Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Well Done, Madam Secretary

Spraying Cornflakes

We have been critical of the education establishment in New Zealand.  Unlike every other country in the OECD, our education system is a virtual dominated by government schools.  The education ministry appears excessively influenced by ex-teachers.  The teacher unions are active participants in politics, constantly criticising and dumping on any government initiative which appears to threaten union member privileges, conditions, and income growth.

Above all there is a steady barrage of propaganda to the effect that the New Zealand government eduction system is the best education system in the world.  Any suggestion that it might have some inadequacies or weaknesses is pounced upon with the fury of magpie whose chick is threatened--unless of course the alleged weakness is teacher salaries and working conditions.  This scabrous behaviour is defended by the propagandists oft-intoned assertion that they are only and ever acting in the best interests of pupils and young people

It came as no surprise, then, to witness the outpouring of apoplectic indignation and rage when the new Secretary of Education, Lesley Longstone pronounced that we are not  entitled to regard the New Zealand government education system as world class.  Many a cornflake was sprayed over the tables of educrats and teacher unionists and "activists" that morning, which doubtless will forever after be memorialised as a Day of Infamy in their cosseted circles.  This is about as close to blasphemy as one can get in our secular government education system.

One wonders what prompted Longstone to make such an incendiary observation.  Did she have a reason for such an extreme and bigoted statement?  Apparently she did, according to the account in the NZ Herald
Writing a foreword for the ministry's annual report, Lesley Longstone said: "The system is still underperforming for Maori learners and Pasifika learners, and learners from communities with significant social and economic challenges. While our education system continues to underperform for these learners, we are not entitled to call ourselves world class."
Not entitled to call ourselves world class. The government education system is all about entitlement and privilege, the haves and the have nots.  The whole system is designed to protect and preserve entitlements.  Consider, for example, the infliction of "have not" status upon anyone who wants something better for their children's education.  They are taxed to pay for the government schools that are failing their children, and they have to pay fees to educate their child in an alternative school--alternative, that is, to the government schools.  They are made to pay twice--by government edict.

Or consider the "have not" status of the above average or excellent teacher aspiring to get ahead in his or her chosen profession.  The only way open to them to gain significant increases in their income is to move out of teaching into administration, management, or further into edu-bureaucracy.  They very thing they are superb at they cannot continue doing if they wish to advance in their chosen profession.  Meanwhile, pay is based upon years-in-service, not classroom excellence.  How bizarre is that.  We repeat--the current system is replete with entitlements, not merit based rewards and recognition. 

But we digress.  Longstone has made a solid point.  As long as there is a long tail of under-performance amongst lower socio-economic groups we must lay aside the trumpeting propaganda.  Sounds reasonable to us.  We could add lots of other evidences of sub-standard performance on the table as well--such as on any given school day ten percent or more of all school pupils are absent from school--most without adequate explanation or justification.  Is that what a world class education system looks like?

We say, all power to Longstone.  Long may the cornflakes spray in profusion. 

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