Audrey on National Standards

March 10th, 2010 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

I saw first hand yesterday why teachers are having a difficult job trying to win the argument against Education minister about . …

It’s not that Tolley was that brilliant. She sometimes sounds like she has had 10 briefings too many from Ministry of Education officials when she falls into jargon like “unpacking” the national standards.

But she has better grip on the subject than the last time Mallard made mince meat of her in the House over moderation of national standards. And once parents join her in the debate, she wins, as was evident yesterday.

And the parents are what this is all about.

Tolley talked about her own kids – two of whom had been “very bright but very lazy” and her five year-old grandson who has started school in Rotorua. He had told her matter of factly that he was now in group 3 reading, not group 4 where he had started – the point being that kids knew exactly where they were in relation to other kids.

That reminds me of my first year at school. I joined the class in September and it was assumed would need to catch up in reading with my classmates so was placed in Group 4 (of 5). By December I had moved into Group 3, Group 2 and then Group 1, and finally because I was such a good reader myself and one other were placed in our own special group where we could read outside unsupervised. I was so proud of that, after having started in Group 4.

That was a rebuttal to one of the Onslow kids who had Tolley on about the brutality of the new reporting system to parents that would show them (and the kids) exactly where they were in relation to others and could be discouraging.

What is brutal, is allowing kids to drop out of school unable to read or write.

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43 Responses to “Audrey on National Standards”

  1. LeftRightOut (622 comments) says:

    david, before barracking too loudly, maybe read “The death and Life of the Great American School System” by Dianne Ravitch.

    Ravith was the Assistant Secretary of Education and strongly promoted standardised testing. She has now revised her views and sees the failure of schools where everyone obseses over testing rather than learning and that the program really did little else than demonise teachers and thier unions.

    Sound familiar?

    And lets face it, if Tolley can’t out debate a few parents, why is she a minister? I’d give her more credence if she could out debate those wth an intimate knowledge of education, you know, the ones she keeps ignoring.

    Tolley is just one more national Party managerialist, wanting only that which can be measured, not that which is right.

    [DPF: This is not standardised testing. I suggest you research what the standards are]

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  2. freedom101 (439 comments) says:

    Previously in Kiwiblog there was a link to a brilliant article in The Atlantic: “What makes a great teacher?” (see http://www.theatlantic.com ).

    Hopefully National Standards will help identify highly and poorly performing teachers. While a good teacher works within an institution, and the institution can help and hinder, by far the biggest determinant of a child’s learning is the quality of the teacher. We can all remember teachers who made a difference to us, and we can also remember the useless ones.

    This, I believe, is the real reason the teacher unions are up in arms about National Standards. Then all we then need to do is make it easier for non-performing teachers to be eased out of the profession. If police can be ‘perfed’ or whatever it’s called, why not teachers? Much better they go rather than stunting the futures of our children.

    When a poor teacher is pushed out of a school, after a lot of jiggery pokery, including giving them dud jobs such as lunchtime patrol and generally making their life bit of a misery, what do they do? Go to another school!! They just do the rounds, causing problems wherever they go.

    Let’s lift the performance of our teachers. Go, Anne, Go. And then we should have more choice, vouchers, to have a truly great education system.

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  3. Tassman (238 comments) says:

    I myself can read between the lines;)
    It is when her authoritative voice is mellowed that she has won appraise. That’s the whole thing about teachers, dare anyone to try and teach them how to teach. Besides, what she is on about is already put in placed in most schools by teachers themselves. National only wanted to put it’s signature on it. That would be called theft of copyright, paraphrasing, and bully. It is a NO NO according to teachers.

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  4. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    DPF:

    What is brutal, is allowing kids to drop out of school unable to read or write.

    This is just misinformation. New Zealand ranks highly in all international surveys of educational achievements, especially in literacy and numeracy. Check out PIRLS or OECD surveys. Unlike you, I work with the dropouts you talk about, and they are not illiterate or innumerate – but they aren’t great!

    National Standards is actually a dumbing down of education. There are more sophisticated, existing, ways of obtaining a national profile of achievement than the dumb Key/Tolley plan.

    Even Bush 1′s Education Secretary, who oversaw the implementation of national standards in the US, now resiles from the concept.

