Herald misses the key element – GDP

September 15th, 2010 at 9:01 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand teachers are some of the lowest paid in the OECD, despite working more hours than most of their overseas counterparts, an international report reveals.

The annual Education at a Glance report, which compares the education systems of the 29 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, found that after 15 years’ experience, a New Zealand teacher made $10,000 a year less than OECD counterparts on average.

The entire article is peppered with stats designed to give the impression our teachers are underpaid. It reads like a PPTA and NZEI press release. But they have missed out the most important stat – our GDP. I blogged this in response last week, and need to repeat it again:

I am not surprised teachers in Australia get paid more. Everyone in Australia gets paid more – they are a wealthier country. The solution to this problem is to increase productivity growth.

The better comparison between countries is how much do teachers get paid, compared to the average wage, or how much does a country spend on education as a percentage of GDP.

The OECD report answers the latter.

In Australia 3.5% of GDP is spent on non-tertiary education, and in New Zealand it is 4.0%. So we are already paying more as a percentage of GDP, than Australia. Hence the solution is to increase GDP, not to increase the share spent on education.

Only three OECD countries spend a higher percentage of GDP on non-tertiary education than New Zealand.

So all these stats about how teachers are paid less than the OECD average – it is because we earn less than the OECD average, and it is basic economic that you have to generate the wealth to spend it.

What would be good is if someone did some proper comparisons, such as what do NZ teachers get paid, compared to the average wage for their country and/or what do teachers get paid compared to the average GDP per capita.

The OECD doesn’t seem to have up to date average wage data for NZ, but there is good data on GDP per capita. So let’s compare teacher salaries to GDP per capita. Taking a primary teacher with 15 years experience, the data is:

  • Australia $46,096 salary vs $38,911 GDP per capita = 118% ratio
  • UK/England $44,630 vs $34,619 = 129%
  • France $31,927 vs $33,679 = 95%
  • Luxembourg $67,723 vs $78,395 = 86%
  • US $44,172 vs $46,381 = 95%
  • NZ $38,412 vs $26,708 = 144%
  • OECD $39,426 vs $35,138 = 112%

So in fact New Zealand is paying primary teachers with 15 years experience far more, compared to our national wealth, than the OECD average, and than Australia, the US, UK, US, France etc.

Even if ones takes secondary teachers with 15 years experience, NZ at 144% pays far more relative to national wealth than even Luxembourg. So bear this in mind as you read:

They also started on an average of $10,000 less than Australian counterparts and earned up to $82,000 less than those in top-paying Luxembourg.

Again – that is because those countries are far wealthier.

New Zealand teachers get paid more, than almost any other country, compared to GDP per capita, and almost inevitably the average wage.

And if you think that this is not the relevant comparison, then you probably think money grows on trees.

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Economic growth, not teacher payrises needed

September 10th, 2010 at 12:47 pm by David Farrar

NZPA report:

A new report reveals New Zealand teachers are still paid far less than their Aussie counterparts, says the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has released a report, Education at a Glance 2010, which compares the education systems of 29 countries.

The report shows a New Zealand primary school teacher with 15 years experience earns $US38,412 ($NZ52,871) but an Australian teacher, with the same experience, earns $US46,096 ($NZ63,447).

If the Government was serious about closing the pay gap and retaining teachers then it had to invest in education, NZEI president Frances Nelson said.

I am not surprised teachers in Australia get paid more. Everyone in Australia gets paid more – they are a wealthier country. The solution to this problem is to increase productivity growth.

The better comparison between countries is how much do teachers get paid, compared to the average wage, or how much does a country spend on education as a percentage of GDP.

The OECD report answers the latter.

In Australia 3.5% of GDP is spent on non-tertiary education, and in New Zealand it is 4.0%. So we are already paying more as a percentage of GDP, than Australia. Hence the solution is to increase GDP, not to increase the share spent on education.

Only three OECD countries spend a higher percentage of GDP on non-tertiary education than New Zealand.

