakura High has a problem. The roll is falling. The locals are not sending their children there. They are choosing to send them to schools outside their local zone. Because they can. And that seems to be the message behind the documentary. That schools in poor communities (‘bad’ schools) are suffering at the hands of schools in richer communities (‘good’ schools). This is not a problem confined to Papakura High. This scenario is replicated throughout New Zealand.

For me, the documentary seemed to be implying that Papakura High School’s plight could be solved by fixing 1. poverty, 2. the school zoning system and 3. bungling bureaucracy. But hang on a minute. Isn’t there a glaringly obvious omission from this assessment? I mean,

  1. Where is the discussion on the role of teachers and educators in all of this?
  2. Why do we have an education system that allows parents to determine whether a school is ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

I suggest that providing Papakura High School with teachers who know what great learning actually is and then setting about raising the achievement standards of all its students would be a great way of lifting Papakura High’s roll.

If there is to be a follow up to the ‘Under the Bridge’ documentary, I’d like to suggest that the spotlight be turned on the teaching profession and the Ministry of Education. The students and community of Papakura High School deserve a better deal.

Ease Education: Teaching at a human scale.

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