    I know you won’t like the source, but check out what she says.

    Her main points were that the US education system is now infested with institutionalised fraud; you just will never get 100% proficiency; kids have “a million” problems (ex school) that inhibit their learning; and accountability is a codeword for punishment.

    What will happen is that low performing schools, inevitably low decile, will get closed down and the displaced pupils, the ones who most need our help, will have even less opportunity to get educated.

    [DPF: Again you don't know the difference between national testing and standards. Secondly on average NZ does okay, but our tail (the bottom 10% to 20%) is amongst the worst in the OECD]

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  5. m@tt (535 comments) says:

    It speaks volumes that this is the only vaguely positive story to be found on the subject.

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  6. ben (2,385 comments) says:

    David, you’re absolutely right. Not being able to read is brutal. The question is not whether to hurt the feelings of a kid who is behind, but when to do it. Early, while still at school, or too late, once they’ve left school and face the choice of the meat works or the dole.

    That this is even a debate is the clearest possible signal that teachers and their unions are thinking about nobody but themselves and their union fees. Actually teaching kids makes the job a bit harder for teachers, who therefore oppose, and does nothing to raise the prestige or levies for unions, who therefore oppose.

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  7. MikeMan (171 comments) says:

    Luc on his soap box again :)

    Look as a parent of a 3 year old I for sure want this in place and the first results published before I pick which of the 3 local schools I send my daughter to. Parents have a right to know what sort of results a school is getting in this. A small number of students with outside influences will not hugely affect the average results across a school, but if a significant number of students are failing then that would be indicative of a major issue at that school with either leadership or staff IMHO.

    Why as a parent should I not have that information?

    Being responsible and accountable for the job you do is the real world for those of us who work outside the state system and there is no reason why this should not be the case inside the state system that is paid for with our taxes.

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  8. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    So Ben, what’s the source of your evidence that kids leave our school system, aged 16 (15 when I was at school) unable to read or write. How many? Which schools?

    Perhaps DPF would like to enlighten us as well.

    Try to be specific, you know, scholarly.

    [1 - The Ministry of Education’s report on the 1996
    International Adult Literacy Survey18 shows that about 20 percent of New Zealand adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have very poor literacy skills. Those most likely to be in this group are adults from Màori, Pacific, or other non-European backgrounds, adults with limited English language skills, 19 and people who are
    unemployed.

    2 - New Zealand led the world in reading achievement in 1970. It fell to thirteenth place in the 2001 study and then to twenty-fourth in 2006, according to an international study carried out every few years.

    3 - Literacy skill levels range from level 1 (very poor) to level 5 (very good). Level 3 is regarded as being the minimum required to meet the ‘complex demands of everyday life and work’ in the emerging ‘knowledge society’. The results of the survey indicate that 66.4 percent of Mäori were below this minimum level in prose, 72.2 percent in document and 72.3 percent in quantitative literacy. In contrast the figures for non-Mäori were 41.6 percent, 47.0 percent and 45.6 percent respectively.]

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  9. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    MikeMan

    Since you are on this site, you have proved you have mastered the internet. Good for you.

    Now go to our Education Review Office: http://www.ero.govt.nz/ and check out the reports on the schools you are interested in – and get the whole picture.

    PS I hope by the time my 18mth old gets to primary school National Standards are but a footnote in history.

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  10. s.russell (1,486 comments) says:

    freedom101, ben: I agree with you 100%.

    It makes my blood boil to read and hear teachers and even school principals attacking the standards policy. They want to keep parents (and everyone else) in ignorance about children’s real level of achievement. That is insane. How can you possibly improve education if you are not allowed to find out if it is even working or not.

    Luc Hansen,
    Yes there are many Kiwi kids who rank with the world’s best. But the average is dragged down by a huge tail of underachivers. And teachers don’t want us to even identify who those underachievers are so we can help them.

    I am glad to hear that Anne Tolley is improving her own performance at selling this policy.

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  11. Pete George (21,789 comments) says:

    One suggested improvement to enabling better group teaching of new entrants in particular is to start all kids at the start of the term following their 5th birthday. At the moment kids often start on their own and have to try and slot into the system, some manage that more easily than others, some never slot in and become the problem students.

