Education that works for students

This week John Key and David Shearer made key note speeches which included references to education. The rhetoric around education flowed freely but I couldn’t hear any depth or real excitement in either speech. Setting targets for NCEA improvement (which is the Government’s plan) and getting of  bad schools and bad teachers (which is Labour’s plan) misses the bus of student centred educational improvement.

Both National and Labour might like to consider the reasons for Finland’s consistent success as a society which actually values learning for its own sake and gets great results. The core ideas behind the Finnish system are virtually the opposite of National’s privatisation and assessment plan. Perhaps David Shearer was trying to lift the status of teachers in his comments but there seems no coherent set of educational values in either man’s sound bites.

The Finnish education system is based on something truly interesting, the goal of creating more equality for all students. It has refused to see education as a business and has maintained a staunch commitment to educational innovation and high trust between the Government and teachers.

Some of their ideas include:

  • No standardised testing
  • All teachers qualified to MA level
  • A conscious attention to diversity
  • No streaming in high school classes
  • Free ECE plus school meals for all
  • All learners access to remedial help
  • Local public schools expected to be high quality
  • Only best students accepted as teachers
  • No homework at primary school

There is much more and I recommend the book “Finnish Lessons” by Pasi Sahlberg.

Sahlberg is quick to point out that a school in Helsinki can have up to 40 languages spoken  and that the national child poverty rate is  4%.

The key transformation occurred through a political party consensus that the goal of greater equality in education was fundamental. How sad its is to hear the rhetoric of market models, standardised testing, charter schools and bad teachers without a vision that will work to inspire learners. We are far from a consensus that will lead to equality or equity in education. .

Speaking for myself I found much of high school dull and authoritarian and believe we need change. I am excited by the Finnish models and also by the voices of our young people. Who’s listening to either of them?

54 thoughts on “Education that works for students

  1. Morning, far from being an expert in education, my experience from traveling in Finland eight years ago, was utter amazement at the competency of Finish people, particularly those under 30 years of age, who were fluent in at least three languages (Fin, Swedish, Eng) but often up to four or five! One young lad of 7 years of age from a family I stayed with spoke four languages fluently! He was studying NZ fauna, and he knew more about my country than me! I can only conclude that this ability is a result of a robust forward-thinking education system. In fact, those to whom I spoke with all praised their education system.

  2. sprout – you aregue that National Standards are only an assessment and that assessment might not be consistant between schools.

    Previously you argued the opposite extreme – that National Standards were standardised testing and teachers will just teach to the test.

    This just shows you’ll say anything to push your union propaganda.

    Just like you argue that teachers are highly skilled, do a wonderful job, and have childrens best interests at heart.

    But when it suits you, you argue that teachers will just teach to the test, which shows a very low regard to teachers and their ethics.

    The fact is the main arguements against National Standards….
    – kids being labeled failures
    – teaching to the test
    – inconsistant assessments between schools
    – schools being judged by parents.

    … are ALL arguements that have been made about previous school testing and assessment.

    They are not new issues created by NS.

  3. Photonz1 – You and your professor should go on a crusade to save New Zealand from our education system. I have this vision of the two of you venturing forth an horseback, accompanied by the music from Man of La Mancha ;-)

  4. We know from ERO that half of all schools have inadequate reporting, and there is also massive under reporting of kids with problems, and

    sprout says “In actual fact most parents are happy with what their schools provide and there are far fewer complaints against teachers than most professions”

    There is obviously a problem, but you put your head in the sand, ignore the problem, and spout your union line of “parents are happy with what schools provide”.

    How will you ever solve a problem when you can’t even acknowledge it exists?

    It’s just like pretending the problem of a 26% drop out rate from secondary schools doesn’t exist.

    sprout says “the fact it [technology] has been sidelined through the introduction of National Standards is appallingly short sited.”

    You have still failed to tell us which schools have done this. It that because you can’t back up your “fact”?

