I am a mother. My banshee is 5. He just started school. He was excited – I was excited – school is fabulous. We both knew he would have a ball, learning new things, meeting new friends, having super experiences – and indeed he is. He loves it.
Thankfully has no idea of the GERMy things infecting his happy world of learning:
He has been allocated a National Student Number to track him throughout his education. His results, standards, and lord knows what else is being stored against this number. I can’t opt him out of this – trust me I have asked. He and every child in or entering the system as of the 2014 school year has an NSN, and god only knows what they are recording about him.
The data can be passed on by government to anyone they deem suitable. See that little bit there on the Ministry page that says the “National Student Number (NSN) is a unique identifier that can be used by authorised users for .. research purposes.” Yes, about that..
Because given this government’s record with our private data, and given its record on favouring business over academics, I have to say I worry. In the USA, student data is given to private companies and the likes of The Gates Foundation without any permission sought from or given by parents. And Mr Gates has his own agenda.
But it’s okay, because “The Education Act 1989 includes an offence provision, with a penalty up to a maximum of $15,000, for a conviction of misuse of the National Student Number (NSN).” Oh that’s fine then – a hefty fine like that is sure to scare off your average education reformer billionaire.
So, should we worry? Well, hell yes.
Of student data collection, Diane Ravitch said “If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.”
My child and yours are now a government commodity.
Soon, he will be deemed well above, above, at or below standard for numeracy, reading and writing. Those labels will be added to the above data set. They are not there for him or for his teacher (who is marvellous, I might add). They are there for politicians. Make no bones about that.
And what joy for those students in small communities where they are easily identifiable, who find themselves highlighted in the national press as failing. What a treat when a student’s results are displayed in the classroom for all to see.
That must be a real inspiration for them.
Because nothing motivates someone to improve more than telling them they are below standard and then sharing that information far and wide.
Sooner or later, there will be pressure for the banshee to get up to speed with anything he is “behind” with. I don’t mean encouragement – I mean pressure. The majority of teachers will resist political pressure and carry on teaching to his interests and strengths, moving him forward appropriately from where he is to the next level. But when the message teachers are getting is that all that matters is National Standards levels, eventually pressures come to bear:
“So a couple of weeks ago when his new teacher told me he had to stay in at lunchtime to complete his writing, I was shocked. I understand he is a dreamy and imaginative child, and that he needs supervision to complete tasks sometimes (which drives me mad), but I have no idea how any teacher EVER thinks it’s ok to keep a five year old in at lunchtime. Really, what kind of system thinks punishment is a motivator?” Source
These are children, not robots. They learn like they grow – in fits and bursts, not on an easily measured path. Of course their learning needs to be tracked – in fact teachers always have tested in-class and tracked growth, so that students and teachers know what the next goals will be. But to be pushed to learn at a certain speed, as if all kids should hit targets at the same time, is not sound practice.
Sadly, National Standards is encouraging just that, and this is the type of thing we will see more and more of: Whether his teacher or school tries to mitigate it or not, education establishments are under pressure to hit politically-motivated targets, and this will inevitably filter down. Most schools do a great job of not letting students see the pressures on the school to hoop jump, but if things carry on the way they are going, teachers may not find it so easy to keep that pressure out of the classroom, even for new entrants.
The USA is years down this data-obsessed, privatisation-motivated path of lunacy, and this is what successive reforms have reduced them to:
“My kindergarteners had their standardized computerized test today. There were over 100 questions. Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse is available. One class took five hours to finish. Kids crying in 4 of 5 classes.” Source
How long until this is the fate of Kiwi kids?
You might be thinking “Oh, well, it sounds dodgy, but you can always opt out of the National Student Number and/or National Standards if you dislike them so much.”
Well, you would think so, eh? The child being mine, and all.
But no, you cannot opt out.
Just let me say that again – you, the parent, or you the student cannot opt out of having a National Student Number and having your data collected and stored and shared around by the government with whoever they see fit without your permission.
You the parent or you the student cannot refuse to be part of National Standards.
So, next time government tell you all of these changes are about parental choice, ask them about your choice to opt out. Where did that go? **
Possibly the same place it went for these US children who were pulled out of classrooms by CPS investigators for individual interviews about this month’s test boycott — without teacher or parental permission.
