Digital Natives and Analogue Missionaries (4/6)

Since the government announced that they were going to open up education to include charter schools there has been a lot written and said about the idea on both sides.  I wrote about it too, but I never felt like I had gotten at what bothered me most about the schools.  It has taken me a long time to come down to the conclusion I am going to write now.

As I said, there is a lot written about charter schools.  They get called a lot of different names.  Let’s call them state funded private schools.  It’s not catchy, but anything else is branding either by those for them, or those against.

In New Zealand we all roughly know how schools get money.  State schools get it from the government, which means from taxes.  It gets more money by asking for money for trips from parents, and fundraising, and making deals with sponsors, and having international students, but on the whole their money comes from the state.  Private schools get their money from the fees the parents pay to send their children to the school.  They also get money from the government, and fundraising, and sponsorship, and so on, but most of the money comes from fees.

In return for money a state school follows a national curriculum and offers a good quality affordable education to everyone who lives in the area around that school.  In return for not taking as much money from the state, private schools follow an approved curriculum and offer a good quality education, often with a specific character or set of beliefs attached, to those who can pay to go there.

The change then is that this new category of school will have the limited freedoms of a private school (and a few more), but will be funded by the state.  This category of school has been around for a while in America, and has recently been permitted in the UK.  People on both sides of the debate say that lessons can be learnt from these countries (completely different lessons of course).

It has taken me a really long time to decide what I truly think about this new type of school for New Zealand, because it touches on so many other things to do with education, and these things tend to distract me.  With the release this week of detail around what New Zealand’s version of a state funded private school would be like we got the following headlines in various media:

  • Destiny Church might set up a school!
  • Transcendental Meditation Groups might set up schools!
  • Unregistered teachers might be teaching your kids!
  • These schools can set up their own pay scales, hours and terms!
  • These schools will be out to make a buck!

In my head there are two clear issues that are present in this list:  Who can run a school, and how schools can be run.

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8 thoughts on “Digital Natives and Analogue Missionaries (4/6)

  1. My district may be getting a second charter school in a year or two. From what I know about it so far, it looks pretty good, like a place I might want to work at. To do so I’d have to give up tenure, union membership and probably take a pay cut.

  2. We don’t have tenure in NZ. I don’t really get why it is needed for school teachers. Non-unionised workers on lower wages? Unsurprising. I find the charter school debate here very complicated and I feel very torn about it.

  3. Interesting. Yes, “charter schools” have become a hot topic debate in the States. There’s a documentary relating to the US and its deemed broken education system called Waiting for Superman. You might want to check it out. It’s heartbreaking and mostly relative to our school system but the documentary raises interesting questions of what solutions might keep us from failing our children in their pursuit of education.

  4. I have seen it. I wasn’t a fan. On the other hand the American and NZ school systems seem very different.

  5. We didn’t watch the entire thing, I admit it. But it did get me pretty riled up about the idea of our teachers getting tenure, making it all but impossible to fire awful teachers.

  6. We don’t have tenure which seems like a bad idea in any job. Good employees don’t need it, and bad ones can cling on to it. The Life and Death of the American School System is a good book on the subject. And the doco Race to Nowhere(?).

  7. We’re supposed to be a superpower country yet we’re probably dead last in terms of education among democracized nations. I saw a bar graph showing several nations education rankings since the 60s. Tons of countries we used to wallop are on an upward line while America is a straight line. Oh, also we’re really fat.

  8. We’re near the top of education rankings but our government has decided to adopt American education policies so I look forward to joining you soon.

    We’re already fat. It’s great.

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