  5. I’m sorry Photonz1, It is really hard to have these endless discussions with you when you make broad inaccurate statements about what other schools do when your experience appears to be limited to your own school. The deficiencies in your school before National Standards were introduced just demonstrate it must have been a poorly performing school originally, there is absolutely nothing contained in National Standards that couldn’t have been done by your school before. I suggest you ask to visit some other schools or talk to a number of different principals to get some broader perspectives on the issue.

    It is a cold hard fact that the full implementation of the curriculum was complicated with the rushed introduction of National Standards. With the sacking of all advisors outside literacy and numeracy the professional development for learning areas outside these has almost ceased. Teachers naturally prioritize and unless they have a passion for technology and science etc. there is little compulsion to teach them in any depth. Research has shown that the teaching of science has already suffered in this new environment. I would be interested to know what your school has committed to science and technology each term.

    Again you don’t appear to understand the difference between norm referenced assessments and the aspirational National Standards. You continue to spout political spin and refuse to acknowledge any professional voices other than your one academic. You also haven’t acknowledged the reality of “high stakes” assessments that resulted in the failure of National Standards in the UK and “No Child left behind” in the US.

    In actual fact most parents are happy with what their schools provide and there are far fewer complaints against teachers than most professions. However things can always improve and if you wish to contact me via my email address on my blog I will send you my personal research on improving collaboration between parents and teachers and how children’s learning can be enhanced through targeted teaching and learning. National Standards have no part in my vision.

  6. sprout says “the fact it [technology] has been sidelined through the introduction of National Standards is appallingly short sited.”

    Please tell us which schools have sidelined technology because of National Standards (if you haven’t completely made up a lie)

  7. sprout says “I am just attempting to explain to you that they shouldn’t be focussed on at the expense of all the other learning areas.”

    You are stating the blatantly obvious – and having an arguement all by yourself.

    No one here has argued that other learning areas should be sacrificed.

    When kids lagging behind in reading writing etc, are helped, the opposite happens.

    Just because teachers assess National Standards doesn’t mean the curriculum changes – any more than it changes because of the myriad of other tests that currently exist. Ours hasn’t changed at all.

    One of the main effect of standards at our school has been to get parents more involved in their kids learning, particularly with those who are struggling.

    Better and more honest reports that result in more help for those kids who need it most, has to be a good thing.

  8. sprout says “I actually agree with you that using the curriculum levels to report to parents was confusing, but we didn’t have to change the assessment system, just how we report.”

    Prior to NS, as I understand it, we had –
    – year three PAT tests, but not for maths, reading or writing
    – in year three they test listening.
    – they don’t test in year two either.
    – in year four they start on maths and reading (but not writing?).
    – Star tests for reading, but not maths or writing, and not for year one or two.
    – Year Net Observation Surveys for reading and writing, but not maths, and only for year two – not for earlier or later than that.
    – also tests at school entry level, but different schools use different types of test for this. and they are different to later testing systems.
    – also running records, but these are for reading only, and are usually stopped by year three.

    And schools have never been required to give out this information (if they have it – some schools never did much testing) as they are now with NS.

    With so many testing systems used at different times by different schools (or not at all) it’s not surpising that
    – half of all schools failed to adequately report childrens progress to their parents, and that
    – problems simply went unreported by schools, as 98% of children were given positive reports on their achievement when the level is clearly much lower than that.

  9. Photonz1, Oh dear, you are very black and white in your perceptions. I would never say that numeracy and literacy aren’t useful and I am passionate about teaching them both. I am just attempting to explain to you that they shouldn’t be focussed on at the expense of all the other learning areas. Children, especially boys, need a purpose or an engaging context for learning literacy and numeracy and too often now they are being taught in isolation from other learning areas. You only have to visit my home to see the value I place on books.

  10. Kerry, i didn’t express myself well. The old “manual training” was very contrived and controlled and may have been useful 40 years ago. Nothing is wrong with instructing on tool use but technology has advanced since woodwork and cooking days. I have seen some brilliant teaching in traditional technology classrooms where the focus is more on how tools can support the creation of a technological solution rather than lessons on the correct use of a plane.

    “And the funny idea you can do design without a good understanding of tools and materials definitely came from academia.”

