Dom Post on Education Standards

The Dom Post Editorial:

According to Mr Key, as many as one-in-five pupils are being left behind. The consequences of that are as inevitable as they are disastrous. Without basic literacy and numeracy, there is little chance of succeeding in 21st century New Zealand society. It is no coincidence that research last year showed 90 per cent of prisoners are “functionally illiterate” – their reading and writing skills are inadequate to cope with the demands of daily life.

No coincidence indeed. The degree of hearing loss in prisoners also suggests not just a correlation but a causative effect.

The desire of parents to have clear, honest, specific and regular feedback on their children’s progress, achievement, and strengths and weaknesses in language the parents understand is reasonable. Parents – and, through them, their children – need to know how they are performing, and in a meaningful way. Despite some teachers’ belief that revealing to pupils and their parents that they are performing below the national standard will hurt their motivation, engagement and self-esteem, the alternative is cruelly unfair. Allowing parents and pupils to falsely believe they are performing adequately is a sure step to failure.

And this is not comparing to some standardised median or mean. This is not about ranking kids within a school, within a decile or even nationally. And it is not about ranking schools. It is simply about letting parents know if their child is able to do the basic numeracy and literacy skills that are expected of a child of that age.

British research suggests that putting too much emphasis on literacy and numeracy, and on the achievement of in those areas, can see other parts of the curriculum squeezed into oblivion.

A nation of spellers who can add up but have little grasp of science, small exposure to the arts and only the occasional foray into physical while at primary school, is not going to enjoy success either.

I agree. But basic literacy and numeracy helps immensely with science, the arts and even physical education.

There is no room for debate in one area, however. The decision by teacher and principal groups to boycott the announcement of the policy cannot be allowed to develop into an undercutting of its implementation. There are still murmurs of inflating assessments so that schools are seen to be performing well.

Teachers are public servants and that means they must follow the policies put in place by those who represent the people, the government of the day, regardless of their own personal views. They cannot simply decide to ignore them.

I hope they do. But at times I get the feeling they want to be the equivalent of the British coalminers union of the 70s.

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