Is the playing field level?

Activity 2: Critically analyse issues of socio-economic factors, school culture and professional environments in relation to practice.

The Tasman region at the top of the South Island of New Zealand stretches from Murchison to Golden Bay and includes Richmond where our school is located. The main occupations that make up the Tasman workforce come from the areas of agriculture, forestry and fishing with a number engaged in employment in these industries. A proportion of which hold manual or labouring roles where Tasman has a higher percentage compared to the national average.

Occupation for employed people aged 15 years and over
Tasman Region and New Zealand
2013 Census

Graph, Occupation for employed people aged 15 years and over, selected region, territorial authority or local board area, and New Zealand, 2013 Census

The region enjoys the highest proportion of employed people but the annual median wage is lower than the national average as a result of rural based occupations having lower incomes (Tasman – 2013 Census QuickStats about families and households). Although lower incomes may be a part of rural life, a positive characteristic is that two parent families with dependents are statistically more common compared to urban households, with Tasman having a 12.6% vs 17.8 across New Zealand.

So how does this impact us in our decisions when we follow trends in education? Schools are increasingly asking students to bring laptops to school (and parents to resource them) to assist in their learning. A survey by Network4Learning (2015) found 69 per cent of secondary schools had a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy in place. As more schools move in this direction, the hype increases and with it the pressure, but is BYOD in schools a level playing field?

There are still issues around equity, affordability and understanding the need for BYOD in the classroom. The NZCER survey of secondary schools (Bonne, Wylie, 2015) identified of those Principals whose schools had a BYOD policy in place, 54 per cent stated buying a device was a small issue; however, for twenty percent of parents and whanau this was a large problem.

So it can be problematic making BYOD a reality. Though students can be encouraged to bring a device, compelling students breaches the Education Act guaranteeing a “free education”. Regardless of this, schools are increasingly asking students to bring devices to school. This is of concern to Chris Hipkins, the Labour’s new education minister who said (NewsHub, 2016), “there’s no doubt that kids need to be using technology, but simply transferring the cost of that onto parents isn’t really living up to our obligation to provide kids with a free education.” Principal of Westlake Boys’ High School, Grant Saul, highlights the catch 22 predicaments of voluntary programmes, that if a teacher cannot count on the students bringing devices to the class, how can they prepare to incorporate them into their teaching programme? (Education Review, 2016).

As we continue to build a culture of BYOD at Waimea College in our senior school, how can we help those in our community for whom it is not affordable? We provide laptops in our library that can be loaned out for use by students – with the intention that these are for those students who cannot afford a laptop, as well as pods of chromebooks (10 per pod) that can be booked by teachers.

Family circumstances are one the strongest indicators for student success at school. Family background, income, and structure all influence success at school (Egalite, 2016). We would all agree that in a perfect world the outcomes of children should not suffer because of their parents’ life circumstances. It is too easy to bemoan the fact that all students do not arrive at school with a device, or a pen and see ourselves as the victim where students upset our best laid plans.

Let’s see this as the reality that the playing field is not level and do our best to understand our community and work out how we can make it fair for everyone. Where possible we should be bridge builders spanning a potential digital divide among those who are less advantaged so that they are not further disadvantaged in the classroom.

20/20 Trust. (2017). Digital Technologies in Schools 2016-17 (p. 63). Research New Zealand. Retrieved from https://2020.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Digital-Technologies-in-Schools-2016-17-04-05-2017-FINAL.pdf

N4L Team. (2015, December 3). Summary of Findings of the Technology in Schools survey carried out by N4L in mid-2015. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from https://www.pond.co.nz/detail/729648/n4l-technology-in-schools-survey-summary-of-findings

Egalite , A. J. (2017, September 01). How Family Background Influences Student Achievement. Retrieved October 28, 2017, from http://educationnext.org/how-family-background-influences-student-achievement/

 

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One thought on “Is the playing field level?

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  1. This is a really thoughtful post, especially the reference to teachers bemoaning the spoiling of their best laid plans. Too often, we forget the reality for our students beyond the school boundaries. I think you should make this point with our staff.

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