Chapter 12 - Solving the dropout dilemma

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Solving the dropout dilemma


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and outdoor education components, learning bushcraft, camping and survival skills, as well as learning to work in groups, researching specialist subjects and then integrating them into a total report."16
  Pat Nolan believes big issues are at stake with the integrated-studies experiment. "For years we got away with a system where unskilled people could walk into jobs, even if they'd failed school exams. That situation has changed, and I don't believe it is ever going to return. What society demands now is the kind of knowledge and skills that we've always claimed we wanted our students to have. We've wanted them to be knowledgeable in science, in mathematics, in communication skills; we've wanted them to have political and social understanding. We've wanted them to be original thinkers - in charge of their own futures, making decisions for themselves with confidence in their own ability. Now those things are imperative. We need students who can think about issues in the round, who are holistic thinkers, who can bring knowledge and ideas from many different disciplines to bear on the problem or an issue."17
  He says society is also "looking at the day in the very near future when computers will be as commonplace as pocket calculators are today, and where they will be nearly as affordable. Not only that, teachers won't be able to teach effectively unless they're competent and confident in using computers in virtually all subjects in the curriculum. The real power of the computer will be as a student-controlled learning tool, and our Freyberg project has been in part to anticipate that day."
  And the results are already in. New Zealand has a national School Certificate examination, in specific subjects, which students can take after three years of high school. When Freyberg integrated-studies students took those specific examination subjects, they scored significantly better marks than students who had not been through the program - up to 30 percent better.18 And all the students we met told us that the whole integrated field-trip program has been fun and confidence-building.
  What pleases Nolan even more is that nearly all students involved in integrated studies have made this same kind of learning gain; most of those who would previously have failed examinations have now succeeded.
  Since 1991 all Freyberg's first- and second-year students have handled social studies and English as integrated studies. On associated field trips,


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