Monday, March 17, 2014

The Destruction of New Zealand's Public Education System


In 2008 New Zealand was internationally ranked in the top seven for educational achievement, and when you compared us with other countries that were also culturally diverse and experiencing growing inequality, we were extremely successful.


At that time our Early Childhood sector had received a much overdue boost in funding from the Labour Government after being underfunded (as a % of GDP) compared to other OECD nations for years. The sector was working towards a target of having 100% qualified teachers in all centres.

We were also in the process of implementing a new National Curriculum and a complementary curriculum for Maori (Te Marautanga o Aotearoa). Teachers were excited about putting all their energies into the new ideas and approaches that were espoused in these co-constructed documents that had taken around seven years to review and write. Evidence, research and practitioner input had created something that would allow us to prepare New Zealand children to become resilient in a rapidly changing world.

We were just on the cusp of something great when an election occurred…

A National led Government was elected and New Zealand's public education system came under heavy attack:
Despite the serious damage already done to New Zealand's education sector this Government is not letting up, they will not be happy until they have complete ideological control and can shut down professional engagement completely. They are planning to do away with the current Teachers Council and replace it with a new authority (EDUCANZ) that will be led by those approved and appointed by the Minister only, with little professional input. The Education Amendment Bill (No2) is currently being progressed through parliament that will support the ongoing restructuring of the system. 

Hekia Parata is also considering wiping the current support for lower decile schools and shift extra funding to those schools that perform well in National Standards. The head of the EDUCANZ transition board John Morris has recently produced a paper that suggests teachers should be paid based on the attainment of their students. 

This government is destroying our amazing collaborative, holistic public education system that recently led the world. They are determined to implement systems that have failed spectacularly overseas. Professional knowledge based on evidence and research should lead education, not political ideology. What angers me the most is what is being denied to our most vulnerable children when they should be the real focus of spending and any systemic change. 

54 comments:

robertguyton said...

Orcs

L Williams said...

Well said.

missrabbitty said...

Here's where I stand. I work 55 hours a week (on a good week). I worked out my hourly rate. It is 1 cent over the living wage. I have a BSc, a DipTchg, a BEd and an MEd, all of which I paid for myself. Despite my hard work, my students do not reach 'National's' Standards. How is that fair?

bsprout said...

Missrabbitty, you are probably reflecting the thoughts of all those who teach in all wonderful low decile schools who know their children are progressing in many ways beyond expectations. The problem isn't with the schools or teaching but with the very narrow lens being used to judge progress. It isn't fair!

Dianne Khan said...

Brilliantly said.
May I also add:
1) TeachFirstNZ lowering teacher training to a 6 week course in the school holidays, and 2) the introduction of student identification numbers which allow the tracking of and collection of data on all students, with the legislation worded so that the data can be handed over to anyone without parental permission (as it has been to Bill Gates and other in the USA);

Marian Hobbs said...

Thanks very much for the clarity and accuracy of this list. It is very powerful put down like this.
Marian Hobbs

Robert McCall said...

Teachers are the backbone of New Zealand and have to fight this govt tooth and nail. We need to unite or they will get away with 'blue' murder. I am equally upset! C´mon Kiwis - trust teachers! @edtechart on twitter. blog.robertmmccall.com

Laura de Wys said...

It is sad that there are still a large number of people in Aotearoa that think teachers are to blame because that is what the govt says. I am an ECE teacher with a Diploma of Teaching, Bachelor of Teaching and Learning, a Post-Grad Diploma in Total Immersion Teaching and Learning and about to complete my Masters this year. Due to the policy of the Nat. Govt ECE is not valued and they think that any one can be work with our under 5's. Time to change the govt

bsprout said...

Laura, I am really angry that the Government has been claiming there is no money to pay for 100% qualified teachers in ECE or be able to pay teacher aids a living wage and yet suddenly find $359 million to pay some 'Executive' principals. Education will become more like the corporate world where those at the top are rewarded far above anyone else.

This government doesn't understand that most enter the profession to teach children and are not motivated by huge salaries or competing against their colleagues.

jmcveagh said...

