National have two flagship education policies which they have been pushing since 2008. A great deal of public money has been spent on both. Charter schools and National Standards are central to their strategy of supporting education as a business opportunity and focusing on measurement and assessment rather than learning. Both these policies have serious educational problems as well as political. Charters were sold as the chance for marginalised students to receive extra opportunity and National Standards were promoted to parents as clear information on the progress of their child.
Charter School evaluations poor
The evaluations so far show that Charter Schools lack innovation and have not always managed to reach the most vulnerable (see Whangaruru School). That is despite the government spending, on average, triple the money per student compared to state schools. Some Charters have good NCEA results, as do many state schools and kura kaupapa dedicated to best practice. There is some confusion as to where National and ACT Party are going next with this policy as the quality of applicants for these schools has been patchy to say the least. Hence, they set up a specially funded half a million dollar trust to promote them to business.
National Standards reporting unclear
The 5 year study of National Standards revealed that nearly 50% of parents found the reporting unclear and that the standards are neither national nor standard. Of course, teacher judgements on the child’s achievements will vary but the media has constructed league tables of schools and performance based on these unreliable results. The whole palaver needs to be dumped and the broad curriculum restored.
International support for Green Party
International education expert Dr Yong Zhao, who visited Aotearoa this month, affirmed the Green Party’s view of National Standards. We had an inspiring conversation about broadening curricula and encouraging the creativity, entrepreneurship and talent of all students. We agree with Dr Zhao that the world needs people who are independent thinkers and collaborators not experts in passing tests. Education can be exciting and inspiring rather than a dull grind for kids and a competitive nightmare inside a narrow framework for schools.