Government fixing student slide - Parata

VERNON SMALL AND STACEY KIRK
Last updated 08:01 04/12/2013

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Education Minister Hekia Parata says an international report showing New Zealand's falling education standards is serious, but it "doesn't measure everything".

New Zealand's education ranking has fallen from seventh to 18th in science, from 12th to 23rd in maths, and from seventh to 13th in reading, according to a report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last night.

Just over 4000 15-year-old Kiwi students took part in the assessment, which is done every three years.

Parata said this morning said the Government was fixing the issue.

"When we came into Government, we introduced National Standards, so that we would know, or at least the parents and teachers would know and each classroom would know, how well their child was doing, why they weren't learning in a particular area, what they needed to do about that and how they working together to achieve that."

She told Breakfast said the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) that the OECD figures used, was far less comprehensive than National Standards.

"So what National Standards do, and by the way - National Standards measure exactly was PISA has just measured - but instead of waiting three years for a sample of 4000, we are now working with every child, in every classroom year on year."

Parata said education standards had been slipping for some time and the latest release was not a surprise.

"And the things that we've been doing as a Government have been focused on fixing that."

But Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said it was clear National Standards was not improving student achievement.

"It's a bit like saying that if a child is arriving at school hungry, putting them on the scales every morning to see if they've gained weight isn't going to solve the problem.

"If a child is struggling to learn to read, then testing them everyday to see if reading better isn't going to help them to read, so we have to put money and time and energy into things that will actually improve their achievement."

Hipkins conceded that standards were falling "slightly" under the previous Labour Government, but said they were "in freefall" now.

He said programmes like Reading Recovery should be available in every school, but the Government could not overlook the fact that each child was different.

"We already know who the kids are who are falling behind. Every teacher can tell us which kids in their class are struggling. What we should be doing is focusing resources and attention to actually fixing the problem.

Hipkins said Labour would also develop a similar Maths Recovery programme as well as get rid of National Standards.

"National's approach to educational underachievement has been to tie schools up in red tape. We need to free teachers and schools up to actually spend time teaching kids."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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