Turning around the runaway education train.

The Ministry of Education’s data arm, “Education Counts”, recently released secondary school qualifications and pathways data for the 2022 school leavers.

The summary for the leavers data for our nation makes very sobering reading and makes clear that we are at a tipping point where no amount of tinkering will make the needed difference.

Before looking at solutions here is a quick summary of the recent data release:

In 2022 the percentage of leavers with NCEA Level 1 decreased from 87.6% to 84.8% (down 2.8%). Attainment of NCEA Level 1 or above had been increasing between 2012 and 2017, since 2017 it has decreased 5.2%.

In 2022, 73% Māori school leavers attained NCEA Level 1 or above, a decrease of 3.6% from 2021. That 27% of Maori students are leaving without the most basic qualification is astounding and comes with huge consequences.

In 2022 the percentage of leavers with NCEA Level 2 decreased from 79.1% to 75.0% (down 4.1%).

In 2022 Māori school leavers attained NCEA Level 2 or above at 58.6% – a decrease of 5.1 percentage points from 2021 (i.e. in just one year). Between 2017 and 2022, the proportion of Māori school leavers NCEA Level 2 or above decreased by 10.3%.

In 2022 the percentage of leavers with NCEA Level 3 decreased from 56.3% to 51.8% (down 4.5%). It was 32.9% for  Māori school leavers. A decrease of 4.4 percentage points from 2021.

In 2022 the percentage of leavers with University Entrance decreased from 41.4% to 38.0%. In 2022, UE Standard was attained by 17.8% of Māori school leavers. For Asian leavers the UE rate was 62.5%. For Europeans 41.7%. For Pasifika students 20.7.

For the 2021 leavers there was a 5.6% decrease in participating in tertiary education.

There are solutions. The following are some suggestions.

– Working very hard to enhance the capacity of parents to help their child develop actively and to learn to read and learn about Maths, Science, etc – in the home. Great parenting is the deepest required foundation for great schooling.

– We have approximately 450 secondary schools in New Zealand. Having such a small number allows a government to set specific improvement goals for each school. I have heard of a number of schools that say things like; “NCEA does not show our students in a good light” or “Success in whatever way you want to define it.” These are not acceptable approaches because when students leave school they are significantly impacted by what they have or haven’t achieved. School leadership needs to be aspirational and accountable for the results their students achieve.

– The sector needs genuine leadership and direction. It has been conspicuously absent over the last six years and has led to issues such as a disastrous curriculum refresh, huge absenteeism, 10,000 students enrolled nowhere, disengaged families and a growing flight from NCEA as the qualification of choice.

– The room needs to be read. A growing number of families are seeking different forms of provision – home schooling (3000 children when Labour came in – now over 11,000), online learning, faith-based schools, school that understand forms of neuro-diversity. The government should be positively facilitating this and not trying to further centralise and protect their network of properties and buildings.

– Improving teacher quality at all levels, and that of school leadership, is crucial. The secondary teachers’ collective contract has recently been settled – with a net cost-of-living loss – and very little about recognising high quality teachers and how to create them. Australia, and elsewhere, is aggressively recruiting and we are just blithely hoping that things will change.

If the polls are correct there will be a new government after October. Massively improving our education system cannot be a can that gets kicked down the road again so as not to upset those with vested interests in the current forms that are failing. Our children deserve much better and we all benefit.

Alwyn Poole (alwyn.poole@gmail.com)

Innovative Education Consultants

Cambridge Festival of Sport




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