Monday, December 6, 2010

Allan Peachey: You be the judge!

I am going to do something a little bit different for this edition of “Breaking Views”. I am going to report on two things I came across while overseas recently, one from the United States and the other from the United Kingdom. I shall report on them without comment and allow readers to draw their own conclusions or make up their own minds.

United States

A report called “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” was released to Senators and Congress members recently. The Report claimed that stagnant scientific education was putting at risk United States economic leadership. The Report found that there had been little improvement in United States elementary and secondary education in science and technology since 2005. The Report identified three things which if allowed to continue would put America on a perilous path:

• US K–12 education in mathematics and science ranks 48th in the world (that is from kindergarten to end of secondary school);
• 49% of US adults don’t know how long it takes the earth to circle the sun;
• China has replaced the United States as the world’s top high technology exporter.

To put it another way, if US students matched those of Finland, the US economy would grow 9 – 16%.

Two things seem to be happening. One is that US school achievement scores have been stagnating. The second is that other nations are making gains.

I said I wasn’t going to comment but I will to the extent that I will draw attention to the article I wrote some weeks ago drawing attention to the importance of science to democracy!

United Kingdom

On this I will make no comment and leave it to you to draw whatever conclusions you choose.

This was the headline in a British newspaper “Poor behaviour holds back black pupils not racism. Black academic says children are disrespectful”. The black academic is a guy called Tony Sewell. Sewell is director of a charity called Generating Genius which aims to target 60 poor Afro-Caribbean children over four years to get them into university.

Here are some quotes from Sewell, as reported by the British media:
  • “Black children do badly at school not through racism, but because they do not pay attention and have little support from parents.”
  • “They fail their exams because they do not do their homework and are disrespectful.”
  • “What we now see in schools is children undermined by poor parenting, peer group pressure and an inability to be responsible for their own behaviour.”
  • “They are not subjects of institutional racism. They have failed their GCSEs (exams) because they did not do the homework, did not pay attention, and were disrespectful.”
  • “School leaders see such children as victims because they did not want to appear racist. That attitude has filtered through to the children themselves. This is desperate and patronising.”
New Zealand

And that was going to be that. Until … I got back to New Zealand and saw the headline “Schools in gun over Māori failure rate”. Apparently the Education Review Office (WHO?) had reported “many schools are not demonstrating sufficient commitment to ensuring achievement of Māori students”. And the Māori Party co-leader was being quoted that the report revealed a “crisis of failure” in schools.

However, I must stay true to my statement in the first paragraph of this article! And so instead of my own comment let me share with you a note from an old man who corresponds with me from time to time. I have never personally met him but I guess he must be one of the oldest surviving secondary school inspectors, a breed abolished in 1989, and as I have written in a previous article, much needed today.

Judge for yourself:

“The recent ERO report suggests extra money be spent to help Māori children ‘achieve better’ than they are at present doing. The Government seems set to allocate large sums for this purpose.”

“If these ERO people had bothered to survey the history of Māori education and levels of achievement they might have; firstly realised that throwing extra funds at this problem has proved quite fruitless, and, secondly, that some other approach is needed. Their ‘solution’ will prove to be useless.”

“Almost since the Education Act was introduced, and through the 20th century successive governments have given priority to the education of Māori children. Māori schools were given extra funding, extra teachers, supplied with materials direct from a special branch of the Education Department, which administered all Māori schools direct from Wellington and not via Education Boards. Māori children, far from being neglected, were given priorities in all aspects of their education.”

“Why did this not produce the desired results over all these years? I would suggest that a study of the work and results of some dedicated Māori private schools ….. might give a hint of what is needed. The answer does not lie in the schools themselves but rather in the families of the students. These students came from families that believed in the need of sound education, and often made large sacrifices to get their children to one of these schools. The resulting attitude of the young students was one of dedication to hard work and effort to please their family members. It was the family support and drive which produced the very good results that these schools obtained. It certainly was not extra cash from a beneficent government. Rather the reverse.”


Anonymous said...

Your elderly friend is right of course.

Throwing huge amounts of money at a particular group is not going to change their mean IQ.

If so , what about the Euro/ Asian gap?
Whay are we not worried about the gap between European achievement and that of Asians in NZ?

It is Ok to say that some groups have an advantage in maths and science and general concientiousness and family support, and this is put down to 'culture', whereas the elephant in the room, which is never spoken of in public discourse, is the fact that there are mean IQ differences between groups.

Everyone knows this, except the Edukashun Dept, so riddled with marxist social engineers, they will use yours and my taxes untill the numbers are made to look good. This will never happen, until a more pragmatic approach to streaming students into productive skills-based learning, rather than encouraging everyone to take useless social science degrees.
The city (Auckland) is already very much self- segregated, because of property values a decile one/two school is pretty much set as is a decile 9/10 school.
It is the decile 4-6 schools where the real flux and change is taking place, the areas especially where you will find very talented students of all races from struggling families.

Meanwhile the leftist elites who run education policy in NZ pontificate and finger-wag to the rest of us, so easy when they have their children safely ensconced in decile 10 schools.

Ex Leftist.

Anonymous said...

I also read the article from the Education review office, their answer "throw more money at the problem" I can't believe, is is it a case these PC idiots don't want to believe the truth.
Its not as though Maori and Pacific Island children don't have the ability, its factors like over 70% are born in to single and often very young also uneducated parents. Its the high level of Drug and Booze in these homes, its the high level of Violence, its the near total lack of educational material in these homes and no encouragement from the parents or elders. Throw in an expectancy of welfare and the gimme attitude and we have the perfect storm and only ourselves to blame.

