Is this the real agenda?

August 16th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Nanaia Mahuta blogged:

I asked a question in the House yesterday on the Government’s quest to embed based on ‘ropey’ data. I received criticism that Labour’s position on and was sounding fuzzy. A prod and a poke led to this post from that criticism.

Just so I am clear from the outset, Labour does not support National Standards and League Tables.

I asked in the comments:

Nanaia – you’ve said Labour does not support league tables. Does that mean Labour supports an amendment to the Official Information Act to prevent the public and media from being able to access school assessment data? Because unless you are not prepared to change the law, I’m not sure your opposition will have any impact.

Then Bill Courtney said:

First of all, a change to the Official Information Act could be one way of keeping the data from public view. This is what Finland does, as Finland has no form of national testing or school ranking lists. In fact, they have abolished the equivalent of ERO and school inspection systems simply do not exist. In simple terms, they don’t need them, as all their schools are excellent! But I doubt that any NZ government would be enlightened enough – unfortunately – to follow the Finnish model .

Now Courtney does not speak for Labour, but he is a prominent opponent of national standards, is often quoted by the education unions and recently a spokesperson for the John Minto led Quality Public Education Coaliton.

So it is good to realise what Courtney actually wants. Parents to have no information at all. No national standards, no NCEA data, no educational data, no ERO reports, no ER) – in fact no school inspections at all.

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48 Responses to “Is this the real agenda?”

  1. Rick Rowling (813 comments) says:

    If we stop measuring schools, we too can believe that they are all excellent!

    We can further pursue excellence by not measuring student achievement in any way.

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  2. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Like most Neolib policy, National Standards are totally lacking in any evidence that suggests they improve student achievement.

    Just because you test a student, or put them in a box, doesn’t mean they are achieving higher grades. You actually need to invest more in education and ensure the houses they come from have food and heating.

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  3. tvb (4,430 comments) says:

    The Unions do not want National Standards because they do not want accountability for failing schools and dud teachers. They use every argument in the book including insults, and much volume. But at the end of the day the Unions are about protecting the duds and parents know it.

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  4. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Parents have plenty of information about schools and they don’t have to do an OIA request to get access to it. Is there any barrel you wouldn’t scrape the bottom of to show your pathological hatred of unions?

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  5. marcw (249 comments) says:

    “as Finland has no form of national testing or school ranking lists. In fact, they have abolished the equivalent of ERO and school inspection systems simply do not exist. In simple terms, they don’t need them, as all their schools are excellent!”

    If Finland is held up as an example of excellence, then how do we know that? If they do not measure anything, then what are the criteria for their apparent success? Maybe this is all based on a great myth, because it sounds all too good to be true. This could be one of the greatest 21st century scams.

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  6. Kimble (4,440 comments) says:

    National Standards are totally lacking in any evidence that suggests they improve student achievement.

    Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?

    Hello! McFly! Hello!

    National Standard by themselves wont do shit. They arent meant to. Nobody said thats what they would do. They are worthwhile inasmuch as they provide information on whether something should be done, and maybe what that something ought to be.

    How about you actually listen to what advocates for National Standards actually fucking say, instead of inventing shit that serves no other purpose than to pathetically stroke your own ego?

    People like you are the ones convincing reasonable people that the only reason you lot oppose National Standards is that you fear too much information will force you to face reality.

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  7. Kimble (4,440 comments) says:

    Is there any barrel you wouldn’t scrape the bottom of to show your pathological hatred of unions?

    Its not our fault that Unions are found at the bottom of the barrel.

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  8. SouthernRight (53 comments) says:

    I am on a board for a high school and are not against the standards for the fun of it, however they are really only useful to the school producing them as there are so many variables that outside the school they could never be taken as credible. Even parents will not get useful data from them, most parents these days cant even understand the school reports.
    National Standardas are not going to identify bad teachers, a decent board should be doing that, the issue however is the PPTA and other unions who prevent boards from dealing with incompetant teachers.

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  9. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    Kimble, you have to remember, Hamnida comes from a place of perfection and beauty, the exotic shores of Fuckuncklestan, where everyone, Doctors, lawyers, Bin men, teachers, entrepeneurs all earn the same, or are taxed until they do, and as such, thought is equal too.

    He still quite hasnt grasped that if you force people to do shit they dont want, they rebel. Or if you tax them so hard they lose the incentive to earn.

    I suspect his atlas doesnt have any of the failed Russian states, Cuba or Naughty Korea on it.

