My name is Julian Martin, I am a former student from Athe and I have decided to do a volunteer year (IJFD) in Aotearoa, New Zealand. If you want more background information about my journey, stay tuned as I will write several articles about my experience in the next nine months.
Today’s topic is New Zealand‘s school system. I have been in Aotearoa for almost nine weeks and could already gain many insights into the Timaru Boys’ High School. In the following, you will learn about lessons, students, buildings, teachers and school life.
First, you should keep in mind that the UK shapes the school system in New Zealand pretty much. Hence, most high schools are single-sex, students have to attend one type of high school, students are supposed to wear uniforms and there are many traditions.
At TBHS, students’ school day starts at 9 am and they have six different lessons every day. One period takes 50 minutes, and they usually get no homework – only if students misbehave or have not achieved their goals. There are many subjects from which students can choose, such as:
- food technology (e. g. cooking)
- agriculture (e. g. making fences)
- accounting and
- woodwork (e. g. building a desk).
Our school has a stable internet connection for all available, whereby students are allowed to use their private phones, tablets and laptops. Nevertheless, teachers can ban phones from their lessons, and I noticed that in some classes, 80% of the students played games on their laptops. If the teacher came, they switched the program.
TBHS uses two educational platforms:
First, Google Classroom is used where teachers upload tasks and documents, and students can download them and upload their work.
Second, Kamar that provides content for every subject. They get points for doing exercises as well as for self-tests, and students can see their scores compared to others. This system offers the opportunity to support students who learn faster as there are different levels of complexity, for example in maths. Besides teachers, there are teacher aids who help students with learning disabilities.
In the course of each term, students collect credits from exercises, little tests and school exams. Moreover, there is one national exam for every subject annually. Students can achieve three levels in each exam: achieved, achieved with merit or achieved with excellence. There are no grades like “A, B, C…” and “1, 2, 3…”.
All students are supposed to wear school uniforms. There are two available, one with short trousers and one with long ones. Short trousers are more popular even in the winter season. Many young students see school as not that important. As the school is located in a rural area, most students are conservative, want to be as masculine as possible and are LGBTQ sceptical.
Buildings and rooms
We have 650 students whereby twenty to thirty students are in one class. Most buildings have one floor because of the danger of earthquakes. Every room has a beamer, a non-electrical whiteboard and one heater as there is no central heating system. Next to TBHS, there are a primary school and a large field for doing sports.
Our school has forty-three teachers that come together for a 10-minutes-briefing from the principal each morning. Most teachers are saluted with “Sir” or “Mis” without saying their surname. Nevertheless, some teachers wish to be called by their names. Every month, teachers have specific days for further training. Similar to the US, teachers have certain rooms where only students switch.
Like many British-influenced schools, TBHS has many traditions, such as a school assembly on Wednesdays where all students and teachers meet. While the principal is walking into the assembly hall, all people are standing. Then, he says a saying in Maori, and they sing the national anthem. Afterwards, the principal informs all about the news. His deputy praises pupils who got awards for their sporty activities in the last seven days. In the end, they sing the school anthem, and the principal walks out of the hall.
Another tradition is the focus on sports. Students can do twelve sports, such as trap shooting, rugby, golf and squash and participate in competitions. Generally, there is a supportive environment for competing with each other.
My road trip around the south island starts on Saturday as term three ends. I will discover many of the most beautiful places on earth within 2,600 km and 14 days.
Ngā mihi Julian
PS: There will be an online talk in November where I will talk about my experience and how you can apply for such an international volunteer year for 2023/24.