If students cannot learn the way we teach them, we must teach them the way they learn.

Essay by bahau March 2004

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There is a very clear relationship between social and educational outcomes in New Zealand establishing itself from early childhood. Our education system has developed over many years through a changing society with changing demands and expectations. The values and assumptions that are widely shared throughout our society have determined how and why we teach and to understand why this happened we must consider the history of our relatively brief education history.

European settlers arrived in New Zealand in the 19th century hoping to better themselves economically. Most had left countries where a rigid class system made social mobility almost impossible. Education was seen as a means of acquiring an equal opportunity for everyone and eradicating class distinctions. One of the consequences of social structure is the view that different social groups (e.g. social classes, ability, gender and ethnic groups) have different values, beliefs and ways of thinking brought about because of their different experiences in life.

Karl Marx described in his "Materialist theory " the relationships between different groups that arise out of their different relationships to the economic system. Although social and economic conditions the changed considerably since the arrival of the settlers class distinctions still exist as does our recognition of the abilities of the disabled. A New Zealand research study known as the Christchurch School Leavers Study (Lauder, Hughs and Taberner) surveyed 2,500 1982 school leavers and found that most from upper class families went on to upper-class destinations while most from working-class families went on to working-class destinations. In the 1930's a psychological explanation for this was the children and working classes were " less intelligent " than those in middle and upper-classes. Intelligence was seen as a fixed capacity able to be measured by IQ tests and passed on across the population. When free access...