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An NZEI Survey

August 17th, 2010 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve been forwarded on the survey results from an NZEI poll of parents, which they claim shows huge opposition to the budget decision to only fund 80% of staff positions in ECE centres to be fully qualified teachers. In other words, that 1 in 5 can be helpers.

Sadly the NZEI never asked people the question – should 100% or 80% of staff be required to be fully qualified. That would have got some useful data. First of all they start with a wee typo:

The Government has cut funding to Early Childhood Education Centres with the most qualified staff. Let us know what you think and we’ll pass your views on to the Prime Ministrer. Thank You!

Hey I know I do may typos also. However I am not an education union protesting about an education issue, in a formal survey.

Question 1 – Do you believe your child should have qualified early childhood education teachers?
Question 2 – Do you agree that all children should have qualified early childhood education teachers?
Question 3 – Do you agree that parents should pay more for early childhood education than they do at present?
Question 4 – Do you agree that quality early childhood education is an investment in New Zealand’s future?

Who is going to answer no to any of those questions? They are so leading that they are useless.

Why not just ask them directly their views on 80% qualified vs 100% qualified? Because that may not get them the right result.

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NZEI on National Standards

July 20th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I thought readers may enjoy this helpful newsletter form the NZEI on national standards.

NZEI and NS

The part that is of most significance is the statement that NZEI believes there are clear links between National Standards and the position the Ministry has taken in the primary teacher and principal bargaining.

What this means is that the NZEI is going to go on strike unless they get a massive pay increase as “compensation” for national standards.

It’s never really been about national standards. No one could seriously think they are a bad thing to do. It’s all about league tables and pay.

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Finally a parent against national standards

March 15th, 2010 at 7:33 pm by David Farrar

The Wanganui Chronicle reports:

Parent Stephanie Mills said the new standards were totally untried  and had been developed in  three months without involvement from the community and teachers.

By pure coincidence a Stephanie Mills is the NZEI Communications Director.

Do you suppose they could be the same person?

And why then does the Wanganui Chronicle not mention this rather pertinent fact? Were they not told, or did they just think the public don’t need to know?

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Teacher Unions against achievement

February 3rd, 2010 at 5:04 pm by David Farrar

I blogged yesterday on Maria English’s world beating achievement of topping the world two years in a row in the Cambridge International English exams. She was marked higher than 90,000 students from 100 countries.

What was really nice in the comments is that almost everyone put politics aside, and was genuinely pleased and admiring of such a wonderful achievement for a New Zealand student.

Now you would think the PPTA would also be pleased that a New Zealand secondary school student has done so well. But, instead this is what they twittered:

Government ministers show support for private businesses involved in education

with a link to the TV3 story on Maria and another story.

Isn’t that just such an appalling and small minded sneer. They don’t care at all about a student being top of the world. They just hate the fact she is at a private school, or took part in a private exam.

I think it is useful that the PPTA reminds us of what matters to teacher unions, because Colin Espiner has written a blog where he basically calls for the NZEI to have a veto over education policy on NZ.

But you can’t bulldoze your way through a sector as highly unionised as teaching without taking the unions with you. …

I’d be happy for the Government to explore the idea further, but only in conjunction with the actual practitioners in the classrooms. Ramming policy through in spite of their strenuous objections makes me uneasy. After all, this isn’t a fight over wages and conditions. Teachers’ objections are based on educational reasons, and while there may be some vested self-interest involved, I’m prepared to accept the NZEI has some valid concerns.

I don’t even know where to start. How about with an analogy. Would Colin advocate that the Government should not make any changes to economic policy unless Treasury agrees?

Should there be no change to telecommunications policy unless Telecom agrees?

As the PPTA shows, they are not concerned about educational outcomes. They are concerned about their members. Their objections are not based on education reasons. The NZEI President has said that if the Government removed school achievement data from the Official Information Act, their opposition to national standards would disappear. This is a battle about league tables, or in other words freedom of information.