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  12. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    [DPF: Again you don't know the difference between national testing and standards. Secondly on average NZ does okay, but our tail (the bottom 10% to 20%) is amongst the worst in the OECD]

    In order:

    I think I understand better than you the difference.

    We do more than OK, we do bloody well.

    We know about our tail problem.

    And the OECD say to lessen the tail, put more resources into their education.

    We know all this now, and nothing is done.

    So how is National Standards going to change this?

    By the way, it still doesn’t mean that our kids leave school at 16 unable to read or write or do basic maths.

    Where’s your credible study proving this assertion?

    [DPF: You really do miss the point. The national standards will identify the schools and students that need the additional resources. Without national standards, then the additional resources will not be as well targeted]

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  13. david (2,482 comments) says:

    Luc, so you don’t put any credence in the reports of remedial writing and comprehension programmes for teacher trainees, or of the cries of anguish emanating from law schools and medical schools about the inability of students to write comprehensible sentences to spell simple words properly or to string three ideas together in a meaningful sentence, quite apart from the problems of the “underclass”.????

    c’mon – wake up and smell the roses Luc.

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  14. MikeMan (171 comments) says:

    Luc Hansen (1175) Says:
    March 10th, 2010 at 10:50 am
    MikeMan

    Since you are on this site, you have proved you have mastered the internet. Good for you.

    Now go to our Education Review Office: http://www.ero.govt.nz/ and check out the reports on the schools you are interested in – and get the whole picture.

    PS I hope by the time my 18mth old gets to primary school National Standards are but a footnote in history.

    Reports that are 1-4 years old and all PC fluff by the looks.

    No hard numbers on results, no real results that are not filtered through the review officers bias or point of view.

    Exactly what I would have expected from a left wing softie like yourself.

    Why not publish real metrics rather than opinion and conjecture?

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  15. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    s.russell

    I don’t want to offend you, but you have shown a basic misunderstanding of the internationally recognised surveys I have quoted.

    Just google them and read the reports. Do your own research, if you are capable.

    For example, in the OECD, we rank 23rd in terms of purchasing power (PPP) adjusted spending per student, but fourth best overall in results (from memory).

    Even with the tail “dragging us down.”

    Why spend money and teachers time to find out what we already know?

    And I have a vested interest, as I have stated above. Don’t you think I want the best for my daughter?

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  16. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    david

    I was considered pretty bright at school, great at English (and top in Physics in Year 12), but when I went to Uni, I didn’t do that well until I did a paper in academic writing and my grades shot up!

    It’s all relative.

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  17. ben (2,385 comments) says:

    Luc, if you’re going to pick a fight, do try not to be so obvious.

    Your question applies equally (and uselessly) to your own comment.

    Even if I did have the data you ask for in hand, it would neither illuminate anything being said nor, quite obviously, would it change your mind.

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  18. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    MikeMan

    Education is not a science.

    The best advice I can give you is to go visit the schools, talk to the boss, look at the environment, and make your decision on those factors.

    Check out the link above I put to DPF.

    Tolley and Key are behind the times on this one, sadly.

    [DPF: Yet they won an election and you did not. Go ahead and campaign against telling parents in plain English how their kids are doing - should guarantee re-election of the Govt]

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  19. KiwiGreg (3,128 comments) says:

    “Don’t you think I want the best for my daughter?”

    If you wanted that you’d send her to a private school.

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  20. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Don’t you love it! Education policy based on the personal experience of the minister.

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  21. James Stephenson (1,880 comments) says:

    Things wot I have learned from the anti-standards crowd.

    1:We already know we have a tail of underachievers
    2:The solution is to throw more money at the problem
    3:Schools are already testing students to their own arbitrary standards.
    4:The biggest influence on a child’s success is their parents’ involvement in their education.

    So please, given all that, WTF is the problem with a) aligning standards across the country so we can identify which kids are in that tail so resources can be put in the right place and b) telling the parents where their kids stack up so that they can actually get involved?

    What seems to be scaring the teachers and their supporters silly is that with a published national standard, parents will be able to make their own assessment of where their kids are at and monitor the performance of schools in real time.

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  22. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    ben

    I do have the data at hand, saved to file. It would illuminate you.

