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Diversity helps make better schools

by Tim Oughton, Executive Principal

Diversity is a wonderful thing – diversity of culture, people, geography, history and lifestyle all make the world a fascinating place.

Maya Angelou, a well-known American writer and civil rights activist said not long before her death in 2014, “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” The same advice applies to schools.

Schools, by their very nature and communities they represent, are diverse organisations, but in this period of rapid educational evolution they are becoming more and more diverse in terms of what is being taught, how it is taught and assessed, who is teaching and who is learning. Our national curriculum encourages diversity and isn’t overly prescriptive; that is a good thing because students learn in different ways. Providing a diverse range of learning experiences and allowing students to explore and enquire make school learning programmes a far cry from yesteryear.

At Kristin we teach an alternative curriculum, the International Baccalaureate, and in the Senior School we offer the IB Diploma alongside NCEA as qualification pathways. This suits our student population and they appreciate having alternatives, especially those wanting to pursue international tertiary education options.

Researchers from the University of Auckland studied this programme last year, and noted that the learning experiences focus on internationalism and intercultural understanding. Their finding are summarised elsewhere in this edition of Channel. For Kristin students, this is framed in terms of global self-positioning, and yet the language and the requirement is interpreted as local in its implications. In a New Zealand context, for example, “intercultural” can be translated into an inquiry into relations with indigenous peoples. Global responsibility is emphasised in classroom discussions but, again, often with local connections. Students are able to place themselves at the centre of issues and current events, such as the rising costs of petrol and oil, the housing market boom in Auckland and urbanisation. Students are encouraged to think about what such things might mean and how to mitigate the impacts in their own families, communities and country.

They are learning to embrace diversity, and place their own diversity in the world around them.