    And being able to understand the difference between measuring something to understand trends and improving something is way way beyond him…

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  10. hmmokrightitis (1,590 comments) says:

    SoutherRight:”most parents these days cant even understand the school reports.” (Citation needed) – otherwise youre just making shit up.

    School reports are simple to understand – they have to be, they are pitched at the lowest common denominator.

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  11. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I guess the crazy thing about National Standards (as a policy), as that they are not even national standards. The tests teachers tell me they use are school based and created, with the central government Standard only being a policy guideline.

    So what do they teach us? Some students are more advanced than others within the school gate.

    You can’t even compare school by school, which I am sure is what the Torys really wanted. That way they could punish schools who source students from low socio economic homes and tell hungry and cold Jimmy he’s dumb.

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  12. David in Chch (519 comments) says:

    Like marcw at 9.39 am, I too think that the comment raises the question: How do we know Finland’s schools are excellent? I think I need to contact my relatives in Finland and ask them. Are your schools excellent? How do you know?

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  13. dave (988 comments) says:

    “Parents to have no information at all”

    Perhaps you have not heard of AsTTle , DPF?

    That info – as well as many other tests – is given to parents at every parent teacher interview and to every BoT meeting. that is information which is way more reliable than any National Standards data that any govt agency or media organisation can provide…

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  14. KiwiGreg (3,255 comments) says:

    We should just set up 2 education systems. A national school system run by the teacher unions and a different system run by whoever wanted to. Fund them both on a capitation basis and let parents decide.

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  15. PaulL (5,987 comments) says:

    Choice Kiwigreg? We all know that parents are too stupid to make choices on behalf of their children. Teachers, and particularly teacher’s unions, know best. Next you’ll be suggesting that parents be allowed to decide what their children eat, which would clearly also be ridiculous.

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  16. lilman (960 comments) says:

    Teachers are piss weak and to say Finland has excellent schools with absolutely no way of measuring if they are good, excellent or poor?,one can only laugh at Labour for their reasoning and decision making process.
    MY kids and MY right to know information aout their achievments or lack of it.
    I dislike teachers more than any other profession.

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  17. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    System1: State School
    System2: Private School
    Compromise between these: Integrated Schools
    System3: Home Schooling

    Best results usually come from motivated parents home schooling their kids, then putting them into a private school for the last couple of years before university.

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  18. scrubone (3,099 comments) says:

    The Finnish system made private schools illegal. Equality of opportunity and all that…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Hjvk8aDqy8
    (Thnk that’s the video where I learned about it)

    Banning private schooling seems to me to be a pretty serious human rights violation – but hey, so long as we get the results, who cares about human rights?

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  19. peterwn (3,274 comments) says:

    KiwiGreg – There is already a second ‘system’ and this is detested by the teaching unions who do not want to see any taxpayers money put into it. Unfortunately it is generally only accessible to children with parents of reasonable means or who make significant sacrifices (Dilworth being the main exception). Partnership schools would provide a third education ‘system’ which hopefully provide an alternative while being open to all.

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  20. RRM (9,932 comments) says:

    First of all, a change to the Official Information Act could be one way of keeping the data from public view. This is what Finland does… But I doubt that any NZ government would be enlightened enough…

    Somehow it’s an ‘enlightened’ policy to keep all records of how well the state schools are functioning secret from the public?!??

    Far out, no wonder so many of you lot on the right seem to think Orwell’s 1984 is a documentary :-) It looks like you have a point…

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  21. Bob R (1,377 comments) says:

    *** they don’t need them, as all their schools are excellent!***

    They have also been a very homogeneous country. As they become more ethnically diverse that may change as different groups have different average behaviours.

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  22. Ed Snack (1,883 comments) says:

    Good to see Hamnida trotting out the old “hungry and cold Jimmy”….

    The primary determinant of performance is , with exceptions for the outliers at both ends of the IQ curve, determination; and that is intimately connected to culture. If your parents want you to get a good education, and your culture values the same, then as long as you don’t fall into the unfortunate category of being distinctly mentally deficient, then you will indeed learn something regardless of whether you are cold and/or hungry.

    Even poor parenting, the one major cause of “cold and hungry”, is related to if not entirely so, culture. If learning is respected, you’ll want to learn. If learning is disrespected, then only exceptional types or those who buck the cultural stereotypes will learn, and no amount of pretending to address the “cold and hungry” meme through ladling out money will make any significant difference. And in NZ, if your kids are really consistently cold and hungry then you’re being a piss-poor parent, and if you think that handing out money to such parents will solve educational issues, then you’re not just ideologically blinkered, but blind, deaf, dumb, and extremely mentally deficient as well.