Anonymous said...

The education system fails less academic children by missing the opportunity to instill good reading ,writing and simple arithmetic skills by age 12. It goes on disadvantaging them by missing the opportunity to lead them into trade skills. There is a need to value and recognise trade skills far more. Boys should be taught phonetically rather than by whole words.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago I taught in a remote Maori school. The teacher pupil ratio was very generous - there were fourteen children in my Standards 1-3 class as contrasted with class sizes of thirty-five pupils in later schools.

I was fortunate enough to have a Principal who left me to get on with the job and with parents who may not have had much education themselves but who wanted a better chance for their children. The teacher was the boss, the teacher was in charge and they trusted me to do my best for their children.

In my class there were academic and non academic children but, if the teaching was presented in a way they could understand, they settled down and felt secure.

Every morning a small groups of my pupils came into the classroom before the start of school and started on the work on the blackboard. Some of their younger siblings stood at the door and commented that they were lucky to have all that work.

Compared to the later PC disruptions and bandwagons this was a golden age of teaching.

Why can't we have a system where teachers can teach and willing pupils can learn? Why should poorly behaved pupils be allowed to disrupt teaching and learning? This issue has never really been faced up to by the armchair educators. We would be better off being shot of them. In my opinion they have caused significant damage to the learning of children.

They remind me of the armchair generals in World War One who sent thousands of soldiers advancing over open ground to be massacred by artillary and machine guns.

Well, I suppose we can't shoot them but conscripting them into a classroom and inviting them to actually teach children might be a sufficient punishment!

kiki said...

No longer a member of ACT but the answer is the voucher system. Give the money to the child/parent let them choose the school but also let the school choose their students but parents are responsible for children not in schools.

This would have the effect of students having to comply with the rules of the school which would create some discipline and schools that would innovate to catch good students or teach well to make poor performing student achieve higher.

Any children with bad attitudes would find it hard to gain entry but these attitudes are often from the parents and at this point the state or private operators can step in and help both parent and child change their attitude to gain entry to school.

Evan said...

The Education Review Office is most despicable part of the Tomorrow's Schools system. Puffed up plodders from the classroom floor try to foot it with Education professionals doing a real job. They are not truly independent - we can see again here that they carry agendas, they play the politics and they prejudge. The are not auditors as the should be!!

Some of these people WERE probably reasonable teachers in their day - is it just the ERO culture that causes such a radical change of hats? Or are they unsuited to this kind of activity that is not the same as teaching?

Actually I think the ERO's knack of picking winners has not changed greatly since their fateful ranking of Cambridge High School. In fact a poor ERO report can be a predictor of good things for a school.

It would be good to see you DO something about this state of affairs Allan. It has been allowed to go on too long, and now you are in government chairing the committee - get stuck into these mandarins - we will all be cheering.

Anonymous said...

Rather interesting really.

So the National Standards that are supposed to raise the tail of under achievement in years 1-8 are a waste of time for Maori children because they are raised by young, single, boozeheads? What a sweeping generalization from the public. That's great. So we will shunt this awful policy onto all of our kids because National says so. Waste millions in tax payer dollars. Then when the tail continues to underachieve we can all say it is because of the shoddy parenting that those children receive.

As for Science Mr Peachy, that does not come under the three R's so our government does not see it as relevant to our children. You must be mistaken. Perhaps talk to Ms Tolley so she can show you what it takes to get all children to achieve level 2 NCEA and be productive members of our society.

Anonymous said...

Your aged friend is completely correct. As a young sole charge teacher in 1968 I had a friend who was in a designated Maori school and they got a much better deal. Not only did they not have to raise funds for a dollar for dollar subsidy to buy extra things like tape recorders and so on but they got more art points and so could buy more art gear and so on.
I also recall being in a school where I had decided not to use corporal punishment and was taken to task at a PTA meeting by the Maori parents who wanted me to strap their children. Parents are the answer in all education and especially in Maori education Incidentally I also taught on exchange in Canada and found the native american (Indian) parents had a very similar attitude.
The answer is surely in the hands of the Maori Party-what is the bet that they will continue to blame the system.

Bill Courtney said...

There are some good points here and in the comments posted. I will focus on 2: the Science results from the 2009 PISA tests released last week and the observations on family influence v school influence etc.

First, we can take heart here in NZ that our system is still in very good shape, despite this government's great efforts to talk it down. Our 7th placing overall in the PISA Science results puts us right up with the very best. But of the 6 countries or systems ahead of us, no less than 5 were from Asia: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea. Add in the usually top performing Finnish system and you have the top 7. This is a great achievement but the government completely downplayed it. Why? Because the single message you have heard for the past 2 years is how the system is in crisis and only National Standards (and its singular focus on the 3Rs) will save us. Yeah Right!

As for the family factor discussion, I'm still convinced that we are underestimating family influence and not focusing enough on overcoming this problem. The PISA results confirm that there is no overall difference between the results of private and public schools, once adjustment is made for socio-economic status - and these adjustments are made by the OECD and not by each country. New Zealand has seen a significant rise in income inequality over the past 25 years and we are not the egalitarian country we used to be. How do we construct the delivery of our social services, including education, to better direct efforts to help break the low income / welfare dependency trap that we seem to be falling into? I haven't got all the answers but I am convinced this government is not even asking the right questions. Solve the real problem, Mr Peachey, not the symptoms.