    I cannot see how you can claim that the technology curriculum is just a branch of Social Studies.

    Not from my experience, the site I linked to earlier was set up by one of those academics. I totally agree with you regarding the shortage of people with practical skills and my own education history was plagued by the view that anyone with any ability in the 3Rs shouldn’t do practical subjects.

  11. sprout says “If you support the teaching of the broad curriculum then you can’t support National Standards”

    What complete nonsense.

    Being able to read, write and do maths helps children do much BETTER in other areas.

    What good are books, websites, instructions etc on any other subject – for those children who can’t read?

  12. Difficult to transfer the principles of tool use to everyday problems???

    For many of us, tool use is everyday.

    Not everyone works by transferring paper from one side of a desk to the other.

    And the funny idea you can do design without a good understanding of tools and materials definitely came from academia.

    In fact one of NZ’s problems at the moment is way too many paper shufflers and bean counters and a distinct shortage of practical “tool users”. (I include engineers, technicians and designers as well as builders and fitters)
    Exacerbated of course because the paper shufflers do not think “tool users” are worth paying.

    Turning Technology into a branch of social studies is not helping the many who are good at, needed, practical skills.

  13. Kerry, the technology curriculum supports both the practical and the academic. http://www.techlink.org.nz/Case-studies/Classroom-practice/Materials/index.htm
    The old “manual” days involved children following instructions and all creating the same outcome, while learning the practical skills of tool use was useful but it was difficult to translate those skills to everyday problems. If technology loses its practical focus it is not the fault of the curriculum or the “academics” but the lack of PD to support teachers’.

    My experience of Technology academics was a positive one and their focus is hugely practical, as can be seen from the site i have linked to. I see the technology curriculum as hugely useful in connecting children with the materials and technologies of today and developing the creative and problem solving skills we will need in the future. Technology combines the knowledge of multiple learning areas and provides wonderful contexts for learning and the fact it has been sidelined through the introduction of National Standards is appallingly short sited.

    The other issue that hasn’t been brought up much is the fact that new Zealand has the largest difference in achievement between boys and girls than most other countries. This crazy push for numeracy and literacy without always providing a context or purpose for learning them that will engage boys is a concern. When I started teaching I taught 5-6 year olds and there was a high level of “developmental” activities provided, this largely involved making and creating. New entrant classes now have much higher levels of sitting at tables doing literacy and numeracy activities with pencils and paper.

  14. Finally back in broadband range.

    Second Sprout in the last two.

    Is there any NACT stupidity that Photo does not support?

    But. If you are one of those responsible for trying to turn Technology from a practical to an academic subject, to suit university academics narrow views of the subject. Shame on you.

  15. I am sorry to say Photonz1 that your enthusiastic support of National Standards is indeed following the Chinese system of focussing assessment on literacy and numeracy. If you support the teaching of the broad curriculum then you can’t support National Standards and the manner in which it is being implemented. All other curriculum advisors have been sacked and schools have been told that the assessments that will be used to compare schools and teacher performance are those involving literacy and numeracy. Already our declining results in science are causing concern.

  16. Photonz1-Since Prof Nicholson is the only academic that supports National Standards or understands how they can be simply managed then why isn’t he being used to assist teachers to make them work? You saw the Standard that I copied here Photonz1 and as a constant supporter of the standards and as someone who appears to claim an understanding better than most teachers I was expecting your own explanation.

    As someone with 30 years experience in teaching, management and curriculum design I can’t see how these can be moderated effectively between schools and teachers. The learning progressions that the Standards were developed from were very useful for teachers to have a more detailed understanding of where children were in their learning and how to support them in the future but to use the same broad and fairly arbitrary OTJ approach as a method to ascertain and compare school performance is completely nonsensical. To also turn this into “high stakes” assessment will only further corrupt the data as has already been shown through Martin Thrupp’s research.

