Giving the gift of knowledge
The global conversation at Expo 2020 has now turned to knowledge and learning, and more specifically tackling differences in access to education. This month we spoke to three Kea community members who are all working to increase access to education and learning both here and offshore.
‘Equity is not the enemy of excellence’
Equity within the New Zealand education system is a known problem, in 2020 a UNICEF study of rich countries, ranked New Zealand 33rd out of 38 countries in terms of educational equality. Working to bridge this gap are Kiwis like Bill Kermode.
Bill is the CEO and Chairman of the NEXT foundation, a family owned charity which supports a range of initiatives that aim to drive higher achievement and outcomes for children, including innovative projects which exist beyond the edges of more traditional systems.
Bill says while New Zealand has strong examples of excellence in education, there is also too big a gap between the top performers and those at the bottom.
“There is a well established link between educational outcomes and life outcomes. By supporting better educational outcomes we believe we are helping create better outcomes for future generations of New Zealanders. Schools are also community hubs so by supporting them you are also supporting the whole community.”
One of the initiatives the foundation supports is Manaiakalani, a three year programme which takes schools from a traditional to a digital based model. Manaiakalani is targeted at low decile schools and helps whānau to invest in a digital learning device for their child, provides wireless internet access at home and school, and drives evidence-based innovation in teaching methods. Bill says programmes like Manaiakalani are crucial in creating better access to education for some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children.
“I passionately believe that organisations like Manaiakalani should be in many more schools in this country. There is a perception in some areas that equity is the enemy of excellence but that’s not how I see it. Equity and excellence sit alongside each other, the success of individuals creates success for us all.”
‘We want everyone to bring their Tikanga’
Equal access to education and learning is something Rachel Petero is passionate about. She’s an international HR professional, governance Director and the founder of Rise2025, a global management consulting business which focuses on Indigenous learning, coaching and leadership education from a Te Ao Māori worldview. A descendant of the Tainui waka, Rachel says in the past Māori have had to fight for access to education.
“Tikanga or cultural practices and protocols that ensure we do what is right to keep ourselves and others safe in education has traditionally not considered the needs of Māori learning styles and preferences. The absence of New Zealand History in our education system is just one example. Māori had to create our own learning models of excellence, Kōhanga Reo is a wonderful example of this. Luckily we are resilient people and we have always strived to support ourselves in a system that didn’t understand how we learn. We have become the teachers, the educators, the learners and the leaders to self-determine our way forward.”
Rachel believes New Zealand has a unique opportunity to understand and capitalise on the benefits that Māori teachings and culture can bring to the education system.
“In five years I would like to see Te Reo Māori mandatory in schools, and I would like to see a Māori education model – in much the same way we are seeing the Māori Health authority being stood up. If we go on this journey of learning and education together there are so many benefits for all New Zealanders. Not only will we get this wonderful New Zealand lens into our education system, we will also get this overlapping of a Te Ao Māori worldview that has so much richness to experience. The unique weaving of worldviews in education gives New Zealand a unique learning experience.”
Rachel says considering Māori and Indigenous people in the education space is not a problem which should be tackled in isolation, rather it is part of a much bigger journey of biculturalism that New Zealand is currently working through.
“We need to work collectively and courageously to understand the value of tikanga Māori, Te Reo Māori and matauranga Māori (knowledge) if we truly want cultural transformation as a nation. We want everyone to bring their tikanga to this on-going kōrero or conversation. For us to truly achieve equality in areas like education or health, instead of everyone putting their best foot forward we need everyone to put their best culture forward, then we will be in a position to lead the world in all areas of education and equality.”
The lady of light
While there are many Kiwis working to improve access to education within New Zealand there are also a number who are working to achieve better outcomes for those in developing nations. One of these people is Kiwi Nick Hammond who is the Chairman of ADC Microfinance.
ADC Microfinance is a New Zealand based charity which reduces poverty in Myanmar by providing small business loans and financial education to people living below the poverty line. The charity works through a longstanding and trusted local partner, ZMF, to provide money and advice to those who can’t access credit through traditional channels. Nick says giving someone a hand up can have a huge effect not just on them but on their entire community.
“The people we support in Myanmar are very entrepreneurial and resourceful but they are often excluded from access to credit, or the support they need to get started – and that’s where we can help. People come in and spend some time learning about running a business. As part of that training we help them make a plan for their specific business and then they are loaned enough money to launch that business, usually somewhere in the region of $200NZD. They pay the loan back over a period of six months with a small interest rate. After that they are left with a business that is all theirs and, more importantly, a sustainable income stream.”
“One woman borrowed money to buy a generator and some wire, and she wired up her village so that people could pay to clip on and get electricity. She paid off her loan in no time and now the local people call her the ‘lady of light’.”
Since its inception in 2008, the charity has given out more than 13,000 loans and 96% of these have been repaid in full. Recently ADC Microfinance secured funding through the New Zealand Aid Programme’s Manaaki Fund, to undertake a capacity building and expansion programme in Myanmar. The $800,000 investment will allow the charity to increase their client base from 1200 people at present to more than 20,000 by 2030.
Nick says the programme is not just changing the lives of the borrowers but also the lives of their families and communities.
“Around 86% of our clients are women and they spend their money on the next generation. That is where the secondary impact of this model is so powerful. Their children are getting a better education, better food and shelter and they are being inspired by seeing their mothers as empowered entrepreneurs, people who are held up as a success in their community. We are not just giving out money or knowledge, we are empowering people to transform their lives, the lives of their families and the lives of their communities.”