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  23. MH (762 comments) says:

    The Finns don’t have a good rugby team either. With nearly 90%+ of NZ teachers being women lets not kidd ourselves about this debate or its outcome. Few women know how to pack down a decent scrum and just throw a round ball onto the field and do their nails. We are all doomed, I’m surprised we have lasted this long,…ah yes the Pacific Island factor. Any fluent English speakers out there(in Sth Auckland)?

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  24. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    > I dislike teachers more than any other profession.

    Judging by many of the comments on here, you’re not alone – I’m surprised there isn’t a huge influx of teacher applications from Kiwiblog commenters who know more than teachers do.

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  25. Alan Johnstone (1,087 comments) says:

    As a parent I support National standards, but i don’t think they go far enough.

    I’d like some kind of transparent international OECD type figure, where I could bench mark NZs educational performance against other countries.

    As for the teachers, it’s a straightforward producer interest self protection. Nothing wrong with that as such, that’s what unions are for, but the pretense that it’s not is distasteful

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  26. lilman (960 comments) says:

    Lets see ross69?
    MUM-TEACHER
    AUNTIES X 4 TEACHER
    BOT 8 years 2 as chairman
    Son studying to become teacher.
    Dislike yes, tolerate yes, no more than teachers? well a few atleast.
    Experience has shown me they know more than anyone ,with scant regard to actually working for an EMPLOYER i.e. New Zealnd Ministry of Education.
    The only employees I have ever met who never fail to find fault with THEIR employer and refuse to do as THEIR employer asks frequently.
    As unprofessional bunch of people as I have ever worked with in my 59 years of life experience.

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  27. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Finland is number 1 based on PISA testing.

    That is probably a better test than a ‘national standard’ developed within individual NZ primary schools.

    Finland is number 1 in the OECD because of the high trust relationship between teachers, government and school communities. Teaching is such a desirable profession that most Finnish teachers need a Masters Degree to find work in a school.

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  28. Bob R (1,377 comments) says:

    ***I’d like some kind of transparent international OECD type figure, where I could bench mark NZs educational performance against other countries.***

    You can compare student performance using the International Data Explorer. http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/international/ide/

    There is a recent table in the post below for the PISA scores on Reading, Science & Math. This doesn’t necessarily reflect teacher performance as there are other factors, culture, parental support, innate ability etc..

    http://infoproc.blogspot.co.nz/2010/12/shanghai-pisa-scores.html

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  29. chris (647 comments) says:

    Finland is number 1 in the OECD because of the high trust relationship between teachers, government and school communities.

    The problem with NZ is neither the government nor teachers trust each other, and the school communities don’t necessarily trust the teachers or the government.

    We’ve been telling the school for the last couple of years that our 7 year old son son (in year 3) has been struggling with maths and keep being told “oh no he’s doing just fine”. And then finally last week they tell us they’re moving him “down” a maths class because he’s struggling. So it’s either been bullshit all along or they haven’t actually been paying any attention to him or our concerns. Hard to build trust when they’re acting like that.

    The happy side of the story is that since changing maths teacher he’s been doing a lot better, and she’s found an excellent way for him to work on solving his maths problems.

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  30. Paulus (2,631 comments) says:

    Have you heard the bitching/complaining in Britain over the Olympics.
    Over 50% of the British competitors went to Private Schools.
    Makes you think what New Zealand could do better.

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  31. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Private schools, a sick joke.

    I am sure the New Zealand athletes didn’t need private schools for their medals.

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  32. lastmanstanding (1,297 comments) says:

    My wife and I sent out 2 children to a private school paid a fortune that will mean we will be relying on them to keep us in our old age.
    One of the main reasons was that we got to measure the results and question their teachers and engage in an ongoing discussion about what we and the teachers needed to do to maximise the childrens potential as they grew up.

    Result 2 well educated adults both contributing to society.

    Now maybe a state school could have achieved the same but from the conversations with other who sent their children to state schools I dont think so.

    And we werent prepared to take the risk given the dinosaur atitude of the teachers unions during the time our 2 were at school.

    Fact is you pay the piper you call the tune which is what we did and did.

    Fact is citizens sending their children to state schools also pay the piper but arent allowed to call the tune. The Unions do that.

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  33. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I am sure a public school would have been just as good, if not better. The overwhelming majority of the New Zealand schools are public, and despite having high socio economic disparity, come in at number 4 overall in PISA results.

    Attending a public school has other advantages, such as getting taste of real New Zealand so you are not ‘out of touch’ during adult life.

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  34. Bill Courtney (161 comments) says:

    Unfortunately, this is a prime example of everything that’s wrong about blogging: poor analysis from the writer feeding nothing but blind prejudice from the commenters.