Intimidating children? Ignoring parents? This is where 20 years of reforms has got the USA. New Zealand is only a few years down the line of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), but already we are seeing the same disregard for what parents want.
I ask again, where is my choice to opt out?
People – many for the first time – are joining the dots and seeing that it’s not a few little things here and there but a concerted plan to change the face of our education system to an increasingly privatised one.
A crisis is being manufactured that just does not exist.
You want to now who’s pulling the global strings behind the GERM? You could start by reading this to see Bill Gates’ part in it all.
Whanau and Educationalists want to improve our education system. It’s good but it could be better, and they recognise that. They do not want it to stand still.
Students and teachers have much in common: they do their best work when supported, encouraged and know that what they are doing is of value. And neither achieves their best when pressured, bullied and given unsound hoops to jump through, like monkeys at a tea party.
So, when next Hekia Parata tells you that what she is doing is in the interests of the children, ask yourself this:
Is it really for the children?
Who else stands to benefit?
** NOTE: “”Differences from state schools:
Private schools are not required to follow the Government’s National Education Guidelines. This means that they do not have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum or comply with the National Standards’ requirements.”” http://www.ero.govt.nz/Review-Process/For-Schools-and-Kura-Kaupapa-Maori/Reviews-of-Private-Independent-Schools – which rather begs the question of why not, if they are meant to be sooooo darned useful?
Gates and Murdoch like to say their interest in education is because their big hearts mean they really must help the poor wee kiddies learn better.
Funny how they weren’t so interested until profit could be made, but hey, I’m just a bit cynical these days.
And it’s no wonder I am when you learn about things like this…
Gates and Murdoch have managed to wangle access to a huge field of very personal and incredibly detailed data from whole US school districts for every single child.
Crimminy, that’s a whole lot of information they have about these kids.
Would you be happy to know the school district was handing over information about your child to a private company?
Name, address, all qualifications, how, where and when you were educated and by whom. Yes, your teachers, teacher aides, home tutor, teacher assistant, family member that taught you, all listed.
Attendance? Yes, all logged, including the category of ‘tardy’. This is from first grade, as if a child that age is in charge of what time they reach school.
Had some trouble in school? Whether it’s a violation or a breach of the school’s code of conduct, it’s there, including close detail about where it occurred. Also a detailed record of any weapon type. That’s just plain spooky. Why does a private company need to know that? The police and the school, yes. Parents and carers, yes. inBloom? Not so much.
Your child has a disability? Excellent, we’ll have that information too, thank you very much, and here are the inBloom categories:
You want to opt out? You want to keep your information private? Tough bananas. As one parent said:
“I have emailed and called [State Commissioner] John King’s office over 40 times the past month refusing to consent to allow the DOE to transfer my children’s personal information into inBloom to be bought and sold around the world…” He was told there was no option to opt out. None. Your data, but not your choice.
Another concern is that the data is held in the cloud and its security cannot be guaranteed, but there’s nothing these parents can do about that, either.
It seems that the data is not yours even when it about you or your child.
Your child has been filed, stamped and indexed. Your child is a number.
So, why would a private company be mining this data?
This is not the education system or health system or even the police collecting all of this information. This is a business.
Just think about that for a minute.
They have your address, your email, sex, language, everything.
Great for targeted marketing, don’t you reckon. Students are such great potential consumers.
As Diane Ravitch said “If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.”
What about Aotearoa?
Well, from this year all Kiwi kids will have a National Student Number from the day they enter into education, and students cannot be opted out.
The Ministry of Education’s website says that “The National Student Number (NSN) is a unique identifier that can be used by authorised users for the following approved purposes:
It goes on to say that all other uses are prohibited, as if that should make us feel safe. But since Gates and Murdoch use their systems as a way to collect student statistics and do (dodgy?) research, that’s hardly reassuring, is it?
The web site also tells us that the NSN “facilitates the collection and management of core identity information about a student in a central location” and that “[a]dditional authorised users can be added by regulation”.
So here’s the big question: Are we being lined up for a bit of Gates’ and Murdoch’s data mining jiggery pokery, too?
One to keep a very close eye on,