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  23. ben (2,385 comments) says:

    Luc, you seem stuck off point. Congratulations on having the data. I do not. You win. But that data does not say anything of use here, except to confirm, one assumes, that a lot of kids can’t read.

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  24. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Good that we are trying to help underachievers but what about the other 80% of kids?

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  25. RightNow (6,334 comments) says:

    I took a more direct approach to the introduction of national standards and informed our school that there would be no ‘voluntary donations’ this year if they were opposing the introduction of national standards. Fortunately for all concerned they weren’t opposed anyway, which gave me a sense of reassurance that it is a good school with nothing to hide.

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  26. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    KiwiGreg

    We don’t agree. The stats at Uni show that state school kids do at least as well as privately schooled kids these days.

    James

    Nothing is scaring teachers. They are just concerned for the children they teach. Standards the way Key and Tolley want is a distraction, not a benefit.

    We already identify the schools and the kids who need the help. They are in the poor (and mainly brown) areas. It’s not rocket science. And the OECD tells us what we need to do to improve that, without detriment to the other kids (mine will be one of those). Allocate additional resources.

    And the funny thing is that the National Standards is anything but because, in its present form, it is very subjective and, just like the example of the US I posted a link to above, open to manipulation.

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  27. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    ben

    Underachieving does not equate to can’t read. That’s the misinformation.

    But in the PR battle, misinformation always seems to win.

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  28. GerryandthePM (328 comments) says:

    From the NZ Herald:

    Universities and polytechs will have funding cuts if their students don’t pass their courses, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday.

    But it has left him open to claims that the move will create incentives for them to pass students who don’t deserve it, or that courses will get easier.

    Now who could possibly claim that anybody involved in education would allow “them to pass students who don’t deserve it, or that courses will get easier.” ?

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  29. James Stephenson (1,880 comments) says:

    Nothing is scaring teachers.

    Would you like a Tui with that Luc?

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  30. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    I love an argument supported by evidence, James.

    F

    Try harder.

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  31. ben (2,385 comments) says:

    Luc, excuse me for saying this, but you’re obviously trolling. First the chest beating on the data, now you want to argue semantics. All irrelevant to what’s being discussed.

    What you are saying is not persuasive because it looks like trickery. I’ll take scholastic measurement over whatever snake oil – as judged by your non-arguments here – you might be pushing, on the simple principle that if teacher unions oppose it then, given their transparent incentives and their (and your) inability to mount a coherent argument against, it is certainly an idea that will help kids.

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  32. from174 (10 comments) says:

    Primary School triad:
    teacher: I know a few primary school teachers (don’t we all) and if they were working in the private sector one would be on a huge salary and the other 4 would be bottom feeders if they had a job at all. The research sugests that the teacher IS the biggest variable and the reality is that as I try and look for a school to send my 4 yr old I cannot gauge which to send her to based on academic standards (agree the ERO reports are there but they are all bull shit and bluster – worthy of my own snow storming reporting..)

    The other major influence is the principal as they set the tone of the school. Good principals attract good staff and they make a great environment for children to learn. I figure I will look a little creepy waiting at the school entrance at end of school to see what the “feel” of the school is like.

    Parents play a huge role in student performance primarily because those who give a shit research and try and find the best teachers for their kids. Give the parents the tools to make a difference. I know a blogger who as a gifted 4 yr old was surrounded by books and intelligent adults who engaged with him – prat at 4 , prat at 42.

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  33. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Too bad for the Labour Party/Teachers Unions that parents want national standards.

    Good to see the red 5th columners in the MoE getting dug out.

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  34. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    ben

    I guess prejudice beats facts every time.

    Can’t argue with that.

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  35. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    DPF in reply to Luc Hansen @ 10.45am

    That’s probably the most comprehensive statistical support I have seen from you for any particular position. But really, 1996?

    Also, did you notice that NZ was not included in the survey proper? We self-administered.

    Anyway, this is the OECD synopsis of that exercise (1997):

    Literacy Skills for the Knowledge Society, the second comparative report from the International Adult Literacy Survey, presents new findings for 12 OECD countries. Low literacy is a much larger problem than previously assumed in every country surveyed: from one-quarter to over one-half of the adult population fail to reach the threshold level of performance considered as a suitable minimum skill level for coping with the demands of modern life and work.

