Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Point of Order: National’s Luxon may be glum about his poll ratings....

....but has he found a winner in promising to raise scholastic achievement?

National Party leader Christopher Luxon may be feeling glum about his poll ratings, but he could be tapping into a rich political vein in describing the current state of education as “alarming”.

Luxon said educational achievement has been declining, with a recent NCEA pilot exposing just how far it has fallen: a staggering two-thirds of students are unable to meet the minimum standard in reading, writing and maths.

“National will not allow this to continue. National will make sure every child leaving primary and intermediate school can master the basics so they can succeed at high school and lead fulfilling lives,” he said.

This is something that will resonate with parents. It follows last week’s strike by tens of thousands of teachers who were demanding – wait for it – better pay and conditions. In forcing the closure of schools across the country, the teachers had apparently little concern for the plight of their pupils.

For some time it has been evident that standards in state schools have been slipping. Blaming it on Covid is too simplistic.

The government spends almost $15 billion on education each year, but the results are highly unequal and slowly declining. This is a problem because it is the fastest-growing demographic groups who are achieving the poorest results, and the 21st century will require more and more skills from workers as technology develops.

Children have a wide range of needs, but NZ’s one-size-fits-all education system has failed to adapt and provide every student with a good education. Too many children are leaving school without the basic skills they need to navigate a rapidly-changing world.

NZ experiences significant educational inequality. It has some of the highest-performing schools and students in the world, but also has a long tail of underachievement in disadvantaged communities.

The Hipkins government is vulnerable on the issue because from 2017 the education portfolio was held by Hipkins himself until he became PM.

So National, in jumping on the issue, intends to hammer it vigorously. It said today the first part of the party’s education policy, Teaching the Basics Brilliantly, would be announced by Luxon tomorrow in Hutt Valley.

The party’s curriculum would detail knowledge and skills that primary and intermediate schools must cover each year in reading, writing, maths and science.

“At the moment, one curriculum level can span several school years, which makes it difficult to identify and help children who are falling behind,” Luxon said.

“Evidence shows children’s abilities are often underestimated and therefore the looseness in the NZ Curriculum means some Kiwi kids are learning the building blocks of reading, writing and maths later than they should.”

Luxon told RNZ National’s changes would bring NZ in line with other western countries.

“For example, in England and Australia, you learn addition and subtraction in year 1. In NZ, it can be anywhere between years 1 to 5. If you’re learning algebra, it’s year 5 in England and Australia but in NZ, it’s anywhere from year 6 to 10.”

Luxon said National would be careful not to narrow the curriculum.

“But I can tell you right now when I see the average 15-year-old in NZ is a year and a half behind where a 15-year-old in NZ was 20 years ago with their knowledge based on maths, that’s a problem.

“When they are three-quarters of a year behind on reading and writing from our own students 20 years ago that were 15, that’s a problem. When we’ve dropped out of all the top 10 countries on maths, reading, and science, and writing, that’s a big problem for NZ.”

He said people needed a lot more than “Labour’s curriculum refresh”.

“We must be more ambitious for our children.

“If NZ wants to turn around declining achievement and ensure every child makes consistent progress, we need a curriculum that provides clear and detailed guidance to teachers and parents on what students should be learning each school year.

“National will deliver that and give every child the opportunity to succeed.”

Luxon said education was critical to unlock a better future for all New Zealanders and to equip the next generation with the skills and knowledge they needed to succeed.

“A world-class education system is essential for driving social mobility, helping break cycles of poverty, and giving every child the chance to live the life they want”.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton



Robert Arthur said...

If they are a year or so behind 20 years ago, how far are they behind my day and my father's day of the 1920s? With just one year of secondary he could handle without aid of decimal system, or a calculator, the arithmetic problmes encountered in a trade. including long division and multiplication. And write an excellent letter. With so many countries doing so much better there should be no need for lengthy pondering of methods. How many of the successful countries devote hours and hours to maori twaddle? And require teachers to more or less devise thier own history teaching? How many progress students irrespective of acheivemnt and mix them with the able, to the detriment of all.
Of course wuth the certainty of a stae house and inflation indexed benefit, there is little incentive to equip for a demanding job.
I trust abolition of the Teaching Council is also part of Luxon's plan, for as it is any effort to change will be thwarted.

Anonymous said...

Is Ms Stanford up to the job? ( Not an experienced educator)

Is Ms Willis up to the job - Finance spokesperson but not qualified in finance. Judith Collins is the tax lawyer - knows the field

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

More woke ideology, more lowering of standards.
The factory owners in the mid-19th century didn't want workers to be able to read as they might pick up subversive (to them) ideas from trade union literature. The woke elite today don't want kids to become proficient readers because they might pick up subversive ideas (to them) from conventional or conservative literature. Plus ca change..........

Anonymous said...

Finally, the woke Luxon is waking up and realising the parlous plight of our education system. I wrote to Ms Stanford (National's spokesperson) many weeks ago about it - the response, silence. It would be great if they achieve something here for, above all else, it is essential this issue is addressed and addressed well. Labour have made an utter pigs breakfast of it and the results are already plain to see. I'm unsure if National will do any better, unless they drop their woke ideology and call out all the nonsense for what it is.