I’d rather be wrong

I wrote some posts about the introduction of National Standards a while ago.  My post on 28 February, 2010 predicted this:

  • National will extend the National Standard test to Year 9 and 10.  It doesn’t make sense to test people from Year 1 to Year 8, and then stop for the two years just before NCEA. 
  • National will be relaxed about newspapers publishing league tables of results, and these results will be published with the “worst” schools identified, and questions about “what will be done for/to these schools.”
  • National will talk about extra money for literacy programmes at these schools.
  • National will then “relax” zoning laws around schools to give parents “choice”.  They will use these exact two words because they both sound reassuring.  This relaxation will allow students to apply more readily for schools out of their zone, and those out of zone schools will be able to hand pick the students they want (based on National Standard results, or NCEA, or sports achievements) and reject the rest. 
  • Many of the best of the students from the so-called bad schools will move out, and bad schools will achieve even worse results.  When schools complain National will tell teachers to stop making excuses and point to the money it has spent on literacy programmes. 
  • The schools in desperation will start going down a very rigid line of preparing their students to pass an arbitrary test so that they can get better results. 

Sometimes it is not good to be proven right.  I am actually shocked by how accurate these predictions were. 

Bullet points one and two have been announced already, and we’ve already had the money talk bandied around for bullet point three.  Today, of course, sees bullet point four being introduced.  A charter school is precisely a relaxing of the zoning laws, and the last two bullet points follow from this.

Mr. Key says that he is doing this as a concession to Act which is an extraordinary thing to say, but let’s humour the man and go and look at Act’s education policy.

It begins by telling us about the 20% of students failing school that Mr. Key talks about, and then states:

The education system must do better for these New Zealanders.  What we have done for too long is run education as a centrally planned, Wellington-dictated bureaucracy that gives little autonomy to schools and little choice to parents.

Meanwhile, education policy in Australia, Sweden, parts of Canada and the United States, and Great Britain is showing the benefits of making education more market-like and entrepreneurial.  Such policies lead to a wider range of education opportunities being available.   ACT supports decentralisation in education, giving more autonomy to principals and teachers and more choice to students and parents.
The good news is that the latest OECD PISA report has come out recently so let’s do some comparison in reading, maths and science.  If Act wants to make simplistic statements about what’s good and bad in education we are able to make a rough and ready comparision between New Zealand and Australia, Sweden, Canada, the USA and the UK.
Country Rankings for Reading:
  • Canada 6th
  • New Zealand 7th
  • Australia 9th
  • USA 17th
  • Sweden 20th
  • UK 25th
Country Rankings for Maths:
  • Canada 10th
  • New Zealand 13th
  • Australia 15th
  • Sweden 27th
  • UK 29th
  • USA 34th
Country Rankings for Science:
  • New Zealand 8th
  • Canada 9th
  • Australia 12th
  • UK 26th
  • USA 48th
  • Sweden 65th
Looking at these rankings it would seem like Canada and New Zealand are the two top performing English language education systems in the world, and that following a UK or USA model would be a big mistake.  Maybe the UK and the USA could follow our model and we could think of ourselves as world leaders for a change.  Maybe, instead of looking upon our education sector as the enemy, we could look at them as a part of the knowledge economy with ideas worth exporting.
I look forward to investigating further.
Oh, and Anne, I’m still waiting for a reply to my letter.

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