I would have thought if the Government was really serious about improving the quality of primary schools, it might be pumping money into cutting class sizes. Curiously, however, it’s done the opposite, and teacher/pupil ratios are increasing.

Colin must have missed the Hattle report which concluded that class size is not a major factor – it is the quality of the teacher.

Even putting the educational arguments aside, however, buying a fight with the teacher unions is bad politics. Key seems to think he can turn public opinion against the NZEI on this one but I think this is unlikely. Far better to take the union with him than try to bash it into submission.

Colin makes the mistake of thinking there is a choice. Unless the Government amends the OIA to restrict access to school achievement data, then the union will never ever back national standards. The call for trials is a red herring designed to delay.  I would bet several billion dollars that at the end of any trials the NZEI would declare that the standards can not be implemented.

It’s almost as if Key is tired of playing Mr Nice Guy and wants to show the steel behind the “relaxed” Prime Minister.

That’s his call, but I think he’s picked the wrong issue and the wrong target. The NZEI is a formidable foe.

Colin has it the wrong way around. It is not the Government picking a fight. A group of taxpayer funded staff are refusing to implement the legal requirements of the Government. They are the ones picking the fight.

Colin thinks the standards are abotu assessment, but for most schools there will be no change in assessment. They are about plain English reporting. Colin said:

Are national standards a good idea? I admit I’m not sure. As a parent, I would like more information about how my child’s doing. But I don’t need to see primary schools ranked in league tables. I accept that a school in Khandallah or Fendalton or Parnell is going to do better in such rankings than those in Naenae, or Aranui, or Penrose.

That says more about simple demography and socioeconomic status than it does about the quality of its teachers.

But I’ve yet to be convinced that introducing more assessment is going to somehow magically improve the quality of our school system, or make us better at maths.

Colin confuses league tables (that the Government has no intention of publishing – it is Colin’s fellow journalists who produce league tables) with national standards and reporting. And it is not about more assessment, it is about clear data.

There are two major benefits from the national standards – individual data and group data. Let me explain.

Parents will benefit from individual data. They will have a clear report card that informs them if their child is achieving at the minimum level necessary to be on track to leave school able to read and write and do maths. If their child is not performing to that level, it means they and the school can discuss what steps can be taken to try and lift the performance.

The Government’s election policy also made it clear that there will be additional resources dedicated to students not making the standards, so that they chances of improving are enhanced.

From 2012, the Government will also start collecting group data – by that I mean data on each school, and maybe even teacher. Not to publish league tables with, but to analyse. Now you may wonder what is the use of this data.

Well the Dim Post had a link to this article in The Atlantic about research into what makes a great teacher. They have collected masses of data on teachers and achievement to try and isolate the major factors. I highly recommend people read the entire article.

At present, there is no useful comparable data at primary school level. National standards will provide information which will allow comparisons to be done. I don’t mean comparisons between schools, but dozens or hundreds of variables can be analysed.

That is how you then raise educational standards. Not by giving a policy veto to unions that see it as a bad thing that a New Zealand student tops the world!

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Parents blast teachers union

January 21st, 2010 at 6:54 pm by David Farrar

The NZ School Trustees Assn (effectively the voice for parents) is getting sick of the union tactics:

The continued “shotgun approach” by the primary teachers union (NZEI) and the Principals Federation (NZPF) to the Nationals Standards issue is not helpful to anyone says the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

President Lorraine Kerr says the constant shifting of the ground, and arguments, hoping that one of the approaches will score a response with the school community, Boards of Trustees, and others, does not strengthen the unions’ case at all. Indeed, if they are not careful, there is a risk they may end up shooting themselves in the foot by way of an ever increasing credibility gap.

In other words, stop scaremongering.

The concerns appear to shift constantly, so it’s no surprise that many people find the whole debate somewhat confusing, and, in fact it is rapidly becoming quite tiresome, she says.

