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.)
You know, this Government is committed to raising achievement for five out of five students.
Unless they have special education needs or live in Labour supporting areas of Christchurch, because, you know, the embedded goal for all students is of the utmost importance to this government, but, well, oh look over there, some ultra fast fibre computery stuff.
We want to create a shift that places children and young people at the centre of the education system, because, you know, those horrid teachers don’t do that at the moment.
In fact I have it on excellent authority from some people who would like to run a few charter schools that the average Kiwi teacher actually eats children live with classic Kiwi dip.
It’s true. A friend told me she got an email about it from a very reliable source with an unverifiable IP address.
So, you know, standards, targets, improvement, better things, strengthen the system, renewal, and stuff….
The performance of the education system for priority students – Māori students, Pasifika students, students with special education needs and students from low socio-economic areas – needs to improve rapidly.
But we can’t do anything radical like look at the teensy mountain of evidence that indicates that factors outside of school account for around 80% of a student’s chances of success.
We continue to work towards our Better Public Services targets of 98% of new entrants knowing where to put an apostrophe. This will serve them far better than social skills or food. Or shoes. Or heating. Or any of that other fluffy rubbish.
My main priorities continue to be delivering on the Better Public Services education targets so that I can use the data to put performance pay in place. I know it’s proven to be unreliable and even lower student achievement, but who could pass up a chance to toy with those nasty teachers?
Did I mention the beanbags?
I am also forging ahead with my plans for the Greater Christchurch Education Renewal Programme.
This largely means shutting down schools in Loony Leftie areas and ignoring the people who live there, because, you know, they are, well, just not on side and seem to think schools are some sort of social focus for the community or something, which is just plain ridiculous.
I am so focused on ensuring the passage of the Education Amendment Bill, undertaking the review of the New Zealand Teachers Council and supporting my Ministerial Cross-Sector Forum that I am fair giddy with excitement.
Of course, I am consulting with all relevant stakeholders so that I can use their submissions as kindling in the wood fire at my wee bach in Titahi Bay. Saves a fortune on paying for it at New World, and Nikki and I have such a giggle reading them beforehand. Consultation, listening, no pre-conceived ideas, and other exciting words.
We are aiming for a greater use of public data and information, because we’ve heard there’s gong to be a good market for all of that as soon as the TPPA paperwork is signed, sealed and delivered to my good friends in charge of creating costly testing regimes that earn them lots of money. It’s all for your own good, because I say so.
Our response to the recommendations from the Select Committee Inquiry into 21st Century Learning Environments and Digital Literacy was the same as it is to all such select committees, insomuch as we will listen then forge ahead with whatever we planned to do in the first place.
Our Government is committed to supporting the profession through a range of initiatives such as criticising them continuously, refusing to listen to their feedback via select committees, taking away their right to elect a representative or two to their own professional body, and of course, mocking them whenever possible. It’s good for them. Creates backbone.
Greater choice for parents, families and whānau is super really very, like mega, important. Not actual choice, just using the words “greater choice”. That’s the important bit – to keep saying it, so that people think they are actually getting it. People are so very easily lead along, just ask my friend Judith. Greater Choice. See. Very important.
Over the next 10 years, we are investing up to $1,000 million to toy with the education system across greater Christchurch. We will support new and innovative teaching, and buy beanbags and primary-coloured desks and stuff. Ooh and lots of open plan.
No new funding for the kids themselves, though. But hey, beanbags, what’s not to like?
The priorities set out in this Statement of Intent represent my wish to fulfil my own potential by hanging onto my job long enough to get something overseas, maybe ambassador or something, so that I am nowhere near when it all hits the fan.
Because, lord above, the last thing this government wants is any of the “accountability’ silliness.
I am satisfied that I will get away with it. After all, it seems like John’s got his hands full at the moment.