She’s too young… or is she?

Today, NZ Herald’s Nicholas Jones summarized some of the changes coming in the Education (Update) Amendment Bill, with emphasis on the change from starting school after your birthday to a cohort start. In short, this means that a child will be allowed to attend school from the first day of term, if they are turning five in that term. Which could mean a bunch of kids start school at four.

When I heralded this news on social (see what I did there) a friend linked me to an NPR article pointing out that Finland, long lauded as the ‘best’ in education, start their kids at 7… in fact, that same article noted how, by age 15, Finnish kids are “outperforming all but a few countries on international assessments” – I’m guessing this is alluding to the PISA global assessment.

I’d also like to highlight another point in that same article: “Despite the late start, the vast majority arrive with solid reading and math skills”, and in fact in the very next paragraph… “over 97% of 3-6 year olds attend a [preschool] program of one type or another” (emphasis added)

On the other hand, Aotearoa is hovering around the 54% mark.

In fact, it’s not even about the ability to read and do math. Studies have shown that it is the very act of listening to language (any language) that makes the most difference. If we cannot push for universal pre-school care, then rushing the kids into school faster is not necessarily a bad thing. Otherwise, what we are doing is increasing that gap at a vitally important stage in their lives.

I have two children. They are now 9 and 6. I am extremely lucky, in that I can afford to give them extra-curricular activities. Before they started school, they both had rudimentary literacy and numeracy skills, and now I’ve extended them further with after school tutoring… as a result… my nine year old is doing algebra and about to start on calculus and reading chapter books that would floor some adults. For those that cannot afford to do that, having the children in formal education as early as possible is the only way that we can close this gap.

I feel saddened every day when people claim some kid is smarter than some other kid. More often than not, you are looking at years of opportunities that the other kid didn’t get, let’s not hold back our kids anymore.

PGP Encryption and why should you care?

This is a quick overview of PGP Encryption and how to use it yourself! Bulk surveillance violates everyone’s fundamental human rights, it makes free speech risky. This guide will explain what email encryption is (using a commonly known standard called PGP) and will teach you how to use a free tool called mailvelope. Remember, even if you have nothing to hide, using encryption helps protect the privacy of the people you are communicating with, and makes life difficult for bulk surveillance systems.

This video includes closed captions, click on Youtube’s closed caption option if you are hearing impaired.


Haere mai ki te Aotearoa

When travelling, sometimes you remember things that you have let sink into your subconscious. One of those things for me is the fact that I grew up (for the first eight years anyway) in Malaysia. When you are a person who lives in Malaysia, you don’t even think about the fact that things are announced in at least two, sometimes three or four languages. So as we get off the Air Asia flight today, they announced the notices in both English and Bahasa Malay.

Why does Aotearoa’s national carrier not do that?

Air New Zealand should announce everything in te Reo as well as English. (Don’t even get me started on sign language! How are deaf people meant to know what the pilot just said!! What if it was important!?)

It will not only help to create that unique point of difference for tourists, it will also help to normalise the use of te Reo in everyday situations. It’s time we stopped just using te Reo as a touristy gimmick and actually started incorporating it into our everyday lives… I, for one, would love to be welcomed back home to Aotearoa in te Reo.

Agile…or am I?

In the current span of my career, i’ve had many and varied training courses but none have blown my mind like the one I did last week with Sandy and David from Nomad8. In fact, i’ve specifically done courses on facilitation in the past and I can honestly say none have even come close to this one.

I’ve been dabbling in Agile for a wee while now, and recently brought in Agile methodology to a non-dev environment, but the chance to spend two days really thinking about what it means to be an Agile facilitator was amazing.

The other participants were from a range of much larger companies than the people I normally get to meet, and it was heartening to hear that people are much the same everywhere. The same issues that everyone has running meetings (or planning/executing a project) are normally due to personalities rather than skills or environment… and that really simple facilitation techniques (tricks even) can make a world of difference.

I won’t talk about it too much, after all, I wouldn’t want to be accused of #spoilers! If you are at all interested in Agile, all that i’ve heard about the courses at Nomad8 is good things, and now I can vouch for it personally!

Jumping into an adventure

A new adventure awaits!

With a deep breath of excitement, a fair amount of trepidation and a wee bit of sadness, I officially announce my resignation from Amnesty International NZ. It’s been an amazing and mindblowing time…and over the years, I have learnt a lot about IT, and a lot more about people.

For those of you that didn’t know, I have been their ICT Manager for the last nine years, and have decided that now is a good time to find a new adventure.

I have grown incredibly in nine years, and I credit all the people, past and present, that I’ve worked with over the years. I won’t name any of them now because I know I will forget someone significant and that will make me sad. All I can say is that I know that you know who you are, we’ve been there together, the late nights, the marching in the streets, the vigils in the bright sunlight, and the vigils in the rain.

I also acknowledge all the IT people that have helped me and Amnesty International over the years. The IT community in Aotearoa is so generous with their time and their expertise, and I am truly humbled by the amount of effort and time some of y’all have put in to help me and (more importantly) the cause out.

To my international colleagues and friends, some of which have also moved on from the Amnesty International whānau, I also thank you for the love and support you’ve given me over the years.

Of course, I don’t really move on from Amnesty International. It is as much a part of my DNA as it was when I was a fresh faced 16 year old in a school group, activism is in my blood, and I wear the badge of social justice warrior proudly. I am just no longer a human rights activist that does IT, I can just be a plain ole human rights activist now.

Ngā Mihi