Genius or madness? Exploring a 'student-created curriculum'

Some old-school teachers might scoff at the idea. Others might applaud it as a stroke of genius.

Whatever the reaction, the “student-created curriculum” pioneered by two teachers at a New Zealand school is turning heads.

No stranger to innovation, Ross Intermediate was the first school in New Zealand to have its own television station and 1-1 laptop program. Now teachers Liam Rutherford and Nick Wilson will be trying out the revolutionary "team teaching" classes.

The incentive-based learning system will mainly focus on pupils’ interests, abilities and learning preferences, allowing them to choose what they learn, how they learn it and assess their own learning.

For example, if they’re meeting their deadlines and performing well, they will be rewarded by being able to work wherever they want within the school grounds, be it in the hallway or under a tree.

Rutherford believes that the system improves student morale and gives them the feeling of greater freedom in an environment that is traditionally viewed by students as restrictive.

“It’ll be cool if they’re in the middle of a maths session, and they can get up and make some noodles if they want,” Rutherford told

"It's an idea we've been building over the last few years after seeing kids doing some cool things and wanting to create a classroom that allows them to follow their individual ideas more.”

Rutherford added that by harnessing particular abilities of students, they will have the opportunity to show the confidence-boosting practice of leadership.

"It allows us to let whoever has strength in a particular area take the lead on something, and it also allows you to take away a target group if you need to."

As education reform looms large on the political agenda in Australia, it is ideas like this that might encourage principals to broaden the creative horizons of their own schools in 2015.

Could a “student-created curriculum” work in Australia’s schools?