The NZI used to be the New Zealand Business Roundtable before changing their name to this seemingly more innocuous one. They are business people, bankers, economists – a market-driven bunch.*
The Un(ac)countable report, says “The lesson from the Numeracy Project is that top down change is inappropriate in the New Zealand context”. (1) This is particularly intriguing given NZI support Investing in Educational Success (IES), which is floundering in no small part due to its top down hierarchical nature.
The NZI also advocates performance pay for teachers, despite it failing disastrously elsewhere, and despite research showing that performance pay does not improve student outcomes.
In other words, NZI’s output is very typical of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM).
So, watching the NZI’s online video presentation accompanying Un(ac)countable, I pondered not only the information, but also how the messages were delivered.
The video presentation shows little understanding of what goes on in schools and why. In fact, the first minute or so is simplistic and at times downright patronising, seemingly aiming to rile parents into a “it wasn’t like that in my day” rant and garner media attention more than explaining any in-depth research findings.
The accompanying fact-sheet for parents is not much better, using emotive language and cunning linguistic devices throughout. It begins with the words “Confused? Maybe your kids are too” – as if parents not understanding the Numeracy Project equates to it being poor. That is disingenuous and worthy more of a political PR firm than of decent research.
The fact that the parent fact-sheet then waxes lyrical with “In 2013, a friend explained to me that her 10-year-old daughter was learning several different ways of working out her timestables, and that she was confused, losing confidence, and falling behind. When I was at school, we just learned them off by heart” is just embarrassing. Is this what passes for NZI research? An anecdote from one parent and a “it wasn’t like that in my day” comment from the researcher?
I wonder how many parents would be able to explain for me what transactional writing is, or the features of inquiry learning, or how to set up a blog page and add text and videos to it? Yet we teach those things, too. Parents not knowing the technical language of some learning or not knowing how to do some of the things their children are doing does not equate to those learning experiences being valueless.
It’s almost like there’s another agenda at play in the whole song and dance.
And it’s a shame that the good messages of better maths education for teachers and a decent emphasis on basic facts are lost within.
To close, let’s take a closer look at just one of the New Zealand Initiative’s ideas from Un(ac)countable. NZI says:
“The new professional body for teachers – Educanz – should develop an optional certificate of maths teaching proficiency for teachers to work towards.” It should be optional but parents should check that teachers have it when considering what school to send their child to, says the NZI. (2)
My questions would be:
- Who pays for the tests?
- Who ensures the tests are fair and adequate?
- How often would teachers might have to resit the certificate?
- How optional it will really be if one’s employer insists staff have it.
- Whether there would be accompanying good quality professional development for teachers.
- What happens if a teacher sits the certificate and fails?
- Would unqualified teachers be able to take the certificate and use it to bolster the notion they are qualified teachers?
It seems to me that a close look at the NZI report and the accompanying hoohah around it raises far more questions than it answers.
* For fun, why not play NZI bingo – just go to their website staff page and see how many times you can count the words economist and business…