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Posts Tagged ‘Education Minister’

Parata preparing for another backdown?

2 October 2012 7 comments

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I – National Standards

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Wearing a Joker-like grin on TVNZ’s Q+A (30 September 2012) , National’s Education minister, Hekia Parata was interviewed by Shane Taurima  on ‘National Standards’ and planned closures and forced amalgamations of several Christchurch schools.

Her answers regarding ‘National Standards’ suggest that she is no long “owning” the policy and is attempting to shift “ownership” (or responsibility) on to schools and parents. Parata ducked questions and constantly pointed to schools and parents as if they were leading the charge for change,

SHANE Little Johnny’s off to school next year, so Mum and Dad are going to jump online to see how the schools in their area are performing. As things sit now, just how reliable and accurate is that [National Standards] information for Mum and Dad?

HEKIA So that’s one of the things Mum and Dad are going to do. It’s not going to replace Mum and Dad visiting the schools that they want to enroll their children in. What they’ll find on the website is not only the first year of National Standards data but the ERO report and the annual report that relate to the schools they’re thinking about.

[abridged]

HEKIA Schools have had faithfully reproduced the information that they have provided, so we’re relying on schools to tell us themselves what their valid and accurate data is…

[abridged]

HEKIA We are relying on schools to tell us that, and schools have. 2088 schools have produced their report on the 31st of May. It’s their data. We’re relying on their judgement.

[abridged]

HEKIA Well, it’s schools’ data…

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HEKIA They can rely on what the schools have said about themselves…

Notice the constant reference back to schools? As if schools actually had choice in whether or not to participate in National’s programme?

But the most astounding comment came from Parata when she herself admitted that National Standards were every bit as ‘ropey’ as what Dear Leader Key had previously claimed.

SHANE What’s the point of the information, though, if the Prime Minister, for example, he calls it ropey; the head of your own ministry, she has described it as unreliable.

HEKIA Well, what I have said all along is that it is variable. For the purposes of comparing schools, it is not reliable

“Not reliable”?!?!

“NOT RELIABLE”???!!!

Key and National have spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars on implementing ‘National Standards’; have threatened schools that do not comply with demands for data; and have turned our education system on it’s head for something that is “not reliable“?!?!

I just about spat my coffee when I heard Parata utter those words.

If New Zealanders needed further proof that National is implementing loopy policies based more on weird right wing ideology than common sense – then Parata has provided it.

I ask my fellow New Zealanders who last year cast their vote for National;  do you think that a Party that implements a policy that has such far-ranging implications on our schools and children’s education; that spends millions of our taxes on these “reforms”; that has been discredited internationally by other countries; only to learn that “for the purposes of comparing schools, it is not reliable” – does this make any sense to you?

If you were a National supporter last year, you may wish to reconsider just what it was that you voted for?

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II – National Standards Internationally

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‘National Standards’ was all but put to the sword this morning (1 October) on Radio NZ’s ‘Check Point’, as visiting overseas Education professionals explained that the system was simplistic, unproven, and based more of ideological expectations rather than any realities we know about.

Pasi Sahlberg from Finland’s Ministry of Education rejected national standards, charter schools or league tables. Which is startling – as Finland is in the top four of the OECD ranking of developed nations’ education performance. The other three are Japan, Canada and South Korea.

Listen to Pasi Sahlberg here on  Radio NZ’s  Morning Report – International experts pan government education policies

Sahlberg knows what he is talking about. (Which is why Finland is outperforming New Zealand’s educational outcomes.)

As outlined in my previous blogpost of this issue – See: Finland, some thoughts – the Finns have rejected the simplistic policies of national standards, charter schools, and league tables. They see these as little more than a neo-liberalised view of education; an attempt to implement competition; notions of “success” and “failure”; and the illusion of “choice”.

In fact, those with a fairly good memory will recall that previous National Governments tried precisely the same policies with our health system, implementing the CHE model for our hospitals.

Essentially “CHEs” were expected to compete against each other; drive down costs; become more efficient through “competition”; and all with less ands less funding.

Not only did it not work, but people on waiting lists – like Southland farmer, Colin Morrison – died waiting for life-saving medical procedures.

The Minister of  Health at the time was Bill English.

See: Widow says little improvement seem

See: GP hits out at health reforms

See: Died waiting for by-pass

See: Word today on heart list

See: Anger on heart op delay

Instead of adopting dumbed-down Americanised systems – which are the desperate clutchings of a failed market-driven society – it is  worth thinking about the success story shown by nations such as Finland,

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The flexible curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums (upper secondary schools). Trade schools prepare for professions. Academically oriented gymnasiums have higher entrance requirements and specifically prepare for Abitur and tertiary education. Graduation from either formally qualifies for tertiary education.

In tertiary education, two mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. Helsinki University is ranked 75th in the Top University Ranking of 2010.

The World Economic Forum ranks Finland’s tertiary education #2 in the world. Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan(37%). The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.