    Your constant claim that we need National Standards to properly report to parents is also bizarre because many schools were able to report well without the Standards (half of them according to your statistics) and when I had a leadership role in a school I made sure parents were aware of how their child was performing in relation to their age and in plain english. I actually agree with you that using the curriculum levels to report to parents was confusing, but we didn’t have to change the assessment system, just how we report.

  17. sprout asks two questions
    – “Try and explain this “non technical” National Standard to parents…?”
    – “…can you explain to me how this “standard” can produce consistent assessments across the country and can provide accurate data to compare schools? ”

    Professor Nicholson answers both of these.

    “At the moment schools use many tests, all quite different from each other and with no clear indication that a result on one is similar to a result on another.

    “The standards give very clear examples of the level of text that a pupil reading at that standard should be able to read accurately and comprehend.”

    He says there will be some variance among schools in making assessments of the standards, but the exemplars are very clear and, if faithfully done, should give comparable results across schools.

    “Teachers already have the expertise to use the standards. The materials and expectations are very familiar – they are part of the curriculum. Teachers do this assessment all the time.”

    He says parents will get more clarity from school reports. “The new reports will say straight up, whether their child meets the standard, and will avoid ambiguities and vague comments.

    “A child’s reading results are currently expressed in jargon, like stanines, percentiles, curriculum levels, or scores like 2B, 3P, etc. Math levels can be even harder to fathom. National standards will avoid this. If the reports are clear, then parents will be able to understand the situation and do something about it.”

    Which will be a big improvement from the situation before standards, when ERO reaeearch showed HALF of all schools failed to adequately report childrens progress to parents.

    Incredible that anyone defends a situation that was a total shambles in HALF of NZ schools.

  18. Noun 1. the likes of – a similar kind;

    Photonz1 – you’re a dill. Bsprout said, “The likes of photonz1 want to blah, blah”, not “Photonz1 wants to…”

    You ego-centricity is getting in the way of your ability to debate.

  19. sprout fabicates a position, then lies that it is one I have taken – quote “and the likes of Photonz1 want to follow Hong Kong, and other countries ranked beneath, us and focus on the 3Rs only.”

    I’ve never advocated following Hong Kong.

    I’ve never advocated focusing on the 3Rs only.

    In fact, I’ve never even advocated changing the primary school curriculum.

    sprout – sometimes you just make up complete bullshit, then lie about it being someones position.

  20. My concern, being the mother of a boy with xyy, i.e. an extra y chromosome, unlike other chromosonal abnormalities, his maths and science knowledge/ability above average, but the focus even in these subjects, is becoming even more English/essay based, which is his down-fall.

    His Science teacher of last year considered him to be top of the class, despite his disappointing results via the exam…and offered to tutor him, free of charge, as she is that convinced he has the potential to go on to great things, despite being unable to get his ideas down on paper in the allotted time.

    Let’s not forego the males of the future, just ‘cos they can’t express themselves as prettily as some others out there.

  21. Andrew, I know in the case of my children that unless they experience a learning area they have no idea what may be involved and whether it is something they would like to continue with. It is important to provide a broad education of children when they are young to open their horizons, specialization can occur when they are older. I feel strongly about that the holistic approach taken by our current curriculum is the way to go.

  22. sprout:

    I’m a huge fan of science and technology, and science based education is where I believe tertiary education should be focused (other vocational training should be mostly on the job), but it should be voluntarily accessed by students, in my view. It’s always the guys with an inherent interest in the field that go further with it anyway.

  23. I had some involvement as part of the writing team that put together the Technology document. Surely this learning area is an important one to engage with if we want New Zealand to take a lead in the development of new technologies. However advisors have been sacked, professional development for this learning area is limited and the likes of Photonz1 want to follow Hong Kong, and other countries ranked beneath, us and focus on the 3Rs only.
    http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-documents/The-New-Zealand-Curriculum/Learning-areas/Technology
    Accountants and report writers will do little to lift our economy.

  24. greenfly:

    Structure is of course a critical part of learning (especially for when you’re explaining tricky concepts). But structure can be employed between individuals external to a formal institutional setting. I suggest you look at Sudbury Valley School, in America. It’s a good example of a true student-centered format.

