Media release: The New Zealand Initiative appoints new senior fellow

Media release
1 March, 2022

Wellington (Tuesday, 1 March 2022) The New Zealand Initiative is delighted to announce the appointment of new Senior Fellow Dr Michael Johnston. Dr Johnston joins the think tank from Victoria University of Wellington where he was Associate Dean (Academic) in the School of Education.

After nearly 20 years in academia, interrupted by a six-year stint at NZQA, Johnston says he looks forward to the fresh challenge of leading the New Zealand Initiative’s education programme.

“My goal in this position is to improve educational policy and, thereby, enhance educational outcomes for all young New Zealanders.”

Dr Johnston says that his academic research has focussed on the link between education assessment and curriculum. This has given him a strong insight into what needs to change within the New Zealand curriculum.

“One of the flaws of the NCEA system, is that the way its internal assessment is run often encourages superficial, rather than deep, learning. It is imperative that our qualifications framework and curriculum work together to provide a knowledge-rich education to all Kiwi students. This will continue to be an area for focus for me at The New Zealand Initiative. Better approaches to teaching early literacy will be another point of focus”.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative, says Dr Johnston’s appointment shows the think tank’s commitment to a world-class education system.

“New Zealand needs a well-performing education system that equips the next generation with the skills and competencies they need to thrive. For too long, New Zealand’s international education rankings have continued to slide.

“We are thrilled to have Michael join our team and look forward to working with him to produce practical policies that reverse our country’s educational decline.”

During Trimester 1 of this year, Dr Johnston’s time will be split between The New Zealand Initiative and Victoria University of Wellington until the completion of his teaching responsibilities.
About Dr Michael Johnston
Dr Michael Johnston has held academic positions at Victoria University of Wellington for the past ten years. This includes being the Associate Dean (Academic) of the University’s School of Education for the last 3 years.

Prior to his time at Victoria, Dr Johnston was the Senior Statistician at the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, a position he held for 6 years. Before that, he held positions at Melbourne and Latrobe universities.

Dr Johnston holds a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Melbourne.

He lives in Roseneath, Wellington, with his wife and two young children.



Ben Craven, External Relations Manager
M: 022 079 2788

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