Politicians need lessons in education

Last updated 08:00 08/07/2014

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As a teacher with nearly 20 years experience, it worries me that politicians are getting things so wrong in education.

I think it is good that they are trying to prioritise education of our children, but they are going about it all wrong.

Principals spending time out of their schools to supposedly help in other schools clearly demonstrates that politicians have no idea of a principal's workload.

If they spend two days a week out of their schools then that two days worth of work will just be waiting for them when they return. Their schools will suffer. Leaders need to be seen, heard, present, available in their own schools, that is their job.

Class sizes do need to reduce, but will three students really make much of a difference?

The curriculum is overloaded and too much emphasis is placed on National Standards. There is no flexibility in the expectation of students meeting the standards.

Parents panic when told that their child is not meeting the expected standard in a certain area, but the reality is that that child could have made huge amounts of progress in a year, yet still not meet the standard.

The Ministry of Education does not acknowledge these scenarios at all. To them, that child is below... full stop.

What about the child who is a second language learner? They will be below, even though they will be making progress as fast as they can, but again, if they are below, they are below and the MOE will blame teachers for not doing their jobs properly.

What about the child who has never been read to for the first five years of their life? They start school not even knowing which way round a book goes or which way the words go, or even what words are... this is not my imagination, I have taught students who come to school like this.

What chance do they have to be at the reading standard? Again, the MOE will never acknowledge this, they will blame the school for not teaching the child properly.

One of the strengths of our education system in New Zealand is that teachers are taught to acknowledge the enormous differences in the students they teach and that students come to class with a huge amount of different experiences which all contribute to the rate at which they learn.

Our job is to cater for their differences and celebrate their successes, even if they only come in tiny increments.

Our job is to make them love learning and want to keep learning. Teachers can do this better if they love to teach and feel valued.

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Introducing more pay to teachers whose students succeed is going to cause no end of problems. A teacher's salary could be a million dollars a year, it will not make all students meet the standards in reading, writing and maths.

We also need to stop comparing ourselves to education systems that work completely differently to ours.

We read about how our student assessment results are poor compared to this country or that, yet do not acknowledge that other countries education systems and methods of assessments are completely different to ours, their culture and their views on education are different.

Ours is a very holistic system, we value the whole child, they are a person, they are unique and individual, not a clone to be rolled off the education production line, we help them identify their different strengths and nurture them.

Student success can be measured in many ways, not just by a test score.

Teachers work hard and they know what they are doing. If governments genuinely acknowledged this and took advice from those who are actually doing the job and living with the realities every day, then our kids, teachers and schools would be much better off.

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