    Also my utopian education ideal is indeed a pipe-dream. I don’t know if it will ever happen. Our government would want to move more in the opposite direction, i.e building kids to *their* order.

    sprout:

    I agree that some things *must* be learned, such as the three r’s, because they are too fundamental to functioning in our society.

    In my view the government should have an ‘innocent until proven guilty’ relationship to this: Only interfere with possible compulsions, for any given problem case, when clearly necessary. This is where I see the right role for the government. That is, to leave people be but also to check for real problems, and to respond only when they find them.

  25. “sprout says “Not all of the schools he has used were against the Standards.”

    That was my point. His explaination was that anybody who liked the standards, only said that because they could gain political advantage by saying it – effectively he accused everybody who says they like NS of telling lies.”

    Did I?

    “Some schools were not reporting at all, and of those that were, 98% of children were getting positive reports for acheivement, and many wer reporting on technical achievement levels that meant nothing to parents.”

    Really?

    Try and explain this “non technical” National Standard to parents, Photonz1, I really wonder if you have any understanding at all about what you are supporting:

    The reading standard

    By the end of year 6, students will read, respond to, and think critically about texts in order to meet the reading demands of the New Zealand Curriculum at level 3. Students will locate, evaluate, and integrate information and ideas within and across a small range of texts appropriate to this level as they generate and answer questions to meet specific learning purposes across the curriculum. The text and task demands of the curriculum are similar for students in year 5 and year 6. The difference in the standard for year 6 is the students’ increased accuracy and speed in reading a variety of texts from across the curriculum, their level of control and independence in selecting strategies for using texts to support their learning, and the range of texts they engage with. In particular, by the end of year 6, students will be required to read longer texts more quickly than students in year 5 and to be more effective in selecting different strategies for different reading purposes.

    Key characteristics of texts that students read at this level

    The texts that students use to meet the reading demands of the curriculum at this level will often include:

    abstract ideas, in greater numbers than in texts at earlier levels, accompanied by concrete examples in the text that help support the students’ understanding
    some ideas and information that are conveyed indirectly and require students to infer by drawing on several related pieces of information in the text
    some information that is irrelevant to the identified purpose for reading (that is, some competing information), which students need to identify and reject as they integrate pieces of information in order to answer questions
    mixed text types (for example, a complex explanation may be included as part of a report)
    sentences that vary in length and in structure (for example, sentences that begin in different ways and different kinds of complex sentences with a number of subordinate clauses)
    a significant amount of vocabulary that is unfamiliar to the students (including academic and content-specific words and phrases), which is generally explained in the text by words or illustrations
    figurative and/or ambiguous language that the context helps students to understand
    illustrations, photographs, text boxes, diagrams, maps, charts, and graphs that clarify or extend the text and may require some interpretation.
    Such texts will include both fiction and non-fiction in electronic and print media. They may be published individually, for example, as junior novels or information texts, or they may appear in collections, such as the School Journal or other journals and magazines for this age group. Such collections often include poems, plays, stories, and procedural texts.

    Photonz1-This is little different to the useful learning progressions that already existed for teachers, but can you explain to me how this “standard” can produce consistent assessments across the country and can provide accurate data to compare schools? If you can answer this easily then we can get you to travel the length of the country and explain it to the rest of us.

  26. Here’s a way to massively improve our children’s educational achievement without costing a cent or changing a thing.

    Simply read to your kids regularly in the first year or two of school and they’ll have massively higher scores when theya re fifteen.

    And that happens regardless of if a family is rich or poor.
    http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/4/1/49012097.pdf

    Where we have a really big difference is for every one kid dropping out of school in Finland, we have three. And for every one teenage girl having a baby in Finland, we have four.

    And poor uneducated young mothers (often single) are on average not going to give their kids the start in life that that kids get from an educated financially and emotionally secure couple.

    But unfortuantely our system and culture make getting pregnant and going on the DPB teh MOST attractive option for many young girls.

  27. greenfly “Oh, Lordy! Wilful ignorance really creeps me out!”