“I have every sympathy for those many parents/caregivers, who see nothing wrong with the idea that they should know how their children are doing in key areas, including literacy/numeracy, from wondering what the fuss is actually about,” Lorraine Kerr says.

And that is all it is about. Allowing parents to know how theri kids are doing in terms of meeting or exceeding the national standard for numeracy and literacy.

NZSTA has also struggled at times to identify what the issue actually is, but did get some clarity at a meeting in late 2009 when the president of NZEI stated that NZEI would have no problems at all with National Standards if the threat of league tables was removed.

Lorraine Kerr says that if that is the real driving concern, it needed quickly dealt with.

The unions need to recognise this is the Internet age. You can not prevent parents from sharing info on schools.You can’t prevent any number of people or organisations from doing comparison tables – just as you get in the health sector, the police sector, the finance sector etc etc.

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Why the flip-flop from education union heads?

December 28th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

In the last couple of months the education unions have been strident against the proposed national standards. However a copy of the May Education Review shows this was not always the case:

Educational Institute President Frances Nelson said she was “particularly optimistic” that the new standards would be useful, as they were based on and improved on a system already in use. Data collected through the tests would help teachers decide what to teach next, help schools plan ahead, and provide parents with better reports on their children’s progress.

“The ministry and minister have worked on something much more robust than anything I have seen in the world at this time,” she said.

So what has happened since May? Did she get Mallarded?

Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld said the tests essentially reflected existing practice at about half of primary schools, while the remaining schools were probably moving toward similar systems.

Again, what a change of tune.

The reality is that the standards are a relatively modest initiative. They are not one uniform nationwide test. They are not some grade average where 50% must fail. They are simply a statement of the sort of literacy and numeracy tasks you expect a pupil to be able to perform at a certain age, if they are to be on track to leave primary school able to read, write and do basic maths.

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Education unions criticised by parents and principals

December 12th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

The School Trustees Association, which supports the standards, is upset about a letter from NZEI and the Principals Federation trying to influence boards.

President Lorraine Kerr has written to the groups, branding the action as irresponsible and unprofessional.

“It is hard to escape the conclusion that the motives behind your letter are in the main political,” she wrote.

“We believe your letter is irresponsible and unprofessional in inciting boards to place themselves at risk by acting simply as the principal’s mouthpiece.

“We have made every attempt to respond to the matters regarding national standards in a thoughtful and pragmatic way. However, by taking the action you have in your letter, you have made it abundantly clear that you have no genuine interest in pursuing an informed and professional discussion of the issues.”

That is a damning letter for one professional group to write about another. Totally deserved though.

Stephen Blair, principal of Tokoroa North School, accuses the Principals Federation of turning the issue into an ideological debate.

“They have accused the Government of basing policy on ideology yet their opposition is based on ill-informed scaremongering,” he said.

And the national standards policy is so mild. It is not about one big standard test. It is just about minimum consistent standards and reporting.

I say bring in bulk funding, performance pay for teachers and vouchers and give the unions something to really complain about!

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Educational priorities

October 24th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The new national standards will narrow educational opportunities for children, says the country’s largest teaching union.

“It all adds up to teaching to a very narrow focus and ultimately narrowing educational opportunities for children,” said New Zealand Educational Institute president Frances Nelson.

The union has been opposed to standards since National announced their introduction.

The standards were part of National policy before the party was elected to Government. Despite almost a year of talks, the Government has failed to reach an amicable agreement with the teaching unions.

NZEI – which represents about 45,000 people in the education sector – did not attend yesterday’s formal launch.

The union is holding a forum next month to work out how the standards will sit alongside “everything else we do in terms of teaching and learning and getting the best results for students”.

Ms Nelson said the national standards were causing upheaval and the main issue for the forum was to “ensure a focus on improved student achievement across the broader school curriculum not just in literacy and numeracy”.

I am genuinely confused here. If a pupil can not read or write or count, then what are these other areas of achievement they may be doing well in, that don’t need basic literacy or numeracy?

