Schools need to build key competencies into their teaching

More than a quarter of New Zealand schools appear not to be using key competencies (KCs)* in their teaching, despite them being central to The New Zealand Curriculum since 2007, according to a new report from the Education Review Office (ERO).

“The key competencies focus on things that are essential to New Zealand’s future – for instance managing self is about having a can-do attitude, being resilient and having strategies for meeting challenges,” said ERO Chief Review Officer Nicholas Pole. “We need to do much more to imbed all the key competencies in our teaching and learning.”

Developing Key Competencies in Students Years 1 to 8 found that while 72 percent of schools had begun to support students to use key competencies, most of these were at the early stage of helping students learn about the nature of KCs.

No schools in the study had fully imbedded key competencies into their teaching and in 28 percent of schools ERO found no evidence of them being used.

The New Zealand Curriculum was rightly seen as world leading when it was launched in 2007, partially because of its focus on developing competency in key life skills, and because it was highly permissive, balancing guidance with professional autonomy,” said Mr Pole. “It is still world leading – we just need to do more to fully implement its vision for teaching and learning.

“The good news is that most schools have made a start and there are ways to overcome the uncertainty that teachers currently have about exactly what key competencies are and how they can contribute significantly to students' in their learning and wellbeing.

“The Ministry of Education has reacted positively to the findings and already has several initiatives underway to support teachers and schools, including work with the sector ‘to refresh the key competencies’ by providing greater clarity and support to schools to identify the place of KCs in local curricula,” he said.

This includes piloting five innovative approaches across different regions to broaden the delivery of curriculum supports that include a stronger focus on oral literacy and key competencies. New resources and tools are also being developed to help extend ways that teachers incorporate KCs in their programmes.

Developing Key Competencies in Students Years 1 to 8 recommends that school leaders should help gauge the quality and worth of initiatives designed to promote key competencies.

This is the first time that ERO has focused specifically on how schools are developing key competencies in students.

The findings provide baseline information for ERO's evaluative approach in the future that will focus on how well students are supported to use key competencies in their learning and wellbeing.

The report is based on visits to 118 schools, that provide a representative cross section of New Zealand’s schools. ERO recognises that there may be schools outside the sample that have successfully used the key competencies and evaluated the impact of this work on students’ learning and wellbeing.

“We want to hear from these schools,” said Mr Pole.

*Key competencies in The New Zealand Curriculum

The key competencies are an essential dimension of The New Zealand Curriculum. They cover:

  • thinking

  • using language,symbols and text

  • managing self

  • relating to others, and

  • participating and contributing.

More detail can be found in a companion report – The Key Competencies: Realising the Potential of The New Zealand Curriculum – also released today. This outlines what competencies are, why they are important, New Zealand's journey with thinking about the nature and potential uses of key competencies, and where they fit in the international context.