Herald editorial a little gem

I have read education editorials for around 60 years, and when I haven’t clenched my teeth on a face-cloth to hold myself back from expletives, I have sent away furious responses. When I started to write Developmental Network Magazine in the early ‘90s and networkonnet in 2007 they, in part, became vehicles for my frustration. In the last decade, the Press and the Dominion have remained in a bleak anti-teacher rut in columns and editorials; the Herald, while displaying a fair amount of fairness and insight in its columns,  continued to produce editorials that read as though, if not actually written by an Auckland Grammar principal, then on his detailed advice.

But now we have the editorial of Wednesday, 4 January 2017.

One of the characteristics of the editorial that appealed was its restraint; cautiously correct (according to my lights) – mainly staying clear of big conclusions; providing information in a steady, unspectacular manner. But there was something else, was it irony? that hinted the editorial was saying more than appeared in the writing.

The editorial was headed: Ranking must bear wider comparisons, and the key statement: ‘Although the Government continues to trumpet rising National Standards and NCEA results, two international reports published late in 2016 pointed to a much murkier picture.’

PISA (maths, science, and reading for 15-year-olds), the editorial says, has rankings bottoming out at a low level after sharp falls since 2009; and in TIMSS (mathematics and science for 10-year-olds) the students were ranked worst in the English-speaking world. This even after some of the more difficult problems were removed.

The editorial, in a deft move, then referred to a 2013 National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement report carried out by the University of Otago which found ‘less than half (41 per cent) of Year 8 students were achieving expectations in maths in their final year before secondary school’. Yet, as the editorial points out, ‘National Standards relied on by the Government showed teachers believed 69 per cent of students were “at or above” the level required in 2014.’

There was ‘no room,’ the editorial continues,  ‘for complacency about reading either’ with Tertiary Education Commission research revealing that ‘40 per cent of Year  12 students who met official NCEA literacy and numeracy requirements fell below the OECD minimum …’

In the final paragraph the editorial says ‘the solutions are complex’ and then refers to better training (which, from my point-of-view would require a system change) and making clear to parents that some credits are more equal than others (one senses more editorials to come on this and a wider frame).

And a countdown punch with the deceptively languid concluding sentence: ‘In the meantime, we should pay close attention to independent research on student achievement and treat any results linked to national targets with a healthy dose of scepticism.’


The editorial is a little gem.

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5 Responses to Herald editorial a little gem

  1. 111peggyb says:

    Thank you yet again Kelvin, a thoughtful critique. I agree the tide might be turning. God forbid if it is not – for what will become of children and teachers trapped within this compulsory public school system in New Zealand if it is not?

    Over the past three decades our biggest problem as professional educators has been politicans and their flunkies; and their free range access and control over a domain for which they have no training or relevant experience. Their irresponsible arrogance in creating paradigms that are not anchored in educational or any other theoretical research have resulted in an erosion of our world class and world renowned education system. Evidenced over the last decade by their bold intrusion into schools as politically appointed Limited Satutory Managers and Commissioners.

    Without exception, [and I stand to be corrected], the most vicious possess no formal training or qualifications relevant to education. They come under the guise of “Good Governance,” a misnomer – in the true sense of the Latin – “a special kind of mistake.” Surely this blatant subterfuge, this theft in plain sight of educational professionalism rivals even the audacity of the Great Train Robbery of 1855!! Not gold, but “legitimate good governance” has been purloined by these overpaid charlatans!

    Let’s hope Kelvin, that 2017 will truely will be a Happy New Year in education. “Roll on the election in June,” said a disillusioned Tory who will never vote for the current government [ lower case
    “g” intended].

    P.S. Still no ERA Decision.

  2. Kelvin says:

    Thanks for that powerful call to arms. As for my fingers, they have never been more crossed.

  3. Bruce Hammonds says:

    Let’s hope the faith in teaching towards measurable targets is fading. I am reminded of the saying that ‘it is not the targets in life you hit that counts it’s the ones you miss because you weren’t looking’.2017 will be an important year for us all. With John Key disappearing without trace we now have the opportunity for some real political debate.

    • Kelvin says:

      Thanks Bruce: the bad news and the good – Andrew Little has never mentioned education as a top election issue … until four weeks ago. But we have to get that near invisible fellow Chris Hipkins sparked into action; thank goodness for Tracey Martin.

  4. Let’s hope we are seeing a turn that we have worked and waited so long for.

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