More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Forest improvement, materials research, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications showcase fields of study where Finnish researchers have had a significant impact.

Finland had a long tradition of adult education, and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were receiving some kind of instruction each year. Forty percent of them did so for professional reasons. Adult education appeared in a number of forms, such as secondary evening schools, civic and workers’ institutes, study centers, vocational course centers, and folk high schools. Study centers allowed groups to follow study plans of their own making, with educational and financial assistance provided by the state. Folk high schools are a distinctly Nordic institution. Originating in Denmark in the nineteenth century, folk high schools became common throughout the region. Adults of all ages could stay at them for several weeks and take courses in subjects that ranged from handicrafts to economics.

Finland is highly productive in scientific research. In 2005, Finland had the fourth most scientific publications per capita of the OECD countries. In 2007, 1,801 patents were filed in Finland.

Source:  Wikipedia

Here’s a novel idea; why not chase Finland’s example rather than America, which is way down on the OECD education performance listing?

Why? Because Finland invests heavily in education. National’s screwy policies are about market-driven competition and cost-cutting.

Didn’t that work out well for CHEs and Colin Morrison?

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III – Christchurch School Closures – Back-down imminent?

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Hekia Parata’s statements, on Q+A (30 September), regarding school closures and amalgamations in quake-ravaged Christchurch, were not as hard-line as previously reported in the media.

In fact, Parata was at pains to insist that,

We are following the process that is set out in the Education Act. We’re being very clear what the proposal is, and I and the Ministry of Education will listen to everything that is said by the community. There is no pre-determined outcome. We are listening.”

Up till this point, his blogger found it hard to work out National’s understanding of this crisis,

… that National was totally oblivious to the shock, trauma, and suffering of Christchurch residents after two major earthquakes that shattered their city, killing  185 people, and is foisting their brutish policies without considering their impact,

… or, that National understood the trauma felt by Christchurch residents – but was pushing ahead anyway.

Pressed by  Taurima, Parata made this jaw-dropping confession,

Well, look. School closures around the country under any administration around the country are always difficult. Here in Christchurch is a community that’s been under intolerable stress for a very long time. “

Christchurch “is a community that’s been under intolerable stress for a very long time“?!?!

So National – being a Party brimming over with humanitarian compassion – compounds the intolerable stress by adding to it?!

Now, I’ve no doubt that there is a sizeable faction of any society that has psycopathic tendencies and finds it hard to empathise with the misery of people who’ve survived a traumatic, destructive disaster.

But most New Zealanders are not cold-hearted, bean-counting, self-centered, quasi-psychopaths to whom the destruction of communities can be easily brushed aside in the pursuit of efficiencies. New Zealanders will view events unfolding in Christchurch with growing dismay.

Their thoughts will probably run along lines something like this,

Bugger me! What if the Big One hit my town? Is this what National has in store for me, my family, and my community?”

This is when the Middle Classes start to feel… uneasy.

Expect opposition to grow in Christchurch.

Expect to see distraught families and crying children on our TV screens.

Expect to see National drop in the polls.

Expect to see Hekia Parata back down on this loathsome, inhuman issue.

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IV – Proposed School Closures & Electorates

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Planned Closures

Banks Avenue School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Branston Intermediate – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500

Burnham School – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Burnside Primary School – Ilam – Gerry Brownlee (N) – Majority: 13,312

Duvauchelle School (becomes a hub of Akaroa Area School) – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Glenmoor School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Greenpark School – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500

Hammersley Park School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Kendal School- Ilam – Gerry Brownlee (N) – Majority: 13,312

Le Bons Bay School – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Linwood Intermediate – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Manning Intermediate – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500

Okains Bay School (becomes a hub of Akaroa Area School) – Selwyn – Amy Adams (N) – Majority: 19,451

Ouruhia Model School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Richmond School – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Schools to close and merge

Schools to become Year 1 to 13:

Aranui High School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Aranui School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Avondale School – Christchurch East –  Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Chisnallwood Intermediate – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Wainoni Primary School – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Mergers

Burwood School and Windsor School on Windsor School site – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Discovery One School and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti as Year 1 to 13 school – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47

Freeville and New Brighton North School – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Linwood Avenue School and Bromley School on Bromley School site – Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

Lyttleton Main School and Lyttleton West School – Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

Philipstown School and Woolston School (moving to new site) – Christchurch Central – Nicky Wager (N)  – Majority: 47 — Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

South New Brighton School and Central New Brighton School – Christchurch East – Lianne Dalziel (L) – Majority: 5,334

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o te Whanau and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha – Wigram – Megan Woods (L) – Majority: 1,500 — Port Hills – Ruth Dyson (L) – Majority: 3,097

Schools in Labour-held electorates: 22

Schools in National-held electorates: 14

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Sources

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (video)

See:  Q+A – Education Minister Hekia Parata (transcript)

Radio NZ: 13 schools to close, others to merge in Christchurch

Wikipedia: New Zealand general election, 2011

Previous related blogpost

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools)

Additional

School standards report card ‘ropey’

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Performance Pay? Why not!

