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Effecting Change, Good Teaching, Government Policy, Protest - Have a Voice, SOSNZ

Fair Criticism?

I received this post on the SOSNZ Facebook page, and thought I would share it here and canvas well-thought-out responses.

“I’ve had a really good look at this page having been alerted to it by a good friend who I believe does an amazing job of supporting the education of our kids. And I know that we might sit on opposing sides to what I’m about to write and I accept that, and I’d also like to establish at the start that I hold no political office or affiliations. I’m simply a parent, with two kids who have been through high school (one still there – and at one of the best ranked public schools in the country). I’ve had experiences with great private school, and both good and bad public schools, so I write this from that perspective. 

I wonder if this site is mostly politically driven and there seems to be an awful lot of National Party bashing – and re the whole focus of “Saving our NZ Schools” that seems to be lost in the fray of ‘Let’s Bash Paula/Anne/John…” etc. 

What needs to be remembered here is that we are now living in the 21st century, and our schools are still based on the 19th century agrarian system which does not work any more. It’s great to have our kids taught to read and write etc, I’m not criticizing the basic principles of education here – but thousands of our kids are leaving school and university trained for jobs that no longer exist, or will not exist in their work-life times. Our education system was created by academic people who have preserved the academic levels and focused on bringing new professors through the system. They are the ones who are deemed to have succeeded – not those of us who may have fallen out of school and succeeded in our careers (at very high levels in many cases) despite or at times because of our ‘lack of higher education’. 

So isn’t it about time that the teachers/professors/administrators of the teaching industry all stopped and stepped back to ask the question, how can we SUPPORT a quality change in this process of finding the best leaders, thinkers and tinkers who will help this world move successfully into the 22nd century? Some of our industries are embedded with people who are doing exactly that – I am personally working with an accountant right now who believes his industry needs a total shake up and makes a lot of sense about it when he talks about how to do so – I know bankers, trainers, engineers and other professionals are thinking the same way. A revolution is finally ‘starting’ to take place in terms of how we view what we learn vs what we can apply in the workforce. 

I’ve been seeking ways for one of my sons (aged 14) to maximise his school years and have finally found a better school opportunity for him in Australia, so we are moving there for him to take up that opportunity in a few months. This raised the question for me – why do I have to leave NZ to get him the HIGH SCHOOL education he needs to become a leader and future thinker of tomorrow – despite him being in a ‘great school’ here. I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have reached the same conclusion and are homeschooling their children. 

So back to the main point – Our school system really does need a major overhaul, but will not achieve anything if continually held back by politically correct stalwarts of the system who fear change at any level. And the Media who play the role of provocateur will continue to find the seeds of sensationalism and thwart the process too. While the media maintain this divide and conquer mentality, nothing constructive actually gets done!

It’s time for this to stop. 

I’m willing to bet this post is removed, because I am sure it will upset a few people in this group, and if it’s not, then I applaud you for allowing my free speech on this matter. I’m willing to take the flak that may follow, but surely some common sense must start to prevail Kiwis. Let’s start with that shall we? “

My response was this:

“Thanks, I really appreciate the time and thought you’ve put into this.   I’ll try respond as best I can given the 3 year old gnashing at my heals, but may need to reply more thoroughly later this evening.

My agenda is not politically driven – as I said this morning in a post, there have been ethical and good National governments.  I just really don’t think this one fits that mould at all, and the behaviour of late is very shocking.  I would be appalled no matter what party it was.

I agree with you entirely that changes are need to the education system, but what really horrifies me as a teacher and a parent is that many changes are shoved through with what seems to be little thought or evidence supporting them, and seem to be more about a political agenda than about genuine improvements.  The class size debacle, the dropping of so many technology teachers, data releases – they all appear to have been done in a hurry without proper thought and with very poor results.  It’s irrelevant which party acts in such a way, what matters is that concerned people challenge such shoddy policy making.

You also should question the limitation put on teachers by the system the way it is – there is much that could be done to free up their minds and time so they could innovate more than they can now.  It has to make us wonder why only charter schools are given such freedoms…?

I don’t profess to have all the answers, not at all, but what I do have is the will and the drive to make sure people like you are thinking about all of this.

And all views are welcome, as they always should be in any good debate.”

Your thoughts are very welcome.

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


8 thoughts on “Fair Criticism?

  1. Maria, my biggest concern as a teacher about the direction of educational “reform” under this government is that it doesn’t allow schools to engage with the New Zealand Curriculum, which was designed to allow the very changes you rightly say need to be made. Current policy overemphasizes the easily measurable at the cost of innovation, creativity and community responsiveness. When we look at the results of similar policies overseas, we don’t see changes for the better – just the opposite. School days are being extended to allow more test preparation, physical activity and break times eliminated for the same, and a devaluation of any learning that is complicated or messy. The New Zealand Curriculum is internationally recognised as a document that could help us change in the directions that you suggest. That is what my colleagues and I want for the learners in our schools – not a narrowing collection of data and targets that have nothing to do with the people in our


    Posted by Auntie Barb | August 19, 2012, 12:52 pm
  2. Thanks!


