Jun 14, 2024

Tristan O'Hanlon | Building a School to the failures of NCEA

The state of Education in NZ is changing, and I speak with Tristan O'Hanlon a lecturer from Auckland University about how he is starting a new school in Auckland.

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The podcast episode presents a conversation between a former teacher and his old student (me Laurence), reflecting on their shared history and current educational endeavors. Tristan, who has transitioned from teaching at St. Peters to a lecturing position at Auckland University, discusses his motivations for entering the education field and the transformative influence of two key teachers in his life. These educators recognized his potential and provided the encouragement needed to foster his growth in math and science. He highlights how personal engagement and support from educators can have a lasting impact on students, guiding them towards fulfilling careers.

Tristan elaborates on his journey through the educational system, from teaching at various schools to becoming a head of department and eventually a university lecturer. He underscores the challenges and rewards of navigating the education landscape, where opportunities for professional advancement often lie in administrative roles rather than direct teaching. His current role at Auckland University allows him greater freedom to innovate and support students in a more flexible and impactful way. He reflects on his early teaching experiences, particularly a memorable opportunity where he facilitated student participation in a hydrogen fuel cell technology conference in Brisbane, which left a lasting impression on him and his students.

A significant portion of the discussion is dedicated to the state of New Zealand's education system, particularly the decline in core content knowledge and the challenges of maintaining high academic standards. The teacher expresses concern over recent changes to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) and the diminishing emphasis on numeracy and scientific rigor. He advocates for a return to more traditional, classical education models that emphasize foundational knowledge and logical reasoning. He highlights the need for higher standards and better alignment with successful international education systems, arguing that New Zealand's attempts to innovate have sometimes led to suboptimal outcomes.

The conversation culminates in a discussion about Tristans initiative to start a new school, driven by a desire to address the shortcomings he sees in the current system. He outlines the vision for a school that emphasizes high standards in science, technology, and mathematics, aiming to foster innovation and productivity among young people. The new school model seeks to provide an environment where passionate students can thrive and develop the skills necessary for future success. This initiative reflects the teacher's commitment to creating meaningful educational opportunities and his belief in the potential of young people to drive positive change in society.