Kiwi students fall behind in basics

VERNON SMALL AND STACEY KIRK
Last updated 15:34 03/12/2013
Hekia Parata
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
NO COMMENT: Hekia Parata says she cannot comment on the embargoed report.

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New Zealand's educational ranking has plummeted, according to the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins broke the embargo on the report in Parliament today asking Education Minister Hekia Parata about the survey which showed New Zealand's ranking falling from seventh to 18th in science, from 13th to 23rd in maths and from seventh to 13th in reading.

Parata said she could not comment on the report, which was under a strict embargo until tonight.

But she and Prime Minister John Key said the 15-year-olds measured by the report had been in the education system from 2001 to 2012 and had therefore never been caught by the National Standards system.

National Standards data, based on just two ''data points'' showed a small but overall improvement in achievement, but it was early days, she said.

In a speech to the Iwi Chairs Forum last week Parata signalled a fall in the OECD ranking was expected, pointing to the worrying picture of a slow decline in some areas when students were compared with their overseas counterparts.

''It is probable that New Zealand may well slip again as we see a further improvement especially of Asian countries.''

A survey released last week questioned the value of National Standards.

It found 80 per cent of teachers surveyed by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) said the policy had not made a big difference to student achievement. The NZCER figures also showed that only 7 per cent of principals and 15 per cent of teachers agreed the standards were robust.

Earlier research from Waikato University, commissioned by teachers union the New Zealand Education Institute, showed the Government's National Standards programme was doing more harm than good.

The three-year study looked at the rollout of the policy in six primary and intermediate schools.

It found there had been "some favourable impacts" including teachers having a greater understanding of curriculum levels, it had lifted the motivation of both teachers and children, and also interventions were much more targeted to children who needed it.

"Nevertheless such gains are overshadowed by damage being done through the intensification of staff workloads, curriculum narrowing and the reinforcement of a two-tier curriculum, the positioning and labelling of children and unproductive new tensions amongst school staff," the report said.

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Parata dismissed the data as biased.

"First of all, it's a three-year study of six schools only, [and] it's paid for by the NZEI, who have a public position of opposing National Standards.

"So it's hardly unbiased and balanced research, and its sample is extremely small."

She said there were many "more authoritative" studies that showed National Standards had lifted achievement and targeted areas of slow learning.

- Fairfax Media

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