It's hard to think of a more fundamental betrayal of Kiwi values than the Government's promise to increase school class sizes.
Dress it up any way you want; underneath it still flies in the face of all credible international advice and trends, not to mention basic common sense. It is a whore in a pretty dress; an ugly idea wrapped in a tawdry veneer and what's more, the Government knows this. That John Key was not so long ago extolling the virtues of private schools' smaller class sizes speaks volumes of his ethics, or lack thereof. Everything in his world is for sale; education included.
True, we shouldn't really be surprised. If there's one particular area in which this Government has excelled it's been in its willingness to sell out on its people. Without so much as a blush. Having said that, even by Key's rapidly evaporating standards, a plot to disadvantage school kids (especially those at lower decile schools) is treachery, plain and simple. Just goes to show how little consideration he has for our most vulnerable.
Just to recap: Key's already sold out on New Zealand's gambling policy, accepting money in exchange for loosening public health regulations. He's flogged off part of our employment law to Warner Bros. Beneficiaries? They've been portrayed as the problem, rather than the jobless environment he's helped create. As have the young. Youth workers have been marginalised, youth unemployed punished and students hit by fee hikes.
Education, though, is something with which our Prime Minister can't be trusted. What you can't buy and sell, Key simply doesn't understand. So completely is he in bed with Big Business these days that Bronagh must be getting jealous. It's not just the class-expansions, either. Add National Standards, a teacher appraisal system, performance pay, and charter schools and you get the bigger picture. You can almost the smell the Business Roundtable on his breath.
Has anyone really understood the need for all these changes? Contrary to much of the reasoning, New Zealand's public education system is the envy of most other countries. As the national chairman of the Quality Public Education Coalition, John Minto, pointed out the other day, we consistently rank third or fourth in the world in international achievement comparisons. If it wasn't for this excellence, far more young Kiwis would be falling through the cracks.
Don't take my word for it. According to MoE surveys, in the ten years from 1996 the number of New Zealand adults with a basic level of literacy rose by six per cent. Among the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, Kiwi 15-year-olds performed significantly better, on average, than 50 of the 55 other PISA countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom. In fact, on average, only Korea, Finland and Hong Kong had higher results.
And this from the NZEI: “The percentage of year 11 students achieving NCEA Level 1 unit standards increased from 54% in 2004 to 62% in 2009, and to 79% in 2011. The percentage of year 12 students achieving NCEA Level 2 went from 56.5 to 64.8%. Seventy percent of year 11 students met NCEA Level 1 literacy requirements in 2004 while 78% met them by 2009; 77.5% percent met numeracy requirements in 2004, going up to 85.4 in 2009.” Ergo: the system's working.
Key and his play-mates would have us think the opposite. Instead of addressing (and investing more heavily in) the small but concerning number of Kiwi kids who are missing out on a decent education, they're using them as a reason to fix something that's not broken. Why? A long-standing antipathy towards the teachers' union. A smouldering distrust of anything that doesn't turn a profit. But mostly? A chance to distract us from the effects of their own failed policies.
» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.
Post a comment