A look into Taranaki’s Green School New Zealand


Green School New Zealand is introducing an environment- and people-first approach to education in a way New Zealand has never seen before.

It’s a fact that all kids learn in different ways, and this philosophy is something that’s not only acknowledged, but it is integrated into the way students are taught at Green School New Zealand in Ōakura, Taranaki.

Their motto is ‘thrive with a purpose’, and they do this by teaching the importance of keeping people, planet, and profit in mind. Currently open to students years 1 to 11, Green School integrates transferable and entrepreneurial skills into their curriculum, encouraging students to learn through their experiences and doing things for themselves, explains CEO Chris Edwards.

“We have a school fair where students can only sell what they’ve made, and they must make everything themselves, sustainably. Whether it’s building a cycle rack or making soap, they need to do it all themselves, know much it cost them, and know what they need to make a profit. At the heart of it is people, planet, and profit, provided people and planet are looked after before you make the profit, and that some of the profit goes back into people and planet,” he explains.

Instead of rote learning and memorising information, students are encouraged to learn through experience. Everybody has a different way of learning and absorbing information, and New Zealand’s traditional education system doesn’t always suit every way. Many students, for example, may do well during the year when it comes to hands-on, practical learning, but when it comes to exams (and where the traditional National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits are captured), some students may fall short. Green School’s exam-free environment is designed to embrace different types of learning and to remove the pressure and stress students feel when it comes to failing.

“I feel really strongly about this. I went through the education system with exams and I happened to be good at them, but there were so many amazing people who fell through the net who just weren’t good at exams. We try to look at talents in a way that the old way of schooling dismissed and didn’t rate.”

Although you’ll still find traditional subjects in the school’s curriculum, such as science and maths, students will be learning these skills through experiential learning. They’ll be able to choose their own courses, empowering them to take control of their education, which, in turn, ignites their passion for learning. The foundations of the school curriculum all connect back to three core themes: sustainability, wellbeing, and systems thinking. Empowering students to feel confident in being able to tackle real-world problems that society is facing right now is something Green School is passionate about.

Unlike traditional New Zealand schools, when students get to their high school years at Green School, they will not follow the NCEA system. Students won’t earn credits throughout the year or sit exams. Instead, they will build up a digital portfolio during their time at the school and earn a high school diploma – something that is very common in the United States. The Green School diploma will set students up to be able to attend universities around the world.

“Although it’s a new concept in New Zealand, a high school diploma on a global scale is not new at all. We’ve been invited to be part of a mastery transcript consortium, which is international. We digitally curate your learning journey (videos, essays, speeches, etc.) so at the end of your schooling you can present a digital portfolio. You haven’t collected credits, but you have evidence of your learning.”

This new-to-New Zealand approach to education is something the Green School believes will inspire a new generation of creative, innovative, changemakers. Keeping students’ physical, emotional, intellectual and expressive development at the forefront of their school career and integrating a focus on health, wellbeing, environmental studies, enterprise and the arts is how they’re planning to do it. The big picture the school aims to achieve is to show students that they can make a difference in the world right now through their knowledge and their actions. From day one at Green School, children are encouraged to connect with the environment, chase adventure and pursue their passions.

With one New Zealand university working with them to create the diploma, and several others expressing interest in accepting a Green School high school diploma when the time comes (a full school with all year levels is still several years away), Edwards would love to see more schools in New Zealand follow suit.

“I’d like to think we’d be the first crack of the dam. It does take courage, but I truly believe that in 20 years’ time, we’ll be the norm.”

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