Let's not forget the assault on tertiary education also:
removal of millions of dollars across all institutions
removal of elected board members and stacking of boards with National appointments
currently trying to get rid of staff and student reps on boards
pressure on tertiary institutions to prioritise graduates for "industry and business"
Checking IRD tax records for student employment six months after graduation, now defined as an "outcome"
REducing and removing Arts courses because of "outcomes" as defined above
There are more...

bsprout said...

Thanks, Janine, I'm not so conversant with the tertiary or secondary sectors. If you are keen you could email me some detail and a few links to verify and I could write another blog post on tertiary alone. There is also all the adult education support that was wiped and the benefit provided to those on the DPB to do tertiary study.

Dory said...

If you want to see where all of this is leading look to the U.S. NOT a pretty picture here. The time to speak up in NZ is NOW!

Ruth Rothman said...

As a parent and committee member of an early childhood centre I am dealing with the fallout of this right at this minute - how do we maintain our high quality and deep engagement with our children when only funded to 80% - how can anyone operate when only given some of the money they need to do the job? Don't mention fundraising either...the shortsighted idea of having parents and teachers spend their valuable time on such an inefficient way of making money to boost what should be govt funded...growl growl.

bsprout said...

Ruth, I totally sympathize with your situation and it is especially galling when the Government is giving away money to the likes of Kidicorp.

Bob Harper said...

A disturbing list of "reforms" that, by most measures, have a destructive impact. But is there a problem with using "international rankings" as the measure... aren't they themselves the rationale for many of the neo-liberal, multi-national corporatist, privatizing forces that are trying to uproot public education around the world?

bsprout said...

You are right, Bob, however if the Government's changes over the past five years have been focussed on lifting our international ranking they have even failed against those measures. Even if the PISA, PIRLS and TIMSS assessments are used to judge the success of our system, the only way to lift the supposed 'tail' of underachievement is to address the issue of poverty.

If you also compare us with like countries, that are multicultural with high levels of poverty, then we actually performed very well before National came to power. I think there is potential to use these assessments to lever positive change as long as we understand what they really measure.

Even the highly flawed National Standards still revealed that it is the socio-economic background of a community that is the largest determiner of achievement, not teaching, and this has been ignored by the Government too.

bsprout said...

Again in response to Bob's comment, this link provides useful information on how PISA can be used positively:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf9UVg-TdH0&list=TLeUKjnH7LhZ8zaEavOY4Au_qtqdsIsOiL

New Zealand is now following policies of the US that is actually ranked well beneath us. Educationalists there are recommending changes to replicate what we used to do well.

David R said...

And now we have the near demise of Lincoln College, international star in agri and horticulture education, ripped apart by the earthquake, and near-bankrupted by the need to rent alternative accommodation, cast adrift by the Government intent on fiscal responsability.
Hello, National, is Tertiary excellence not part of our education programme?
Reducing staffing at Telford is another blow to this sector of education, and region.

Don Robertson said...

I used to take my son to play center - and was treasurer of or local Playcentre. Requiring all staff to be qualified would have been the end Playcentre. Both labour and national have made it difficult for parent - led organisations to get the funding privately run child care businesses get. Both parties seem to think parents are not capable of looking after their own children.

bsprout said...

I think play centers are an obvious exception in the drive for qualified teachers in ECE. Play centers have an important role in strengthening families and communities building parenting skills. They are also very much driven by community need and not commercial interest, which is probably always a good place to start.

Gato said...

In 2009, the funding for Special Needs Education was slashed and done away with. As a result, the sector lost huge numbers of qualified, difficult to recruit, and difficult to train, specialised teachers, therapists, trainers, consultants, and aides.
It was a matter of much discussion and disgust at the Auckland Faculty of Education.

bsprout said...

Gato, I have just been talking to an RTLB and he was telling me that they now have such a huge workload with the restrictions placed on SES and the extra roles they have been given. His effectiveness has been greatly reduced and most schools have less access for support. The government says they are focussing on priority learners and yet all the funding and resourcing to this group has been cut.

SKF said...

I was expecting some stats to back up the long list of complaints. I assumed that I'd get to the end and see a colourful graph for 2012 or thereabouts that proved the assertions by showing the drop since 2008. Is it possible to put up the evidence please?

By the way, complementary, not complimentary.

bsprout said...

Thanks for the correction SKF and I'll see if I can get some stats for you so that you can track the decline in our international standings.

bsprout said...

