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Saturday, 23 October 2010

We must be doing something right

Reading ManOfErrors post about the state of education in NZ, made me think.  We are just going through the last stages of the course choice process, where we try to align the students wants for their next year's courses with the available resources, teachers classrooms etc.  It's always a bit fraught.  Sometimes a particular class that you (as a teacher devoted to a subject) really want to run next year, is cancelled because not enough students want to study it.

It happened to me 6 years ago, when I was desperate to start an academic computing class, working on advanced programming and University-Level database. (I get a lot of stick from colleagues who seem to imply that computing is just glorified typing made electronic.  Try and set up a search algorithm on a two dimensional array utilising stacks and queues guys)  I only got 5 students who put their name down for this course, so it didn't run.  I had to accept a compromise, where I amalgamated a Year 12 class with the advanced Year 13 class.  It worked, but not to the same extent as I had hoped.

It looks like next year we will actually end up with more academic computing classes at a senior level than ever before. (1 Y13, 3 Y12s and 2 Y11s)

The future of computing as seen by us and the students
Some of the students just choose computing because we're seen as an easy way to get lots of NCEA credits, and that's certainly true at the moment.  Most of the Assessment Standards from the NZQA in the Domain - Business Information Processing are just glorified typing tasks from the 60s, made modern with a few frills.  They are quite easy, and give a relatively high number of NCEA credits, although most of the students who pass these assessments could do a fair job in most offices on word processing tasks.  What the superannuated typing teachers living in their stenographic castles of the NZQA don't realise is that typing pools as they remember them are gone.  Even manager's secretaries don't just type, they're more PAs these days.  Most executives do much of their communication themselves, via email or IM or even word process themselves. 

The future of computing as seen by typing teachers
So there just isn't the demand for typists that there used to be.  There is a demand for people who can communicate effectively and who can think creatively and independently, and that's what we try to do, and sometimes we succeed.

I would also add that even those students who are focused on the word processing side of the available Units soak up good grammatical, spelling and communication skills from simply writing business-type letters.

We've actually ben a bit too successful.  In computing, I'm not sure we have enough specialist teachers hours to cope with the demand.  I know that in J-Ps department, some of their senior (and academic) courses have proven to be very popular, and they have the same problem we do, they just don't have enough specialist teachers for the demand.  The NZ system, screwed up as it is, does seem (at least in Nuova Lazio High) to be working to the extent of producing young adults with a good skill set for modern or even academic life.
Wouldn't we be able to do so much better with a better teacher/student ratio?
Oh yes, we would be able to concentrate the enthusiastic specialist teachers on smaller interested classes.
I hope Ms Bloody Tolley is listening.

Came accross this funny Thai Advert.  Nothing really to do with the rest of this post but it's unusual.


  1. I am a university professor and the lack of enrollment for a particular course or section has resulted in the class not "making." It is disappointing because if this is a new course for the teacher the prep work has already been done. Curiously, our enrollment has increased significantly during a time of economic distress. I am not certain I can explain that excepting the readiness of student loans and those who are unemployed are convinced that higher education leads to more job opportunities.

  2. Thanks for dropping by Mike.
    We are finding something similar here. Our unemployment rate is high-ish, about 9%, and we're finding we have a higher retention rate for our seniors. I think they're finding that there are no available jobs out in the cruel world (we warned them), especially without adequate qualifications.
    From your comment, am I supposed to gather that you don't think higher education leads to more job opportunities?
    I don't quite agree if that is the case, I'm just interested in your reasoning.

    If you're the Mike behind MadMikesAmercia, doubly welcome, Excellent site. You might want to have a look at a couple of blogs here about the FBI (we don't really mean it)

    see FBI and Oh Shit

    Thanks again for visiting. Have a good non god-bothering day.

  3. My wife keeps an eye on what I watch on the net from her chair as I play videos etc. I played the video above and she commented "I wouldn't want him teaching my daughter!"

  4. TSB: I am that Mad Mike :-) I do, however, agree that a good education can open doors with deep blue sky behind them. I am concerned, nonetheless, that there are students who expect that an education is the "automatic" key to success. It is my experience that hard work + an education = success. Then again I have seen those who managed to bypass the equation and just get lucky :-) Thanks for the welcome by the way, and if you ever are so inclined we are looking for writers at MMA. The pay is lousy but the hours are your own :-)

  5. MM, I agree that some students do think that an advanced qualification automatically leads to a good job, but I honestly believe that most realise it just opens up opportunities, or lets them follow the path towards their goal.
    It's really encouraging seeing the shift from a "degree" just for the sake of it, towards a specific qualification for a specific purpose.

    As regards writing for MMA, I'm deeply touched that you would consider little ole me. Before you make any offer however, you should be aware of the following:
    My other <A href = ">blog</a> is a bit more serious
    I am not very politically correct
    I waver between agnostic and atheist, often minute by minute
    I have a very twisted sense of humour
    I love teaching.

    Pay, what pay?
    You must not joke about money or whisky with a Scotsman. It brings out the animal in us. Very dangerous.

    Oh, I might not always be that pro-american, or might mention some facts or theories not common to the US paradigm.


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