    After looking at a report on National Standards by someone who has campaigned against them, the result was as predictable as a guessing whether a greenfly post will contain abuse.

  28. sprout says “Not all of the schools he has used were against the Standards.”

    That was my point. His explaination was that anybody who liked the standards, only said that because they could gain political advantage by saying it – effectively he accused everybody who says they like NS of telling lies.

    The other reasons I’m so dismissive of Thrupp’s research is because

    1/ He had awell publicised attitude against National Standards before he started his research.

    2/ His report dismisses anything positive, and exagerates everything negative. (in his section on how NS motovate children, he could find only negative aspects on motovation and nothing positive).

    3/ Reading his report, it’s so overly one sided that it’s obvious he’s had a predetermined conclusion before he even started.

    4/ In his research from parents, he included just four fathers – that’s not even one per school.

    Considering one of the main aims of National Standards is to get parents more involved, his research on whether this part of NZ successful or not it pitiful. How can you get a reliable assessment of if standards are getting parents more involved when you survey only 0.6 of a father per school?

    Getting someone who is adamantly and publically against National Standards to research them, then trying to claim it is legitimate research, is laughable.

    That’s like commissioning a union to do research on pay and conditions at Ports of Auckland, then trying to claim it’s credible unbiased research.

    And you seem to forget sprout, that reporting to parents has been a real mess. Some schools were not reporting at all, and of those that were, 98% of children were getting positive reports for acheivement, and many wer reporting on technical achievement levels that meant nothing to parents.

  29. “sprout says “Martin Thrupp’s qualitative research …… is worth a read.”

    Not really.”

    Oh, Lordy!

    Wilful ignorance really creeps me out!

  30. Sadly, Photonz1, your attitude to Martin’s research is the reason why National Standards will ultimately fail. I would never say that anything National does should be ignored as having no value and even when National Standards was introduced it wasn’t dismissed out of hand by the profession. Perhaps you don’t remember but the first response from teachers and school BOTs was concern around the manner of the implementation and the lack of a robust trial.

    The only way educational change can reasonably progress is when there is collaboration between the government, ministry and the profession. To dictate and bully does not engender a positive response or willingness to engage. The many Boards of Trustees who felt using NS to set school targets would not serve their children well they were told that the Ministry would talk through the issues and reassure them of their validity. The Ministry attempted this initially but they couldn’t answer the many questions or concerns effectively, so they gave up and bullied the rest into compliance.

    Martin’s work has to follow accepted research protocols and withstand peer review if you reject his research outright it is a pity because at no stage does he attempt to prove that the Standards are bad but explain the reality of the implementation and track the experiences of schools as they do so. Not all of the schools he has used were against the Standards.

    I am more than happy to read any research that you can produce, Photonz1, on the success of the implementation.

  31. sprout says “Right leaning governments and the likes of Photonz1 cannot accept that teaching and learning is complex and that children vary immensely in how they learn ”

    Sprout – you get an “F” for comprehension.

    I’ve argeued strongly that we need charter schools because we have so many kids who do not benefit from main stream education.

    sprout says “Martin Thrupp’s qualitative research …… is worth a read.”

    Not really. When an anti-National Standards union commissions a report into National Standards from an anti-National Standards advocate, you can guess the outcome without even reading the report.

    Anybody who is positive about National Standards, is dismissed as doing so merely to gain some (unknown) political advantage.

  32. Andrew’s utopian education system is not going to be implemented in New Zealand this century, save in some tiny, temporary enclave. Bsprout is correct in his assessment of National’s ignorant erosion of what was a pretty good go at an education system that can produce intelligent New Zealanders. Photonz1’s shilling for any and every fool idea that National proposes is transparently shallow ideological pish and should be mocked for it’s craven lack of substance.

  33. Andrew you make some strong arguments and I don’t disagree with much that you say. As a teacher myself I know that teaching and learning does not come from a vacuum and the most successful learners bring a wealth of personal experience to the process. My own children are successful academically largely because we believe in providing rich experiences an opportunities at home. Neither were pushed into reading and writing before starting school but imaginative play, creating stuff and visiting interesting environments were important to us. Not only did our children pick up reading quickly but their comprehension was strong because they could relate what they read to things they had experienced themselves.

