Monday, 20 May 2019

The NZ Minister of Education Does the Big 180

Back to the Future

It seems to us that the educrats and teacher unions in New Zealand have taken a big hit, resulting in a substantial step backwards to the future.  

The government education system, at least in senior and secondary schools has been under review.  As a result the system looks like it is going to take a big unexpected reverse step.  We figure that represents significant progress!  Some have been putting it down to the political pressure from larger, more successful schools.

The old view used to be that no student should depart or graduate from a New Zealand school without being judged as educated and competent in some subject or other.  In the relentless drive to produce students who had successfully graduated in something, thousands of "unit standards" (that is, subjects) have been created.  Over 9,000.  Subject inflation out of a misplaced drive to affirm all NZ school students in at least something or other will now been trimmed right down.

• Each student will sit five to six subjects a year, each worth 20 credits, for a maximum possible 100 or 120 credits.

• Sixty credits will earn an NCEA, down from 80 at present.

• But students must also achieve 20 credits in literacy and numeracy as a "co-requisite" for NCEA which they will be able to achieve at any time from Year 7 onwards, well before the main NCEA assessments start in Year 11.  [NZ Herald; emphasis ours]
Literacy and numeracy (that is, reading, writing, and maths) will no longer be allowed to fade away amidst a vast swamp of hitherto critical subjects such as "Advanced Tiddlewink Skills" or "Organizing a Day Tramp".

Secondly,  there will be much more emphasis upon external assessment.  The existing system has become a rort.  Teachers set forth particular units of study, then marked the efforts of their students.  This represented huge conflicts of interest--since high pass rates created the impression that such teachers were "successful".
The key difference is that the exams or portfolios will be examined by people outside the students' schools, reducing the inherent conflict of interest that teachers face with internal assessment where they have to be both advocates for each student and unbiased judges of their work.
Thirdly, the changes are in many respects a "full 180", as the saying has it.
The changes, announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins at Mana College in Porirua this morning, are a dramatic lurch in the opposite direction from proposals released a year ago by a ministerial advisory group, which proposed abolishing external exams at Level 1 and substituting 20 credits for literacy and numeracy and 20 credits for a project of the student's choice.

The advisory group also wanted to allocate 20 credits out of 80 required for each of Levels 2 and 3 to "pathways opportunities" such as projects and internships.  Those proposals have been completely abandoned after an outcry from principals of traditional schools such as Auckland Grammar.
We consider that all of these reversals will play their part in "doing less harm" that would otherwise have been the case.

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