Restoring the village for our children

Danielle van Dalen

An African proverb claims that “it takes a village to raise a child.”

Labour’s School Leavers’ Toolkit Policy seems an attempt to follow this advice and further include the village, or at least the school, in the raising of children.

This might be the best solution for now but care is needed to make sure the village does not lose its proverb-worthy ability to raise a child.

Policy implications

The School Leavers’ Toolkit focuses on equipping high school students with practical skills that they will need to participate in the wider community as they transition from high school into the “real world.”

To achieve this, the toolkit asks schools to teach their students civics classes on our political system, budgeting and financial skills, as well as driving lessons and tests. The policy also calls for every school to provide a careers advisor who can assist students in creating their own, personalised career plan.

These are wonderful and practical things our young people should be learning.

Barriers faced students

With research finding that young people were least likely to vote in the 2014 national election, and that “70,000 to 90,000 young people face major barriers to progressing to a full licence,” it seems these are important areas we need to address if we want a well-functioning nation in 50 years hence.

Clearly, there are barriers to some students learning these things at home.

With limited hours and many subjects to teach, however, it is important to remember that something would need to be removed from school life to introduce these new subjects. Otago Secondary Principals’ Association secretary Gordon Wilson notes that “there are only a certain number of hours in the school day” and by introducing this policy “the curriculum could become crowded.”

Losing responsibility

Is it really the role of our schools to add these subjects to their already full day?

Many families do not require the government to step in and teach these subjects.

In creating a blanket policy, we take away more responsibilities from our wider communities and the expectation that it is parents who will teach and provide life’s essentials.

We need to make sure that in addressing the needs of some children who are missing out that we do not create a societal expectation that school is the “official” place where our children are taught the important lessons of life. This might look like better equipping community groups and families to take up this role rather than expecting the school to become the catch-all solution to every social ill.

Key areas

Labour’s School Leavers’ Toolkit identifies several key areas to be addressed in the education of our young people as they leave high school.

Perhaps this policy is the best immediate answer for some children, but we need to look at how we can build the capacity of families and communities, instead of removing their responsibilities.

Rather than limiting the village to the school we need to be asking how the village can be restored, recognising that we all play different roles in raising a child.

Danielle van Dalen is a Researcher at the Maxim Institute based in Auckland.

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