    I would never say that our education system is perfect but we were in the process of shifting from a previous curriculum that had very specific, age related, achievement objectives that unintentionally narrowed learning opportunities to things that could be measured. Our new Curriculum largely moved away from that and many believe the remaining achievement objectives should be removed entirely. If you read the vision and values of our current curriculum and what is described as effective pedagogy I think it is not that far removed from your own beliefs. The early childhood curriculum “Te Whariki” probably encapsulates your thinking even more. You may be interested in my views here too: http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/education-at-its-best.html

    Right leaning governments and the likes of Photonz1 cannot accept that teaching and learning is complex and that children vary immensely in how they learn and what rate they learn and to try and define progress or success on narrow criteria hugely problematic.

    I do disagree with your suggestion that it is not the place of schools to determine the learning needs of children. There are some useful things that children need to know to function well in our society and it has to be taught. What we don’t want to do is overly prescribe what should be learnt and how it should be assessed. Providing rich learning environments and relevant contexts will enable children to room to explore ideas and come up with their own pathways and solutions. A Hong Kong teacher visiting here was impressed that our children are encourage to explore their own ideas and thought that the art created by New Zealand children was wonderfully creative (in the classes she visited) as they were all different, whereas in Hong Kong the children are afraid to create what they want and wait for instructions on what they should do.

    We have a curriculum that could deliver a wonderful education system but it has been seriously kneecapped by this government.

  34. I’m with Andrew, kind-of…
    Straight-jacketting children can be viewed negatively, but it ain’t necessarily so. I’m always mindful of William Shakespeare, who’s best work took the format of the sonnet – surely the most restrictive of all writing ‘forms’. There is a place for restriction, constriction and suppression – they can stimulate genius, as well as dampen it. I want to ask you, Andrew, whether you know of any systems of learning where experience is transferred to the inexperienced without some sort of rules-framework.

  35. Sprout:

    Thank you, but we are actually having different conversations.

    We will have an education “system” where schools can respond to the needs of students when we realise that it is not our place to determine what those needs even are.

    Correct me if this is wrong, but in New Zealand everyone must bow down to what the MoE ultimately demands. We all have to conform to the governments idea of good education – we have to develop of what *they* believe we should develop, with choice the is ultimately state-prescribed.

    I’m not talking about scoring points on tests. I’m talking about letting kids and ultimately society develop naturally.

    In my view, this article of mine gets to the core of what schools really are.

    http://andrewatkin.blogspot.co.nz/2011/10/do-schools-bribe-people-out-of-their.html

  36. Andrew, our New Zealand Curriculum recognizes that children develop at different rates and have different pathways to learning. The New Zealand Curriculum also provides schools to develop their own curriculum that recognizes the community in which they are based and the contexts for learning that would resonate best. I have even heard those with some knowledge of education within the National Party caucus admit that testing children in the first years of primary schooling has no value.

    Teacher appraisals, ERO and NEMP provide ample checks on school and teacher performance and the Ministry’s Best Evidence research provides excellent information around good practice. The testing that Photonz1 keeps referring to is just one flawed measure that provides inaccurate data with little qualitative support to inform where support may be needed. If there is concern about the quality of teaching or education then it is high quality professional development and targeted support for children with high needs that will really make a difference.

    A recent delegation to Finland actually found that New Zealand’s curriculum and teaching practice was superior and the real factor that contributed to our different outcomes was the high levels of poverty in New Zealand and the cultural diversity that we have. Our model for education is actually sound but this government is determined to impose many things onto teachers that distract them from good teaching and learning.

  37. What this article forgot to include – and this applies to ALL state models – is the prescription:

    “And the childs developmental agenda shall be defined by the state”.

    You just can’t do it. You can’t even begin to ask the questions around whether the state has the right to control child development, or whether child development should even be institutionalised, etc. These are the REAL questions.

