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NZEI calls for inquiry into quality of early childhood education

nzei logoThe rapid rise of market-driven early childhood education is putting many children at risk of missing out on quality learning in their early years.

NZEI National President Louise Green says there is no evidence that market forces provide quality education in the compulsory public education sector.

“So why has the government allowed the market to become so prevalent in the early childhood sector?

“There appears to be no Ministerial interest or responsibility being taken in the provision of quality early childhood education.  The government has simply said that the market will sort it.

“We need an inquiry into why the government believes market forces will work in the early childhood sector when they patently don’t work in the compulsory sector.

“This week’s investigation by the NZ Herald backs up what we know has been happening in the sector for some time – that quality early childhood education is under threat.

“Early childhood education is far too important to be left to market forces.”

– ENDS

Is Hekia Parata planning National Standards for preschoolers?

ECEMany of us who have read it are very concerned about the Education Ministry’s Statement of Intent.

The foreword is an exercise in deduction as, like all of the Minister’s communications, it’s hard to get past the waffle and jargon in order to see what is actually meant.

But this is vitally important that educators and parents DO read and understand it, because this document outlines what the Minister is intending to do next to our education system.

When I first read the Statement, I was torn between horror at what is implied in it and amusement at the circumlocution and waffle.  In fact, I immediately wrote my own parody of the Statement, using about 50% of Hekia’s own words and adding my own spin.

It amused me, briefly.

But that amusement didn’t last long.

In actual fact, the Statement of Intent is very concerning.

Very. Concerning.

Catherine Delahunty picks it apart today in this article, and asks some very salient questions about the Ministry’s intent, in particular regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE).

For those of you that don’t know, the Ministry’s Early learning Information System (ELI) is “an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record children’s enrolment and attendance.”

Delahunty points out that the Education Ministry says it will use its Early Learning Information System:

to help identify particular trends and  the effectiveness of children’s learning…”

Delahunty then asks,

“What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning?

There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ’3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers.”

I agree, it does appear to signal the Ministry is moving towards measuring the academic achievements of preschoolers.

This is worrying.

There are HUGE concerns from the ECE sector and from parents regarding the push towards standardising learning (and, heaven forbid, testing) for preschoolers.

It’s bad enough that the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards is being entrenched in primary schools, but to it is even worse to be forcing formal learning on 2,3, or 4 year olds. The move is not supported by the research and in totally unnecessary in terms of good learning.

Ask yourself, why the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards – what does it achieve?

Has it raised student achievement elsewhere?

The answer is no. But it has created a very lucrative market in testing materials and it has allowed for performance pay for teachers, neither of which benefit the students. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Delahunty says:

“We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Chris Hipkins (Labour) and Tracey Martin (NZ First) at the Tick For Kids ECE forum in Wellington last week.

The focus on reading and writing, and the obsession with pass marks, is narrowing our education system and crippling both teachers and students.

It is not a positive move.

It will not improve educational outcomes.

It is not supported as good practice by research.

So just what is the motive for doing it?

 

Sources and further reading:

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Delahunty – National’s Dangerous Education Agenda Exposed – The Daily Blog

The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2013 – 2018 (which sets out the key elements of how the Ministry will contribute to the delivery of Government’s priorities for education.)

Beanbags: An Alternative Statement of Intent Possibly from the Minister of Education (or perhaps not)

Hipkins and Martin well received, Parata not so much – what happened at the Tick For Kids Education Forum 12.8.14

Report shows National plan to slash billions from Education Budget

OECD Report ‘Education at a Glance’

An OECD report released today puts New Zealand at the top of the list of countries for the percentage of its public spending spent on education.   According to the report, NZ spends 21.2 per cent of its public spending to education, whereas the OECD average was just 13%.

New Zealand was reported as spending 7.2 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education, fifth behind Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway.

The report starts by saying that “Governments should increase investment in early childhood programmes and maintain reasonable costs for higher education in order to reduce inequality, boost social mobility and improve people’s employment prospects”.  Interestingly, the USA is one of four countries where more than 40% of young people from low educational backgrounds have not completed upper secondary education, and less than 20% have attained tertiary qualifications.  It does beg the question why we are following in their footsteps with Charter Schools and increased national testing, given their very poor performance.

It further states that “[e]]nrolling children early in formal education and keeping schools mixed in terms of social backgrounds have more impact in boosting educational equality than other factors, such as parental support or the cost of tuition fees. Addressing inequality early is key as little can be done to remedy poor outcomes later in school, without compromising the quality of higher education.”

And the importance of early childhood education is underlined again later in the report, “Starting school at an early age pays off in the long run: OECD’s PISA tests of 15-year-olds show that, in most countries, pupils who have attended pre-primary education tend to perform better than those who have not. It also shows that longer pre-primary education, smaller pupil-to-teacher ratios and higher public expenditure per child all enhance the positive effects of pre-primary schooling.”

Some Key Findings

  • Young women are five percentage points more likely than young men to become better educated than their parents (40% compared with 35%), while young men are more likely than young women to have lower educational attainment than their parents (15% compared with 11%).
  • The educational attainment of mothers has a stronger impact on students’ reading performance than the primary language at home or the proportion of immigrant students in a school.
  • 58% of primary teachers are at least 40 years old on average in OECD countries. The proportion exceeds 70% in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Sweden. At secondary level, 63% of teachers are at least 40, and 70% or more in Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany and Italy.
  • On average, OECD countries spend USD 9 252 annually per student from primary through tertiary education: USD 7 719 per primary student, USD 9 312 per secondary student and USD 13 728 per tertiary student.

Read the press release and report here:

http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/educationspendingrisingbutaccesstohighereducationremainsunequalinmostcountriessaysoecd.htm

http://www.oecd.org/edu/eag2012.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/11/oecd-education-at-a-glanc_n_1874190.html

Reference:

OECD (2012), Education at a Glance 2012: Highlights, OECD Publishing.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/eag_highlights-2012-en

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