Saturday, 3 November 2018

Collaboration ousts competition

Last week I was privileged to attend the annual Manaiakalani wananga, hosted by the Manaiakalani Education Trust. Representatives from every Manaiakalani cluster in the country are invited, and this year our Uru Mānuka cluster had not only our seven principals, but also other senior leaders, and leaders of learning, from our seven schools.

These wanaga begin with some inspiration, and some update, on the progress of MK across the country, and then include some fantastic examples of progress that has been shown to accelerate learning at different schools across the country. These 'slams' are always informative, the presenters humble. One of the many foundations for the success of Manaiakalani is the identification of what works using robust data, and the sharing of this with other participating schools.

This sharing represents the best in collaboration. No school keeps good practice a secret, good ideas are freely shared. This is refreshing as we (hopefully) emerge from an era of competition. The market model has failed children in their tens of thousands. In particular the market model has failed children who are not European, and who are not from middle and high income households. The result is that we have one of the longest tails of 'under achievement' in the OECD, a tail dominated by our Māori and Pasifika children. We ought to be ashamed that we have allowed this to happen, and I look despairingly at the political right that still thinks that competition amongst schools is an ideal to which we should aspire. Our children are NOT economic units to be consigned to this pile or that based upon standardised testing.

On the day following the wananga all of the members of the Uru Mānuka cluster who had attended stayed on for the day and sat together planning cluster goals, focii, and events, for 2019.
As we worked, I stepped aside and took this photo. I know that what I was seeing was the best in collaboration. One of the things that makes this 'the best' is something that is missing from this photo. What is NOT at the table here as we worked? What are you not seeing?

It's very simple: there is no 'ego'. Every individual 'at the table' was focussed on what we need to do next to improve learning outcomes for our children, and to improve the lives of our children and whānau. There was in 'I' in the conversation. There was plenty of 'we'. NO-ONE said 'my school' at any stage. Everyone was focussed on the children in the cluster.

This level of care and concern doesn't happen in an environment riddled with competition. Our children can only flourish in a climate of collaboration.

Manaiakalani not only supports the 'liberation' of our children as learners by magnifying a common pedagogy using digital devices, it also liberates our children as learners by ensuring that choices are made, resources allocated, in  the best interests of the children, not in the best interests of the school, or its Principal. Manaiakalani is a collaborative, a culturally responsive, approach to liberating ALL children as learners, to allow those children to reach their potential.

There was no ego there. Collaboration will oust competition. EVERY TIME!!!!


  1. It also looks like there is a lot of listening, respecting everyone's experience.

  2. This doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentional leadership to achieve this cultural shift. It takes a team from ego to ‘we go.’

  3. Thank you for sharing Robin, and as usual, you are 'on the money'! We must 'push back' against this flawed market model to education. The proponents of this approach have little understanding of education, let alone what practices promote positive learning outcomes for students. We know that learning takes place in a social context and collaboration is central to the learning process. This is not about 'winners' and 'losers', but about what we can do collectively to ensure ALL schools are 'good' schools. Love your work!