25 March 2012 4 comments

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"Well, it's important to our country, and I am the minister of education, and I am committed to raising achievement..."

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Education Minister, Hekia Parata, has indicated that performance pay is back on National’s agenda for teachers in this country,

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Full Story

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In the Fairfax report, Parata states quite candidly,

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Whether it’s promotion, pay, opportunities to attend conferences or representative roles, or whatever – there are a mix of rewards that I think would be reasonably easy to settle on

The precursor to being able to reward monetarily or in leadership opportunities is to have a really reliable evaluation system and one that has real integrity and regard for it.

We’re at the very early stages of developing that kind of system. But that would be essential to be able to get to a point where you could make discriminatory choices.” – Ibid

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However, she was less than candid on TVNZ’s Q+A on 25 March, where she had this exchange with interviewer, Shane Taurima,

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SHANE Let’s go back to teaching quality, because you’ve been quoted this weekend saying that pay performance is back on the table. Is that correct?

MS PARATA Look, I think the first thing that has to be on the table is having a robust and reliable appraisal system that allows us to make those kinds of differentiations. If we want to raise teacher quality, we have to identify who is delivering successful practice and make that common practice. We have to identify where we need to improve the professional learning and development so that teachers can engage with students successfully and our students’ achievement is raised.

SHANE So is that back on the table, pay performance? Is that part of your thinking, I suppose?

MS PARATA Look, I think it’s really important that we don’t think there’s one kind of silver bullet, and I think that the mix of rewards that we might want to have available are second-order to having an appraisal system that we can all rely on. And the point of an appraisal system is not to punish or blame but to identify where the best practice is occurring, how we get that happening across all schools and where improvement needs to occur and how we get support in.

SHANE Former education minister Anne Tolley, she told the NZEI annual meeting last year, and I quote, “I’ve made it very clear that this government has no intention of pursuing performance pay.” Has that changed?

MS PARATA Again, I think we need to focus on what our purpose is, which is raising achievement of all New Zealand students.

SHANE So you’re not absolutely ruling it out?

MS PARATA No, I’m not ruling it out or ruling it in. I’m saying that the purpose of the education system is to send kids out into the world with a qualification that’s meaningful. In order to do that, we need to have quality teaching in the classrooms, all the way from year one through to year 13.”

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Ms Parata seemed somewhat reticent during  the interview to come straight out and let the public know what National’s agenda was on the issue of performance pay for teachers.

It seems fairly clear, from the leaked documents that performance pay for teachers is very much on National’s agenda. I suspect that with so much going wrong recently, the party hierarchy have decided not to make public this little detail just yet. There are too many ‘fish hooks’ in such a policy and the last thing the Nats need right now is yet more industrial action – this time from teachers unwilling to cop any reduction in their wages and conditions. They’ve seen what’s been happening throughout the country, with one industry after another experiencing strikes, lock-outs, and reductions on pay and conditions.

Key, Parata, and others in the  National hierarchy understand full well that if push-comes-to-shove, teachers will strike.

So it’s “softly,softly” at the moment with performance pay.

However…

Shane Taurima then asked a very interesting and very clever question of Ms Parata,

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SHANE You’ve made the commitment to lift the number of 18-year-olds with level 2 NCEA from 68% to 85% over five years. Is that an absolute must-achieve for you or is it an aspiration?

MS PARATA Well, look, it’s both. I mean, I aspire to that, but the fact is our country needs well-qualified young people.

SHANE I suppose my point in asking the question…

MS PARATA I’m committed to achieving 85%. That means we need to collaborate across the sector and indeed the country. We need, outside of schools, for parents to be committed to their children doing well, to have high expectations of them and to go into schools and demand those expectations.

SHANE The point of my question, I suppose, is that if you don’t meet the target, is this when you put your career on the line today and you say, “If I don’t meet the target, this is what happens”?

MS PARATA Look, of course we must have ambitious goals as a government, and I am ambitious for students in the New Zealand education system. We cannot have more of the same. It means we have to do something different. So if…

SHANE So does that mean putting your career on the line and saying, “I will achieve it”?

MS PARATA I don’t think we need to get quite that dramatic.”

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Interesting. Ms Parata plans to put teachers on performance-related pay – but is not prepared to do likewise herself. Parata states that she is committed “to lifting the number of 18-year-olds with level 2 NCEA from 68% to 85% over five years” – but is not willing to put her performance to the test.

Performance-related pay for teachers:  Must Have.

Performance-related pay for politicians: Too dramatic.

Ok, I think we can see how this works.

In this respect, she reminds me of another current Minister, Paula Bennett.

When much younger, and on the DPB, Ms Bennett used the Training Incentive Allowance to fund her way through  University  and to buy a house – and then  immediatly scrapped the TIA when she became Minister.

The odour in the air is called rank hypocrisy.

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