Ms Tolley said it was hard to understand how teaching reading, writing and maths would narrow education opportunities.

“If they cannot do these basics, that is when opportunities are closed off.”

Indeed.

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More on league tables

October 15th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Firstly the unions are back to squabbling with the Minister, and it is unsure how sifnificant the agreement trumpeted yesterday is. I have asked the Minister’s Office whether or not the actions planned to make it difficult for media to report league tables includes any changes to the Official Information Act.

So long as the OIA is unchanged, I don’t see how one can stop people compiling whatever tables they want. Hell, I might even help set up a wiki where parents can report the data for their local schools :-)

So for me I don’t care too much what the Govt does, so long as they do not touch the OIA.

But on the subject of the education unions loathing for any sort of comparison of school achievement, I have to quote this wonderful note placed on Facebook yesterday by Mark Unsworth:

I totally support the teacher unions right to protest against being able to rank schools according to how well they perform. This cuts across the hunt for mediocrity which is so important to some in NZ .How dare some parents who want to know how good an education their children are getting.!! And as for the media having access to the information !Bloody hell what would Stalin have thought about that?

I would like to see this move taken further however.
I would start with Fair-Go, Target and the Consumers Institute and that dreadful Consumer magazine that tells us which products and companies and service providers are dodgy or unreliable. Who needs that useless information?

Magazines that reviewed and ( gasp) rated cars ,electronic goods, and new technology need to be ditched as does LINZ which tells us which suburbs are considered desirable. Imagine what would happen if that information got out? Wine, beer and restaurant reviews and rankings, what a waste of effort .Do we really need to know how good a wine is before we drink it? Doesn’t that take the fun away. The same goes for those silly websites travelers use to check out accommodation. A bed is a bed no matter whether its 1 or 5 star, you still fall asleep.
Next on the bonfire would be rankings of investment returns for Kiwisaver and other super schemes. People who can find out who is performing well poorly will only go and move their money and we don’t want that do we. Best we protect those who are not up to the job just like we do with teachers and schools.

NZ will obviously need to pull out of any agencies such as the UN ,WHO,OECD,ILO etc that rates how we compare with other countries on a wide range of indices. That material would be dangerous in the hands of taxpayers wouldn’t it ?

The media need to have a jolly good look at the way they report sport as well. Do we really need league tables for rugby, football netball etc? Surely it’s the taking part that matters. Who really cares about “Top 4 finishes” and semi-finals? It’s all too elitist .I can imagine the TAB may struggle paying out bets when all horses are deemed to have crossed the line together but they will cope .

Last and not least we need to ensure that some of the dangerous new Apps available on i-phones overseas are permanently banned .They allow phones to scan barcodes and customers can find out how one retailer’s price compares with others around the country. That would cause mayhem and only encourage consumer choice. Who needs that in NZ?

I have huge respect for the hard and often unrewarding job that teachers do. However the blinkered view that the teacher unions have that says neither individual teacher or school performance can be measured can only ever be detrimental to our future .They need to move into the real world .

Bravo.

A good editorial from The Press also.

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A deal on league tables

October 14th, 2009 at 9:26 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

After months of disputes, Education Minister Anne Tolley has struck a deal with primary school unions that will see them work together on its controversial national standards policy.

Under the agreement, the Government has confirmed it will make it as difficult as possible for the media to produce league tables that rank schools.

It’s good that the unions will not try and boycott the national standards (as they are important), but I’d like some more details on how exactly the Government plans to make it difficult for the media to produce league tables. I sure hope they are not talking a law change.

It follows a threat from hundreds of primary school principals to boycott the policy unless changes were made to limit public access to performance data.

The peace deal with NZEI, the Principals Federation and the School Trustees Association follows months of disagreements between the groups over the introduction of the policy, which will see pupils from years 1 to 8 assessed in numeracy and literacy against national academic standards from next year.

