Politics or pedagogy? The development of middle schools in New Zealand
Hinchco, B. J. (2004). Politics or pedagogy? The development of middle schools in New Zealand (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13328
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13328
The development of eight New Zealand middle schools during the 1990s was both a continuation of a long held educational tradition and a move in a new innovative direction. The extent to which this development however, was pedagogically driven or politically motivated deserves investigation. New Zealand's educational community, since the very beginning of a national education system in 1877, has been predisposed to meeting the needs of emerging adolescents in stand-alone institutions. The development of such educational institutions as; central schools, junior high schools, intermediate schools and latterly middle schools, tend to the conclusion that students in their middle years require a school structure that best caters for their specific needs as emerging adolescents. The reform years of the 1990s also provided a political environment conducive to educational change. The policies derived from the introduction of Tomorrows Schools and the concepts of parental choice and school competition provided apolitical environment open to educational innovation. Research evidence gathered from those principals who remain as leaders of the first middle schools made particular mention of the entrepreneurial opportunities provided in the 1990s. This was also a decade where policy importation, particularly from the American educational community, was both encouraged and made easier by developments in communication and international travel. The junior high school reform movement and the development of American middle schools supported by such associations as the National Middle Schools Association (NMSA) provided a conduit for research articles, practices and experiences to permeate the New Zealand intermediate school environment. This political environment was further supported by the growth in research literature on adolescence, and in particular the development of a concept of "the emerging adolescent." Research from the biological, psychological and sociological disciplines each supported the concept of specific educational programmes delivered in age-specific institutions that could best cater for the needs of this specific age-group. In particular sociological research findings suggested the development of age-appropriate school structures would have beneficial effect on student achievement. The development then of a uniquely New Zealand middle school structure, created in a political and pedagogical climate conducive to meeting the needs of the emerging adolescent, led to prolonged debate concerning the ideal structure for such an institution. In particular the debate concerned whether the middle school should evolve from its intermediate school heritage or should be part of a Form 1 to 7 school structure. This debate, and the related interest in middle schools compared with junior high schools, was undertaken by a number of New Zealand educationists and researchers. The research of a single middle school case study, that of Sunset Junior High School, in this thesis enabled a full investigation of the various tensions that existed concerning middle school development. This case study could be considered to be a microcosm of the national community. The implications of this study therefore suggest that as with the development of most educational structures the reality is one of cost effectiveness. The declining demographics of New Zealand's school-aged population and the current school network discussions (previously called Educational Development Initiatives (EDI)) suggest that the cost effective reality for New Zealand will be the development of separate Form 1 to 4 and Form 5 to 8 schools on one school site. How the management of these two schools on a single site will be created will, of itself, be in the nature of a trial and a further evolution of the middle school philosophy.
The University of Waikato
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