Saudi and international education experts gathered at last week’s International Conference on Education and Training Evaluation to hear from Hekia Parata, New Zealand’s Minister of Education from 2011 – 2017. Delegates at the conference learned of the challenges and successes of New Zealand’s recent education reforms, which Ms. Paratha led during her time as Minister.
Ms. Parata’s session was moderated by Dr. Mohammed Alzaghibi, Senior Advisor and Director of the General Directorate of Partnerships and International Collaboration at Saudi Arabia’s Education and Training Evaluation Commission (ETEC).
The session was designed to convey New Zealand’s experience of education reform, with a view to how this experience can inform education reform in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
The role of data in educational reform was a focus of the discussion, with Ms. Parata emphasizing the importance of data in evaluating educational policies and reforms.
She noted that evaluation was key not just for compliance purposes or the sake of bureaucracy, but for the purpose of identifying which parts of the reform process are working well, and which aspects need attention.
Ms. Parata said, “Data tells us where every child is…Government will know the numbers, but schools know the children’s names.” According to Ms. Parata, data is a fundamental factor in ensuring no child is overlooked.
Ms. Parata also stressed the role people play in any education reform, explaining that “People are our most important resource. Language, identity and culture allow us to be innovative.”
According to Ms. Parata, it is this innovation which ensures today’s students can contribute meaningfully to economic growth and stability in the future, saying “it is not just what you know, it is how you can apply that knowledge that helps to build individual’s lives and their country’s economy.”
There are four main contributors to a country’s educational success, all of which are human-based. These are the quality of teaching, the quality of leadership in the education system, the strength of parent engagement in children’s learning and the importance with which a community holds the education of their children and young people.
Such factors are key determinants of a country’s education outcomes, and therefore must be the basic considerations of any educational reform. These factors are essential in creating school, university and vocational graduates that are able to meet a country’s economic needs.
She said, “The role of teachers and their contribution to economies cannot be overstated…It is teachers, principals, parents and communities that make all the difference.”