Kindergartens and early childhood education centres will face an even bigger battle to maintain quality teaching and learning following the Budget announcement that there will be no increase in funding.
This is the fifth year in a row that funding for early childhood education has effectively been frozen, says NZEI National President Louise Green.
“This year funding will not even keep up with increased costs that kindergartens and ECE centres will face.
“It undermines quality learning and means that parents will likely have to dig deeper into their pockets .”
“It’s ironic that the government talks of increasing teaching quality while squeezing the funding for this important area of education.
“Quality early childhood education is vital for children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds, so once again, the government’s actions do not match its rhetoric.”
The $397-m increase in this Budget for ECE will only allow for extra places to keep up with roll growth.
There is much consternation about The Herald withdrawing an education article part way through the day this week and refusing to respond to questions about why that was.
So why was it withdrawn, we wondered? Political pressure? Who knew?
With no real explanation, suddenly, the next day, there was a pathetic (and badly written) “clarification’ in the Herald”
But even that doesn’t say the facts were wrong. Just the intference.
And yet reading the released OIA documents, I feel most people with decent reading skills would infer the same.
But don’t take my word for it, take a look at these excerpts (or better still, read the whole OIA request here) and judge for yourselves:
and more ‘war room’ talk…
It seems to be a lot of back and forth and a lot of people involved for something the Ministry is now saying wasn’t an issue, doesn’t it?
It is worth noting that all of this toing and froing includes a whole lot of media staff and not so many education staff. You’d think sharing the undiluted, unspun truth would be better all round …
So was there undue influence or not?
And just how much spin does it take before the spin become untruths?
NZEI National President Louise Green says the government shows it is more concerned about increasing participation rates in early childhood education than about ensuring children receive quality education.
“We’ve been telling the government for some time that many kindergartens and community-based early childhood education services have been struggling to maintain qualified staffing levels against rising costs.
“This has been a major challenge for the ECE sector since the government reduced its subsidy for 100 percent qualified teaching in 2009.
“Unfortunately the budget increase of $75-million in ECE subsidies over the next four years will simply keep pace with growing numbers of children attending ECE, leaving nothing in the coffers to maintain or improve quality. So this is not a real increase in ECE funding.
“This risks centres being forced to reduce the ratio of qualified teachers and this is bad news for quality early childhood education.
“It is ironic that the government talks about improving the quality of teaching and yet is failing to support quality at such an important time of a child’s life.”
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.”
Many 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.
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.
“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:
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.)
NZEI Te Riu Roa says concerns around the potential of new charter schools being extended to babies and pre-schoolers show that the government needs to come clean about the full extent of its plans for the education sector before the election.
NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said extending the charter school experiment to babies signalled a radical escalation of the privately-owned and taxpayer-funded schools that were supposedly a “trial” when the first five schools opened this year.
“How far and how quickly is the government planning to bring the private sector into the running of our schools? And how long will they continue to fund these charter schools at a far higher rate than public schools? Voters have a right to know before the election,” she said.
A preference for charter school models catering to 0-8-year-olds was one of six preferences listed for second round applicants, with successful applicants expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
Ms Nowotarski said since charter schools were outcomes-based, the threat of toddlers being tested and measured against each other was very real.
When asked about charter schools for pre-schoolers this week, Education Minister Hekia Parata told One News, “At the point that we decide on particular partnership schools, we then go into our contract negotiation, and it would be in that phase, against a specific proposal, that we would agree what the targets and measures are.”
Ms Nowotarski said most parents would be appalled at the thought of targets and measures being applied to their very young children.
“Children learn in different ways at their own individual pace. National standards for primary school students is bad enough, but the thought of applying a similar measure to toddlers and labelling their natural development is just appalling,” she said.
“Charter schools are not required to hire trained teachers, so even the current minimum requirement of 50% trained teachers in early childhood centres could possibly be side-stepped by charter school providers in pursuit of profits.”
Questions were raised in Parliament this week about whether the extra government funding that babies and pre-schoolers attract could instead be diverted to run the rest of the school or boost owners’ profits. Opposition parties also raised the mixed results of charter schools so far and the risk that taxpayer-funded assets may be lost if a school closes.
The Green Party have called for bilingual learning for Pasifika ECE and primary school children. As a foreign-born teacher, I would love to have some quality learning in Pacific languages and in Te Reo. The two courses I tried (in my own time) were woeful and I got no professional development in the schools I worked in. Surely, it’s logical to support teachers to support students by giving *us* the education *we* need as well. It will benefit us all.
The Green Party says:
If we are serious about making school more effective for Pasifika kids, then it is logical to consider bi lingual Pasifika education in New Zealand schools.
Researchers have proven that the first years of schooling are much more successful when kids are taught in their mother tongue. Add to that the fact that many Pasifika languages are in danger of dying, parents want more childhood centres and schools to offer their kids bilingual education, and it looks like a fairly compelling case for bilingual Pasifika education options.
Well, I would have thought so. But the National Government sees otherwise.
The Education and Science Select Committee Inquiry into Pacific languages in ECE heard from many experts who called for a special recognition of Pasifika languages in schools and ECE but without undermining the primacy of Te Reo Maori the first national language of this country.
Several languages, including are Cook Islands Maori, Tokelau and Niue are now seriously at risk. These are languages spoken in the Realm Islands, places that are constitutionally part of New Zealand and whose people are citizens of this country. Their languages are thus our languages. Other islands such as Samoa and Tonga also have a strong history in relation to New Zealand and a right to have their language education needs considered.
In rejecting these recommendations, the National MPs on the select committee failed to recognise that we are a Pacific island in the great ocean Te Moana nui a Kiwa.
It’s not good enough to put the onus completely on Pacific communities themselves to save their own languages as the Education Minster has done. A state investment is needed as well.
The Green Party is 100 percent in favour of prioritising Te Reo Maori, but we also need to embrace multilingualism as an educational benefit.. There needs to be a National Languages Policy to support the benefits of language learning before year 7 in Primary school.
It’s a shame we have to fight the Government on this when we should be united in supporting heritage languages and in celebrating our Pacific identity. The rest of the world is multilingual and proud of it while we can barely embrace Te Reo.
One academic told me that we turn the children who start school bilingual into monolingual people by the time they leave. What a waste.