It is easy to become disheartened when it comes to the challenges associated with change and reform in education. However, Richard Wells’ book A Learner’s Paradise: A Learner’s Paradise: How New Zealand Is Reimagining Education provides hope. Throughout the book, Wells recounts his experiences teaching in New Zealand. Throughout he describes the trust invested in teachers, power of connections, celebration of culture and level of support provided via various government and nonprofit agencies.
To support Wells’ description of reform, he provides case studies of the following schools: Kid’s Domain, Taupaki Primary School, Breens Intermediate School and Hobsonville Point School. Whether it be student agency, use of space or fluid nature of the timetable, each school is going through a process of rethinking education in their own way. Interestingly, this is something called out in the recent Horizon Report.
One of the things that stood out in Wells’ reflection is that it was not something that happened over night. The changes to curriculum and assessment in New Zealand have developed over fifteen years and involved many adjustments along the way. This reminded me in part of the story Pasi Salberg details in his book Finnish Lessons. Salberg describes how it took Finland over fifty years to get to the point where they are at today.
In the end, A Learner’s Paradise provides a snapshot of what is possible. However, it is best seen as a conversation starter. Although Wells shares some advice, including questions to eradicate and actions to consider, it is not necessarily a step-by-step guide. I must admit I was left wondering about some of the intracies, in particular, the process surrounding the practicing certificate in New Zealand. The reality though is that this simply does not within scope of this book. A Learner’s Paradise is a book for all educators, not for its solutions, but as a provocation as to what change might mean within any context.
For a different introduction, I recommend Well’s book trailer:
DISCLOSURE: I was not paid for this review, while I purchased the book myself.
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