8. Our students are performing poorly on the core subjects like English and Maths. Shouldn’t we just focus on these core subjects like we did in my day?

8. Our students are performing poorly on the core subjects like English and Maths. Shouldn’t we just focus on these core subjects like we did in my day?


The basics are important, but there is plenty of evidence that students need far more skills to be successful today. In particular ‘soft’ skills like thinking skills and problem solving are becoming more important – a lot more important. The good news is that by motivating students to study what they are interested in they can do both at the same time. 

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    • Seann Paurini
      commented 2017-02-20 15:10:42 +1300
      Matt Walkington fully agree. My understanding is that maths is more critical. Just an aside, I have two friends who completed degrees in maths/physics/history and the other maths/music/philosophy in the 1990s – both credit maths as complimentary to their study of science and humanities.
    • Matt Walkington
      commented 2017-02-20 01:31:59 +1300
      I’d be keen to see this evidence that maths is becoming less “important”. If a skill such as maths is becoming poorer and less common in the general population, doesn’t that tend to make it more sort after and so more important? I’d be prepared to bet that significantly raising maths skills country wide would have all kinds of collateral benefits, and would also coincide with improved thinking skills and problem solving. I certainly accept that just focusing on a limited few basics probably won’t produce the best results.
    • Seann Paurini
      commented 2017-02-19 16:04:09 +1300
      ‘Soft skills’ (awful term!) are actually vital – for the whole educational life of any learner in this era. Ethics, history, politics, economics and sociology, propaganda analysis – these will become more important in this era – at year 7-8 and 9-13. The pedagogical approach to these subjects may be complicated at first. We want to maintain high standards and depth in terms of knowledge content – but children and young people take in knowledge very differently now. The teaching/learning approach needs to adapt without ‘dumbing down’ knowledge. As a teacher, I’ve worked with kids age 1 to 60+ – my observation of young people ‘Z’ Gen (?) who I have worked with e.g. ages 17-30 is that they love the ‘big ideas’ and tough questions but felt they never got the chance in formal schooling to take part as much as they would have liked to. We need to educate children to take a reverential view of knowledge – including history; an appreciation of the past and the knowledge that has been passed on – especially in such a random, chaotic technological society. I have worked as a teacher & tutor on a paid and on a casual basis for the last 18 years; most of my work is voluntary – that’s where I’ve really engaged with young people about what matters to them. High order knowledge is missing and they know it. They actually want more of it in the formal schooling system. I would like to see a Centre for Ethics, Politics, Economy and Society opened up in every secondary school in NZ.