Mrs Tolley told The Dominion Post the deal was a “a momentous occasion”.

“I can’t stress enough that it took my breath away that we have all for the first time sat round the table and said, ‘Yes, we are going to make this work together.’ That is fantastic.”

She said she told the groups she was prepared to work with them to stop the use of league tables. “We want to make it as difficult for you [media] as possible. It will be too hard and too much work and not worth it in the end. There are a few ideas we will discuss as to how we can do that.”

I’m fascinated as to what these ideas might be, because I can’t see what will stop media requesting achievement info for a school under the OIA, and then using that to compile a league table – should they so wish. Personally league tables have limited value and are overly simplistic, but I don’t believe you stop the media from publishing them, if they decide to.

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League tables

April 7th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The headline in the Press is “Govt to fast-track school league tables“.

However reading on, it turns out the Government is not publishing any league tables – it just is not supressing information from the media.

Tolley said individual pupil achievement details probably would not go to the Ministry of Education, but each school’s performance would.

The Government could not stop the media from accessing the information and producing league tables, she said.

“We have a society that values freedom of information. Personally, I think the more information that’s out there the better,” Tolley said. …

“The best disinfectant is fresh air …”

What a refreshing attitude from a Minister. But no surprise the reaction:

Frances Nelson, the president of primary teachers’ union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, said there was strong resistance to league table”.

“When you get a league table it makes schools focus just on the things that are going to appear in the league table, and that’s what narrows the curriculum,” she said. “They are really disadvantageous to kids and we will continue to lobby against them.”

The institute wanted legislation to stop the information made public.

Of course it must be kept secret. Parents and prospective parents can not be trusted to have information on schools. That might then lead to them making a choice about what shcool to send their kids to, and choice is bad and evil. So bad and evil that we must legislate to supress information.

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Herald on Education

January 6th, 2009 at 11:02 am by David Farrar

Today’s Herald Editorial looks at the recent report on student success:

The number of children in a school classroom is obviously important to the education each can receive but for many years now we have been led to believe it is the single most important element. Class sizes, or teacher-pupil ratios, have been the profession’s explanation for every deficiency discovered in the service it is providing. Reducing class sizes has been its suggested solution to every problem.

If I was cynical, I would look at the loop – NZEI/PPTA advocate for more teachers, more teachers = more NZEI/PPTA members = more money for NZEI/PPTA.

Governments have generally accepted the profession’s advice and the ratios have been reducing, though the teacher associations always want them lower. When the Herald invited the main political parties’ education speakers to summarise their policies in the recent election campaign, Labour’s minister Chris Carter, began: “I would continue to support teachers, as we are doing with lowering class sizes, by dealing with the issue of pay.”

National’s spokeswoman, Ann Tolley, made no such commitment and now that she is Education Minister she must be glad she did not. For the results, just published, of an important research project by an Auckland University professor of education, John Hattie, have challenged the notion that class size is the most important factor in a pupil’s progress.

The 15-year study, drawing on results of 50,000 items of research on pupils’ performance around the world, came to the unsurprising conclusion that the quality of a teacher’s interaction with pupils, particularly the “feedback” they received for their efforts, was most important.

So the answer is better teachers, not just more teachers. And that means better pay for the better teachers.

Pay for performance may always be too hard for national negotiations that would need to find agreed measures of excellence. But it would present little difficulty if left to school principals and their boards. Principals have to know which of their staff make the effort to interact well with pupils, which of them the pupils readily trust to ask for help and receive a useful response. Dr Hattie says the desired level of trust is very rare.

The new Government appears to have no interest in challenging teachers’ national pay negotiating system but it may have to if it wants to encourage and retain the best. At least it now knows that the quantity of teachers is much less important than their quality. Ms Tolley says the Hattie research will have a profound influence on schooling. Let us hope so.

I’d have the national “award” as a guidline for schools, but let each board and principal pay teachers what they determine they are worth. The best teachers should be on over $100,000 – without having to become departmental heads.

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