    As for “what Courtney actually wants” then that’s easy David: a quality public education system that delivers a good education to every child in every school on every day. Period.

    The issue, of course, is how we get there. I have two role models: Finland as an outstanding example of what a quality education system looks like and Diane Ravitch, the American “reformed reformer” who has written extensively on how the “Choice and Accountability” mantra is undermining the quality of American education.

    Finland’s outstanding system is admired the world over but most politicians haven’t got the guts to emulate what they do. Why? Because they do the complete opposite of what the Choice and Accountability brigade advocate. Have a look at this clip of an interview with Pasi Sahlberg, of Finland’s education ministry, and you will hear what he has coined “GERM” the global educational reform movement.
    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2012/s3441913.htm

    John Key and Hekia Parata are simply doing what Julia Gillard has done and are blindly copying the American formula. But, as Sahlberg points out, Finland does the opposite. Why do you think that Catherine Isaac went to the unusual step of including a question on Finland in the Charter Schools FAQs posted on their website? But ironically, she still advocates for the virtues of Sweden, even though their PISA ranking is abysmal in comparison with Finland and New Zealand. And why is Sweden so favoured? Because they have vouchers and “free schools’ as they call their charter schools.

    Also, for those interested, you may want to ask David Farrar why he ignored the quotes I included from Anne Tolley. Especially her comment that she was working with the education sector to “find ways of protecting the data”.

    The issues covered in this blog and many others over the past two years or so have never answered two simple questions: if standards, testing, league tables, school choice etc. lead to improved student achievement, then why do the USA, England and Sweden perform so poorly in the international comparisons? Where are the worked examples of this ideology delivering superior outcomes for the students?
    Please explain. 25 marks.

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  35. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Bill Courtney – Bulls eye.

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  36. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    I can confirm I don’t know Bill Courtney, however, I am impressed by his knowledge of international education research.

    A refreshing change from the Neolib approach of underfunding public schools while bashing them around at the same time.

    Why Neolibs would want to follow the U.K and U.S I’ll never understand.

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  37. chris (647 comments) says:

    I don’t really care how they do it, I just want good quality education for my children. And I don’t want to be told my child is doing well in a subject when he isn’t, and we knew he wasn’t. But all the reports, comparisons with national standards, and talks with the teachers said he was fine. But it was bullshit.

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  38. cha (4,036 comments) says:

    From page four of this article.

    Lawmakers landed on a deceptively simple plan that formed the foundation for everything to come. Public schools would be organized into one system of comprehensive schools, or peruskoulu, for ages 7 through 16. Teachers from all over the nation contributed to a national curriculum that provided guidelines, not prescriptions. Besides Finnish and Swedish (the country’s second official language), children would learn a third language (English is a favorite) usually beginning at age 9. Resources were distributed equally. As the comprehensive schools improved, so did the upper secondary schools (grades 10 through 12). The second critical decision came in 1979, when reformers required that every teacher earn a fifth-year master’s degree in theory and practice at one of eight state universities—at state expense. From then on, teachers were effectively granted equal status with doctors and lawyers. Applicants began flooding teaching programs, not because the salaries were so high but because autonomy and respect made the job attractive. In 2010, some 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots, according to Sahlberg. By the mid-1980s, a final set of initiatives shook the classrooms free from the last vestiges of top-down regulation. Control over policies shifted to town councils. The national curriculum was distilled into broad guidelines. National math goals for grades one through nine, for example, were reduced to a neat ten pages. Sifting and sorting children into so-called ability groupings was eliminated. All children—clever or less so—were to be taught in the same classrooms, with lots of special teacher help available to make sure no child really would be left behind. The inspectorate closed its doors in the early ’90s, turning accountability and inspection over to teachers and principals.

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  39. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    cha – nice quote.

    You Neolibs got something from the U.K or U.S about education reform improving OECD/PISA standing?

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  40. Bob R (1,377 comments) says:

    ***And why is Sweden so favoured? Because they have vouchers and “free schools’ as they call their charter schools.
    ***

    Can the vouchers be blamed for Sweden’s relatively poor performance? As Tino Sanandaji notes:

    First, the private school sector remains small, with less than 10% of 8th graders tested by PISA in 2009…Voucher funded schools have more satisfied teachers and parents and students. They cost less for taxpayers. They don’t appear to hurt public schools. In addition, they have been improving their test-scores in a period where public schools scores are declining….