    Posted by Barbara | August 19, 2012, 1:00 pm
  3. It appears that commonsense is in short supply lately, as a teacher, i would dearly love to be freed up to teach my kids in the way they need to be taught and not assessing them every time they breathe and I’m talking about what the Kids need, not bending the results of achievement tests to fit the political agenda of the day, so that finances are drained off the public sector to educate the rich and famous. All aren’t that privileged. I give my parents constant feedback as to how their child is progressing and do that whether in a big school or a little school! Albeit verbal but still feedback we are talking about human beings here. Teaching should be empowering, inspirational, full of passion for both the children and their teachers not drudgery…. finding money to finance teaching equipment and the like, have to say at this point, I’m not overly chuffed about the quality of Art,Sports and Science equipment supplies that are made available to schools by school suppliers either. cheap and nasty and you pay the earth for it! On a budget that is Govt supplied by ” bums on seats”, What a benchmark to have! It’s demoralising when teachers spend their lives and they have but one, just like every other person on earth, to find that children and their teachers are considered the dregs of Society, Is this another face of Poverty or how Women are considered in NZ Society? as teaching has a predominance of women in their ranks..I have to wonder! I could write an epistle! but it would take too long!


    Posted by Barbara Anne Jephson | August 19, 2012, 1:44 pm
  4. I’m most worried by the fact that the changes being bulldozed through by the current government have already been trialled in the UK and the USA. I’m not suspicious of change, but I do think it’s an incredible waste of our precious public funds not to learn from these countries’ experiences.
    In the months prior to the introduction of National Standards, there was an article on the Daily Mail’s site announcing that after 14 years, the UK’s own programme of high-stakes testing and national standards had failed to lift student achievement.
    I agree with what others have said about our national curriculum. It’s a fantastic document that would have given schools the freedom to build learning experiences to suit their own students. It was created to encourage children to think for themselves – there’s a whole part dedicated to fostering key competencies, including critical thinking.
    A system focused on standardised testing is encouraging the exact opposite.


    Posted by Lena | August 19, 2012, 2:31 pm
  5. Yes, change is needed in the education system, particularly in the secondary schooling area. This isn’t because children and schools are failing, as politicians, both here, and using very similar language overseas, keep telling us. The fact is that the great majority do very well on a wide range of measures. The premise about educating children for the 21st century is correct. The problem is that the whole standardisation of education debate, including moves to privatise schools, goes in the opposite direction and in fact will entrench the 19th century agrarian practices mentioned. Therefore the observations are actually valuable in highlighting the very reasons why we are fighting against this agenda.

    Picking up on the question:

    “So isn’t it about time that the teachers/professors/administrators of the teaching industry all stopped and stepped back to ask the question, how can we SUPPORT a quality change in this process of finding the best leaders, thinkers and tinkers who will help this world move successfully into the 22nd century?”

    the actual problem is that economists, politicians, business people, billionaires etc are the ones who need to step back. These are the forces promoting the standards based/corporatisation of schooling and thus limiting the chances of a full education. When educators are offered the chance for QUALITY change you can rest assured we will take it. Contrary to your assertion, it is the education sector who are pushing for change and future proofing New Zealand education. The media is complicit in the pushing of the standards agenda, primarily because they see opportunity for more sales. School/teacher bashing sells papers.

    As far as the ‘National Party bashing’ is concerned this is merely because they are the government driving the changes. If the destructive education policies were being implemented by another party, Labour or whoever, the attack would be aimed at them with equal vehemence. Also it needs to be noted that this is an international agenda, not just a New Zealand issue. The same concerns are being raised in many countries.

    We welcome dialogue on this issue.


    Posted by Allan Alach (@allanalach) | August 19, 2012, 3:26 pm
  6. I totally agree with the other responses. I’m not a teacher, in fact I’m a home-educating parent! The new NZ Curriculum – which has only recently been fully rolled out, and is still most likely still in the implementation phase in many schools – is designed exactly to meet the concerns you raise, it IS the major upheaval that our education system needs to be brought up to meet modern expectations and requirements. But just as it was officially launched, our government initiated a series of changes, like the introduction of National Standards, that actively counteract the positive goals of the new curriculum! Our government’s plan for education – with national standards, charter schools, league tables etc – are all concepts that reinforce an outdated education model, that has been shown time and time again NOT to raise achievement levels, hampers creativity and innovation, and is antiquated, dis-proven, and defunct.

    You ask for common sense, well surely it is common sense NOT to adopt failed systems and policies, and instead focus our energy, pedagogy, and funding on supporting & implementing a curriculum that is widely hailed internationally as exceptional, soundly-based, and world-leading?


    Posted by nova | August 19, 2012, 3:31 pm
  7. Do feel free to come and add your thoughts to the discussion on the Facebook page, too, where they person with the original query has more questions and points to make.


    Posted by Flo | August 23, 2012, 10:56 pm

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