Guest Post: Aspiration in New Zealand

A guest post by Alwyn Poole:

New Zealand is a small and distant nation by world measures. We also rate very poorly in education given of diminutive size and high relative wealth. While we were once regarded as “world-leading” the most recent measures (PISA 2019) have us 7th for Science, 8th for Reading and an abysmal 22nd for Maths. Other concerns were:

“an alarming rise in bullying, gaps between high and low achievers, drastically deteriorating attitudes toward reading, a rise in truancy, poor learning environments and a negative attitude toward school.”

New Zealand leads the world in the wrong way with some of the highest gaps between have and have-nots and between ethnicities. There is a 45% gap for school leavers between young people from Asian families achieving UE as compared to those from Maori and Pasifika families. New Zealand also performs poorly in terms of children with diverse learning needs such as those with dyslexia, autism or ADHD.

The good news is that the Labour government and Education Minister Chris Hipkins will no longer be able to bring out the “nine years of neglect” ploy – or blame other governing parties. They did very little in their first three years expect have a couple of working groups that we highly contradictory of each other and had very little implemented. They promised Designated Character Schools to crack open the one size fits all model but did not deliver. They threw millions of dollars in laptops, modems and hard-packs – even though largely unsolicited – during lock-downs. They now need to look at the day-today where NZ students have reported:

New Zealand had one of the worst scores for classroom behaviour of any OECD nation with more students reporting noise and disorder in their classroom (41 percent) and more saying students did not listen to their teachers (35 percent).

We have a system that – through a bi-lateral monopoly on the demand and supply of teachers (unions vs the Ministry of Education) means that we have a collective contract that prevents any incentives for teaching in schools where the students have highest needs. The government is looking to do away with the decile system and, what they consider, is that labels that go with it. It will take the students and families between 6 and 8 days to decode the new system and realise that, to paraphrase The Who; “the new boss is the same as the old boss.” It is well past time to look for mavericks people and maverick models. It is time to break down the “one-size-fits-all” as it fails many and reinforces societies disparities.

Minister Hipkins, his associate (Jan Tinetti) and the Labour Maori caucus have no ongoing excuse. No party has been handed a change mandate on a plate like this is recent history. Will they bring genuine change or defer to the unions and simply aim to preserve power through being moderate, mediocre and middle-of-the road? The 2019 school leavers results have just been released. Asian 63.8 of leavers have UE, 43.8% of Europeans, 22.8 for Pasifika and 18.6 for Maori. Overall girls 45.9%, boys 32.9%.

Our children deserve the best and state-of-the-art learning theory clearly shows what is required to bring about high levels of aspiration and fulfillment. If Labour make significant moves in the right direction I will be the first to support them – but there is no indication from them of anything but Sergeant Schultz on Education and Dug the Dog from Up being trained to be distracted by HOUSE PRICES …

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