    Despite all of this, the Social Democrats blame the crisis of Swedish education on private schools, even though it is the 90% or so of children in public schools who are doing particularly poorly, and even though they present no evidence whatsoever that this long term decline is caused by private schools”

    Sanandaji has a useful comment for those on the right suggesting vouchers and charter schools will lead to much change though:

    “This will pain them to learn, but they are putting too much faith in private schools, and too much weight on test scores in evaluating private schools. The sad truth is that test-scores are mostly determined by I.Q and home environment, not by which school you attend.”

    http://super-economy.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/on-swedish-voucher-system.html

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  41. Bob R (1,377 comments) says:

    @ Hamnida

    Note that the US spends more on education than Asian or European countries.

    “According to the OECD, the United States spends about 50% more per pupil than the average for Western Europe, and 40% more than Japan.”

    http://super-economy.blogspot.co.nz/2010/12/amazing-truth-about-pisa-scores-usa.html

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  42. chris (647 comments) says:

    The sad truth is that test-scores are mostly determined by I.Q and home environment, not by which school you attend.

    Doesn’t surprise me at all. I always think people who send their kids to private schools (especially at primary level) are foolish. Not that it bothers me that they have the choice to do so; if they want to spend their extra $$ on sending their kids to those schools then so be it.

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  43. Hamnida (905 comments) says:

    Bob R – I note the U.S spends a lot on education and health, but has lower quality outcomes than most OECD nations.

    I wonder why?

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  44. chrisw76 (85 comments) says:

    @ lilman:
    >…scant regard to actually working for an EMPLOYER i.e. New Zealnd Ministry of Education.
    >The only employees I have ever met who never fail to find fault with THEIR employer and refuse to do as THEIR employer asks frequently.

    Well there is your problem right there: the MoE handles teacher’s payroll, but are employed by the schools themselves. If bulk funding ever returned then the schools would be handling the pay as well. You’ll find while they may grumble like any other employee, teachers will follow the instructions of their actual employer.

    I would suggest that there is more than one teacher out there who would be happy to see the MoE disbanded and the funds put into schooling where it could do some good.

    Cheers, Chris W.

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  45. Bob R (1,377 comments) says:

    ***I note the U.S spends a lot on education and health, but has lower quality outcomes than most OECD nations. ***

    @ Hamnida

    I’m not sure about health, but from Sanandaji’s post on US PISA results, he notes that there is quite a difference when you adjust for demography. So students of western european and asian background tend to do as well or better than their countries of origin. For example:

    United States students are 7th best out of 28, and far better than the average of Western European nations where they largely originate from.

    The mean score of Americans with European ancestry is 524, compared to 506 in Europe, when first and second generation immigrants are excluded.

    For Asian-American students (remember this includes Vietnam, Thailand and other less developed countries outside Northeast Asia), the mean PISA score is 534, same as 533 for the average of Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. Here we have two biases going in opposite directions: Asians in the U.S are selected. On the other hand we are comparing the richest and best scoring Asian countries with all Americans with origin in South and East Asia.”

    http://super-economy.blogspot.co.nz/2010/12/amazing-truth-about-pisa-scores-usa.html

    @ chris,

    I agree. The main advantage of those schools is to get the kids to network with children from relatively wealthy backgrounds.

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  46. UpandComer (537 comments) says:

    @ Bill Courtney and Hamnida.

    To answer your question – our system is different to the systems you are comparing too. There, 25 marks for me.

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  47. UpandComer (537 comments) says:

    Further, if our public system really is superlative, why does it fail so many kids, consistently.

    Wait, what’s that you say, underfunding?

    Rubbish. The liquid was poured into the leaky cauldron under Labour – no observable benefit.

    Wait, what’s that you say, ‘poverty’?

    Rubbish, if that was the case every poor kid without a high IQ and indefatigable attitude would fail. If the attitude is going to be that all the varieties of useless parenting are the responsibility of the gummint, lets just give up. That’s a wonderful thesis if you’re a teacher or a union, but it’s not an attitude that compels a bright future. It’s also an attitude that says children are at the mercy of the arbitrary abilities of their parents. I think that’s a very negative, pathetic, craven attitude frankly.

    Wait, what’s that you say? What do I know about education? Have I been a teacher for 50 years like Mr or Mrs X of the union? Well socialist cindy hasn’t got any children, but she’s allowed to be the country’s resident family policy expert…. so.. ?

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  48. Bob R (1,377 comments) says:

    *** If the attitude is going to be that all the varieties of useless parenting are the responsibility of the gummint, lets just give up. ***

    Well, no you just need to be realistic. If people don’t have the aptitude for things like maths & english or whatever traditional academic subject you care to name get them into something like a trade so they can get a job.

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