Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Hapless Hipkins Returns to an Antediluvian Education System

Tiddlywink Education Roars Back Into Town

The New Zealand Labour Party has done what it promised in the recent election.  It has dumped "National Standards" within the Government Education system.  In so doing, it has reverted to the original intent of the Government Education system.  The object was to make "education" and "schooling" as broad as possible, so that every child could be educated in something.  

It is what we have called the "tiddlywinks" education system because it has no heuristic or professional framework to determine what ought to be taught.  It has no curriculum content! In any subject!  Moreover, one subject is as good as another.  Since everyone must succeed (by definition) in the State Education system, if a student graduates without being able to read or write or add 14 + 6, he or she will have the comfort of knowing that they qualified in competitive tiddlywinks, or some other irrelevance.  They will graduate affirmed as WINNERS.  There will be no LOSERS.  Success is universal. 

The previous government realised that this was rubbish.  Therefore, it had the temerity to prioritise certain subject areas.  Hardly controversial.  National Standards in reading, writing, and maths were introduced.  Each pupil in the Government Education system would be tested on a regular basis as to knowledge and competence in these core areas; reports on progress would be delivered to parents. 

But there is no doubt that the majority of teachers in the Government Education system hated National Standards.  Now that they have been dumped, they will be free to teach endless classes on the merits, skills, and enlightenment that results from playing competitive tiddlywinks.
Principals Federation president Whetu Cormick said the move was "a watershed moment for our education system as we move away from the narrow focus over the past 10 years".  NZ Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart said it was "a day of celebration".

"National Standards narrowed the curriculum, put undue pressure on children, increased teacher workload and weren't even an accurate measure of a child's progress," she said.  "We never gave up the fight and our members can be rightly proud of their hard work and determination that has resulted in the new government putting an end to this horrible experiment.  [NZ Herald]
The Tiddliwinks Education system has roared back into town. 
[Minister of Education] Hipkins said reporting would focus on progress, rather than "arbitrary" standards.  "Parents will still receive reports at least twice a year on their child's progress and achievement in maths, reading and writing as well as across the curriculum areas," he said.  "But this reporting will focus on children's progress, rather than measuring them against arbitrary National Standards.
Ah, yes.  Progress.  Johnny is 13 and is functionally illiterate and innumerate.  No problems.  The focus is upon progress in these areas.   If Johnny can get to the point where he can sound out a few letters, that's the mark of a successful education system.  And, in the meantime, since every other subject is as important as reading and writing, we will ensure Johnny gets to spend lots of time increasing his motor skills in manipulating tiddlywink counters.  Progress will have been measured and celebrated.  Every teacher is a winner, professionally. 

And that is why the Government Education system can neither attract nor retain teachers who have a traditional view of the importance of the fundamental, doorway opening subjects.  Such teachers want to ensure that if students learn nothing else they will graduate with a fundamental competence in mathematics and language.  But teachers who love the "flexibility" of the Government Education system's curriculum have learned that sub-standard teaching performance is an oxymoron.  Like the students they "teach" it is impossible for teachers to be incompetent or fail professionally. 

Who would want to be an earnest, diligent, demanding professional in a confused polyglot such as the Government Education system.   Hapless Hipkins will turn out to be an own-goal failure, along with the antediluvian education system he wants to return to. 

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