SKF, I couldn't find a visual representation of our decline but our ranking and scores in PISA had remained fairly stable until 2009, since then there has been a substantial drop. Some aspects, like our decline in science achievement, had already been identified under the previous Government and could have been addressed if our curriculum had been implemented as intended and advisors in science hadn't been sacked.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/229756/nz-well-down-in-education-rankings

Rhonda Uren said...

No child should be subjected to experiencing their journey through our nation's education system as though they are simply a one-size-fits-all inanimate bar-coded object on a mass production line. Where is our nation truly at, if it appears that even our most vulnerable and also most treasured national assets, our children, are required to perform in a pre-determined one-size-must-fit-all fashion, in order to determine what is essentially their 'dollar value.'

The inquisitive one said...

I to some extent agree with this blog post, but also disagree. Everyone knows that in 2008 there was a huge economic recession caused by the labour government's high borrowing and of course the Americans. This high borrowing led our nation into a significant deficit, but the labour government still borrowed beyond their means, slowing our economy greatly. When National came into power, labour had left it into a shambles. There was NO MONEY to fund anything worthy, such as education. So, what I think of this is that National is left trying to clean up the economic mess which labour left behind, and while doing so they have got a bad reputation by our one sided media. Obviously National will have to cut back on spending for education, due to the shortage of money. It is bad that they are funding Private schools though. But as the economy picks up NZ will be excellent once again. But in saying that Hekia must go, she is terrible and has single handedly caused so many flaws within our education system. The students to teacher ratio has increased due to a significant increase in population and there being a shortage in qualified teachers.

bsprout said...

Inquisitive One, I think that you will find that the Government didn't actually cut education spending since the recession, they just changed priorities. What they cut from one sector they gave to another and it hasn't been smart.

Private schools that serve a minority 4% of elite students have received tens of millions more, while the struggling Education Ministry had their funding cut. Programmes that successfully lifted achievement for the Government's identified priority learners have been cut while the private Wanganui Collegiate was bailed out against Ministry advice.

There are also lots of newly graduated teachers looking for jobs and many in the early childhood sector are struggling to find work because centres can't afford to employ more than 80% that are qualified. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11133159

I also think that you have been taken in by Government spin, the loss in Government revenue was nothing to do with the recession but the tax cuts they gave to upper income earners that has cost around $1.2 billion a year. What recession there was ended in 2011 when our richest saw their wealth increase by 20%. Luxury homes continue to be built and the luxury car market in NZ has never been better (we now have our own Rolls Royce dealer in NZ for the first time) http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2013/01/the-feral-rich-are-destroying-our.html

$12 billion is being spent on new motorways while 25% of our children are living in poverty and do not have many of their basic needs met (such as their own bed, adequate clothing, regular meals, a warm health home).

While Hekia Parata has not managed her job well she is only following party policy and the expectations of her caucus. If she were replaced nothing would really change.

What will really make a difference is a change of government!

Amapola said...

This link shows the same graphic updated to 2012. Thinks are getting worse.
http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/dec/03/pisa-results-country-best-reading-maths-science

bsprout said...

Thanks for that link, Amapola. One thing worth noting, however, is that if you break down our results by culture our asian New Zealand students will be found performing as well if not better than those in the top 6 Asian countries and cities. Respected US academic David Berliner, who was speaking in NZ earlier this year, makes some excellent points about comparing PISA results: http://www.education2014.org.nz/?page_id=127

Linley van Echten said...

You should send this to Campbell Live or third degree...its good for NZ to realise how we are slipping!

Mary said...

The one that gets me every time (and isnt in your article) is quarterly roll-returns which mean that schools are staffed precisely to the numbers (bums on seats)- sooooo many schools have students return late/leave early/truant = higher student to teacher ratios:timetable uncertainty:numerous changes of teachers: teacher are Long Term Relievers with no warning to start and stopping midway through term 4 etc etc- thanks National!

bsprout said...

Thanks for mentioning that, Mary, It has also been noted that more and more teaching positions are now advertised as fixed term and this lack of certainty around staffing would contribute to this. Support staff have very little job security, no matter how long they have worked in a school because of ongoing uncertainty of hours and funding and now many teachers have little job security. Of course such an unstable staffing situation creates a distablising atmosphere for the children too.

Linda said...

