Friday, 3 November 2017

Minister Hipkins Abolishes Standards

A Matter of School Choice

We have been told that a uuuuuge shake up is coming in education in New Zealand.  New Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins--a man rated by his colleagues as the sharpest pin in the cushion--has already made clear that under his watch kids' schooling is going to change.

First off, National Standards will be axed.  National Standards set achievement and competency levels in core subjects for students, so that the government could be sure that Johnny and Mary were actually learning how to read and write and do maths.  But such neo-colonial hangovers are gone-burger.  Hipkins has, in one fell blow, chopped the old to pieces and declared that New Zealand state run education is going to be so avant-garde that it will have no standards

Take spelling for example.  Spell a word as it sounds, as it feels, as it seems good to you at the time.  No problems.  Take the adjective "delicious".  Now Minister Hipkinz has decreed that there is no standard spelling of "delicious".  Insisting upon a right way smacks of neo-colonial baggage.  It may be spelt "delishish" or "delish" or "zelissus", or "luscious", or "dolishus" or however your fancy would have it.  'Way to go, Minnie Hiphkenz.

What a wonderful world of free creative expression students are about to enter!  Oh, but hold on, Minister Hipkins went on to qualify his radical proposal.

New Education Minister Chris Hipkins, in an interview with the Herald, says Primary schools will still have to report to parents on individual children's progress against the eight levels of the curriculum, which most children cover during their 13 years at primary and secondary schools.  But National Standards, which set out levels of literacy and numeracy for Years 1 to 8, will be abolished and schools will be free to choose their own ways of assessing children's progress.
How progressive can you get!  Wunnerful.  Hippykins really is da Man.  So in our local neighbourhood, Main Road Primary School will insist on traditional conventional spelling, and will report upon such matters to parents.  Meanwhile, Off Road Primary School, just around the corner, after extensive consultation with its parent families, will insist upon form free, avant-garde "make it up as you go" phonetic spelling, and will report accordingly.  Any pupil using conventional spelling will be marked down as "not achieved"; those who utilize free expression when it comes to spelling (and everything else) will be ranked as the most well taught and educated.  It will be couched as the coolest thing yet developed by cutting edge educationalists.

No standards means anything goes.  But Minister Hippy has not been paying attention and has little understanding of things educational at all.  In fact, Minister Hipkins holds his position as a representative of the dominant teacher unions which effectively run the government education system in New Zealand.  What they want and don't want rapidly becomes government education policy.  Hipkins is dancing to the union tunes, as expected.

But irony always stalks and shadows the foolish.  Beware what you wish for, it says.  We suspect that if Hipkins is successful in taking a hands-off approach and letting schools decide for themselves what will be taught, how it will be taught, and what reporting will be delivered to parents, an unexpected revolution--a much needed revolution--will occur.  Some schools will decide that competence in fundamental core subjects is essential, and will teach and report accordingly.  "Yeah, nah.  Old school" will be the jeers from other schools.

But within a year those "old schools" will be bursting at the seams.  Why?  Because parents are much smarter than unionist educators and their stool-pigeon Ministers.  The private school sector is likely to experience huge growth as well.  The vast majority of parents know what's what when it comes to how and what their children are taught.  The vast majority of parents also support their children being taught "traditional values".  They want their children to be part of a disciplined structure in school.  They want their children to be taught grammar and syntax and spelling as well as grammatically and syntactically correct speech.

Minister Hipkins may turn out to be responsible for a significant unexpected outcome:  a wider diversity in government schools, leading to a significant increase in parental school choice, which, in turn, will break down the unionist hold over the government education system.  Now that would indeed be a delicious irony.

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