    There are significant differences among Member countries in how literacy skills are distributed in the population. In some, performance is skewed towards exceptional achievement among a minority in the work force; in others skills are more evenly distributed, with less people on the lowest level. Differences in the skill profiles of nations have implications for continued economic prosperity, democracy and social cohesion because jobs in knowledge societies require high levels of skills.

    Improving the literacy skills of a large number of adults is a high priority everywhere, but how can this be done? This report suggests that active and daily practice at work and at home is the key. Employers in particular have a large role to play, because of the importance of the work environment to much adult learning.

    Two points arise from your analysis: one, we were not too bad compared to our peers and, two, you identify the problem area we have anyway. It’s a common problem amongst indigenous people colonised by Europeans and within the immigrant community. It’s entirely different to results from our education system ie kids who started in our system at age 5 or later.

    I would be interested in investigating further the international study you quoted from – any chance of naming it? And any chance of you spending some time analysing the PIRLS and OECD studies? They can also be tracked over time and would appear to deliver different results to those you quote. And the OECD analysis offers comprehensive advice on solving our problems, beginning with addressing our child poverty problem.

    You need to understand that I am in favour of national measuring, done well, it is a great concept, but the system proposed by Tolley is too simplistic and flawed, as many experts have pointed out. And there is no indication that this government is prepared to put extra resources into the problem areas, which as you demonstrate, we already know about. Rather it appears to be a name and shame game.

    And sure, they won the election, but you are not seriously suggesting national standards rated highly in voter concerns, are you? I seem to remember certain prominent promises around taxes that have not been kept. But then, that’s par for the course for National, isn’t it? Remember “No ifs, no buts, no maybes”…

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  36. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    We are shit and should find solace in company who are also shit – er, aspirational.

    God it’s an ongoing avalanche of obfuscation without any substance.

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  37. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    And I see now we are cutting $25 million from the Ministry of Education, so concerned are we with results. So less research, less teacher support, and a demand for 100% literacy which is simply a pipe dream.

    Expat, good reading skills, but ignores my point: The survey quoted by DPF is not a survey of achievements of our education system – it was a survey of our adults. And how else do you know how you are performing other than by benchmarking against our peers? It’s exactly what standards aim to deliver, but will fail in their current incarnation.

    At least David put some time into his reply, rather than your knee jerk comment hardly worthy of a simpleton.

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  38. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Yet another adhom blather from Luc.

    If that 25mill of MoE cuts includes all the Labour 5th column paper shufflers and union reps in the HQ and regional offices doing the will of the left then let the good times roll.

    At least VodaPaul has some credibility.

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  39. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    A good explanation of why national standards are anything but…

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/

    What happens in the US is that schools all report how well they are doing, then the national testing tells them otherwise. I’m not saying which is correct, but it illustrates the pitfalls and emphasises the need for comprehensive consultation and trials.

    Austria is in the process of instituting national standards after a two to three year consultation and trial process. It’s non-controversial and has wide support.

    But Ii suppose Tolley knows best.

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  40. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    When I asked my education advisor the difference between testing and assessment, she huffed ans said it’s basically the same thing. I did some more research, in response to prodding by DPF, and found while professionals may be aware of a diffference, for the general public it’s just semantics.

    Then I found this from the American School Board Journal:

    Trouble with Testing
    Standards-based assessment really sounds quite wonderful. Yet, in most educational settings, it is a flat-out fraud. Any sort of beneath-the-surface look at today’s standards-based assessment will soon reveal that this alluringly labeled breed of testing is simply loaded with artifice. Standards-based tests typically don’t measure the skills and knowledge they purport to measure. They also don’t, as is claimed, help educators do a better instructional job. Standards-based assessment, clearly, is not what it pretends.
    February 2003

    There is a link to the full article but you have to pay and I’m too mean.

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  41. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    I’d be interested what that report actually has to say as it reads as if it is crafted with artifice to make a partisan point.

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  42. Luc Hansen (4,573 comments) says:

    Another one-liner from expat that contributes nothing to the topic. Why don’t you go and pay US$5?

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  43. from174 (10 comments) says:

    expat and luc – you need to get a room

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