Teachers' unions and education lobby groups are too readily riled. They would do well to cool down and re-examine the remarks from Education Ministry secretary Lesley Longstone that have enraged them.
According to Radio NZ's Morning Report yesterday, the heads of groups representing principals and teachers were outraged by Ms Longstone saying New Zealand's education system is not world class. They say she is wrong.
John Minto, from the Quality Public Education Coalition, more bluntly said Ms Longstone's claim "is a nasty untruth".
The remarks that triggered the heated reactions are contained in Ms Longstone's foreword to her ministry's annual report. A quick check shows she has acknowledged that two OECD reports, published this year, confirm our education system has real strengths internationally. Our top learners are counted among the best in the world, and, on average, our learners perform well, she says. She gives credit to teachers. But she is concerned that the system is still under-performing for Maori and Pasifika learners, and learners from communities "with significant social and economic challenges". On that count, she is claiming, we are not entitled to call ourselves world class.
She reiterated this to Morning Report, saying New Zealand is seen internationally as high performing, but characterised by inequity. For our schools to be truly high performing, they must deliver quality results for all children. The teachers who have bridled at Ms Longstone's remarks presumably regard them as an affront to their professionalism. They are being much too precious.
Administratively, all is not well at the ministry and teachers have genuine grievances - the continuing failure of the new Novopay system for teachers is a glaring example, along with the mismanagement of school reorganisation plans for quake-devastated Christchurch.
In her foreword, Ms Longstone has set out a clearly stated goal. It is ". . . to be a world-leading education system that equips all New Zealanders with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens in the 21st century". Hands up, anyone who would rather another goal was set.
- © Fairfax NZ News