The NZC provides insufficient detail to help teachers understand what the KCs mean for students and how to integrate them in their practice. NZCER’s four-phase framework shows the potential of KCs to transform students’ learning experiences.
ERO’s companion report, Developing Key Competencies in Students Years 1 to 8, explores the status of the key competencies in primary schools. It notes that the best of the schools were operating only at the equivalent of Phase 2. For all schools to evolve their practice towards Phase 4, support and guidance is needed for teachers to develop the confidence and capability to integrate the KCs.
It is up to teachers to determine what is meant by the KCs and how to provide students with the opportunities to develop the competencies. While the NZC states that development of the KCs should be in the context of the learning areas, teachers should not exclude the many, rich opportunities of the extended school curriculum. Leadership, for example, can be nurtured in extra-curricular activities.
The NZC KCs do not cover all the twenty-first century skills identified by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WEF emphasises digital literacy (WEF, 2016). This emphasis is shared by Fadel, Bialik and Trilling in Four-Dimensional Education, which stresses that digital literacy will become even more important in the future as technologies continue to develop (Fadel, Bialik, & Trilling, 2015, p. 67).
This is not explored in the New Zealand literature on the KCs. The NZC’s description of how KCs can facilitate learning in this area is brief, and this role is touched on in only one key competency – using language, symbols, and texts: ‘they [students] confidently use ICT (including, where appropriate, assistive technologies) to access and provide information and to communicate with others’ (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 12).
Recent changes to the NZC include Digital Technologies|Hangarau Matihiko curriculum content, focusing on computational thinking and creating digital technologies. Digital literacy and fluency, and other literacies, such as media, data, financial and global literacies (OECD Learning Compass 2030), are not explicitly considered.
The NZC does not discuss how KCs can work together, for example, to develop leadership skills. The NZC identifies only managing self as a key competency that helps build leadership, stating that students should ‘know when to lead, when to follow, and when and how to act independently’ (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 12).
Leadership is one of the CCR’s six skills (Fadel, Bialik, & Trilling, 2015, pp. 92-93) and one of the WEF’s Twenty-first Century skills for students’ success (WEF, 2015). Given its importance, some guidance from the Ministry as to how the KCs can be used to enhance leadership would be helpful for schools.
Ministry support for schools and teachers to develop their students’ KCs has been limited in recent years. The majority of Te Kite Ipurangi (TKI) publications about KCs are from before 2015. The School snapshots provide some examples of the different ways schools are focusing on the KCs. These could be updated for current thinking, to ensure that the KCs are represented properly. For instance, no snapshot should represent Managing self as simply ‘being ready for learning’.
NZCER’s research shows how teachers’ thinking and practice can change to fulfill the intention of the NZC. Schools and teachers need comprehensive resources to support them to fully appreciate and integrate KCs in their curriculum. Building teacher capability for this would complement the Ministry’s priority of supporting schools to develop their local curriculum.