    Schooling is like religion. If you were the only one who believed in it then you would be seen as a total nut case. Alas, it’s hard to escape a universally embraced and relentlessly reinforced religion, no matter how bizarre it may be.

    Here is the right model for modern education:

    http://andrewatkin.blogspot.co.nz/2010/11/education-new-model.html

  38. “The irony is, that the only way we can tell if countries education systems (like that of Finland) work better than others, is if we test the pupils, using a test that is standard across all the countries we compare.”

    Irony? Drivel more like. All countries are not the same, photonz1, though in your simplified, one-size-fits-all world, it probably seems that they are. Circumstances are so very different between say, Haiti and Sweden, that only a mug would demand that the same test be applied to the two by way of comparison. Needs are different, outcomes are different, cultures are different but you plug on with your ‘international standards’ hoohaa, but it’s as bjchip says, failing right wing ideology. Makes any thinking person sick.

  39. Photonz

    It’s how we measure what countries systems best work for pupils, what methods work best for pupils, what schools work best for pupils, and what teachers work best for pupils.

    No, that principle doesn’t migrate downwards the way you think it does.

    It is easy enough to at the end of the challenge, looking at the international standardized tests which gauge COUNTRIES.

    That this does not apply to the students and teachers WITHIN the country in the same manner, is quite clear by examining the methods used inside Finland.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Why-Are-Finlands-Schools-Successful.html?c=y&page=2

    There are no mandated standardized tests in Finland, apart from one exam at the end of students’ senior year in high school. There are no rankings, no comparisons or competition between students, schools or regions. Finland’s schools are publicly funded….

    Countries can’t compete on education except in terms of their intake of international students…

    You want the best teachers, raise pay. Raise requirements for becoming a teacher and when you have 10 applicants for every seat in University leading into the profession you compete THAT. You don’t compete the schools, the teachers or the students.

    I am sick of right wing ideology at this point. It fails this country at every turn but it is applied to everything regardless.

  40. A good point Catherine. Neither National or Labour are offering anything inspirational. National seems to think our current education system is broken when it is world class and the reasons behind the 20% ‘tail’ are complex enough that national standards are going to have diddly squat effect. In Labours case they do not seem to offer anything new.

    I would be interested to know how effective you feel the Finnish system would be in New Zealand given that Finland has a far more homogeneous society than NZ (not that there is any problem with cultural diversity, it just presents a diffrent set of challenges).

  41. The irony is, that the only way we can tell if countries education systems (like that of Finland) work better than others, is if we test the pupils, using a test that is standard across all the countries we compare.

    Without a test that is the same scross every country, we’d have no idea of what works best, and we’d have no idea if Finland’s methods really worked better, or were actually worse, than any other country.

    It’s how we measure what countries systems best work for pupils, what methods work best for pupils, what schools work best for pupils, and what teachers work best for pupils.

    It’s exactly the sort of information that’s needed to compare and improve thing across all areas.

  42. What a radical difference in Finland.

    All our poorly performing teachers in NZ would never even make it into the sytem in Finland in the first place.

    But here we protect them and hide them away in the system, and abuse anyone who suggests teachers performance should be judged.

  43. In Finland teachers are respected, have high status and their qualifications are at Masters level.

    In New Zealand the status and respect for teachers is being deliberately undermined. The importance of qualifications has been reduced with only 80% of early childhood teachers needing to be qualified and teachers being trained on the job is considered acceptable. Teacher consultation and collaboration with the introduction of major educational change is actively discouraged and most advisors have been sacked. Larger classes are being proposed because the Government believes they can save money without any impact on teaching and learning. Despite the the planned cuts in funding New Zealand already spends a lower percentage of GDP on education than most OECD countries. 80% of our children do as well or better educationally than most children in the world and the majority of those who struggle come from homes attempting to survive beneath the poverty line.

    As Catherine makes clear there are elements in the Finnish model that deserve attention, especially when they are ranked above us internationally. Why the government is introducing systems that have failed or provided mixed results from countries ranked well below us in international assessments is beyond all rational explanation.

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