I have just attended a union meeting for teachers in Auckland and there were several bums missing from those seats! Teachers can and will only effect change when they unite and say enough is enough - vote with their feet and walk off the job. The union advises that strike action can only be an option during pay negotiations. I say RUBBISH! If we want the Government to make changes that improve education for children in this country, and actually consider the children then it will take more than union meetings and small wimpers from us all!

bsprout said...

I'm sure we will build momentum as we head into the year, Linda, just as we have done for other battles like the larger class sizes. What would be better than walking out of schools would be if our parents, boards and communities also come out in support of our public education system. When we do make a stand let's make sure we have our communities supporting us too.

The Support Staff action rattled the Minister and that was only the beginning.

Linda said...

Our parents, boards and communities are not well informed enough to know that the education system proposals are seriously flawed. The newspapers print a very limited amount of detail. Do we now add educating our communities as part of our job and lower our hourly rate even further? We have become so gutless when it comes to taking a stand in this country and so the government continues to enact its experiments and the children suffer in the end. No wonder people are leaving the teaching profession!

bsprout said...

Linda, I think many New Zealanders like decisive governments and black and white solutions. National Standards sound strong and 'Executive Principals' have a ring of authority. As teachers we know that education is more complex and six year olds can't be defined by narrow standards and children don't necessarily benefit from executive decisions made from distant offices. We do need to keep using our professional knowledge to explain this and defend what's left of our system.

I don't think teachers are gutless, we're just reasonable rational people who have been caught in the headlights of rampant ideologues who are neither rational nor reasonable. This government can only be stopped by voting them out. What worries mw the most is young teachers who will have had six years under this regime and have no knowledge about what we have lost. It may take some time to change our culture back.

Arthur Clarke said...

What a track record: funding cuts; Novopay debacle; bringing in the charter system while other schools close ... the list could go on. C'mon folks ... a message can be sent loud and clear at the next general election; if you value re-building a progressive education system that makes NZ the envy of the world and rewards teachers for helping our children learn ... DO NOT VOTE NATIONAL!! The whole party needs a bullet.

bsprout said...

I can't condone violence, Arthur, a massive non vote should do the trick. National got only 20% of the vote in 2002, it can be done ;-)

Dianne Khan said...

You don't really advocate not voting, though, eh Dave? Just to be very clear ....

bsprout said...

Thanks, Dianne, a poorly worded comment, I was meaning not voting for National :-P

Isaac Bishara said...

Great informative blog and commentary

In terms of the call to NOT vote National

Or indeed to "change" governments

I feel something more proactive needs to be focused on

And that is an active investigation of all positive policies for education going forward proposed by the competing parties

Shouldn't we be voting for best policies going forward rather than blind "change" for changes sake?

I admit to not being a supporter of National party politics

Nor am I that enamored with Labours position

But under MMP there is an opportunity to understand what policies would empower true change in our education sector

But who is pulling together the best information to help NZ vote informatively on the suite of policies available in a coalition government going forward?

Who is pulling together the information that electorates need in order to help people give their party vote strategically to ensure best party policies for education are voted for

That being said who is out there in the teaching profession putting the electorate list members to be voted on to the test regarding their intentions for education over the next term?

There should be a list of priority test questions that teachers put before every party candidate in their electorates prior to 2014 election - based on the results of the answers provided by those list members people can determine their best strategic vote for those list members in electorates who will proactively work to manifest authentic change for education outcomes in their electorates

Without this kind of background work education will suffer again

Surely there's a united teachers movement out there pulling this together for the benefit of change going forward?

No?

Lost opportunity here for teachers if there isn't an active movement in place to this end.

KWS-Room11 2014 said...

Yes perhaps the NZEI should be having an annual meeting before the election as we will be able to do little if National gets back in. They have everything just ready to go. Teachers demise, businessman's forteit.

bsprout said...

KWS, I don't think that the timing of the NZEI conference is that pivotal, it is what teachers do to educate and engage their communities, as regards what policies to vote for, that is important.

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Imogen Griffiths said...
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ropata said...

Just a couple of things to add to your list:
1. the demise of Night Classes at high school
2. universities pandering to high fee-paying foreign students and making it harder for Kiwis to get in

Angelina Jukić said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ken said...

And also the abandonment of the Teachers Council (which opposed TeachFirst NZ) with an all-appointed Education Council.