Thursday, April 27, 2023

Michael Johnston: Save our schools - solutions for New Zealand's education crisis

This manifesto draws on the body of research compiled at The New Zealand Initiative over the past decade to bring together a coherent plan to improve our education system, and to restore it to a place of international pre-eminence.

New Zealand’s once world-leading school education system is in a state of deep malaise. Objective international measures show an ongoing decline in key achievement areas, including literacy, numeracy and science. Too many students are leaving school ill-prepared for tertiary study, work and life.

This manifesto lays out the many problems besetting the system – from the Education and Training Act to curriculum and qualifications to teacher training and remuneration to educational monitoring, evaluation and research. Policy solutions for each of these problems are also presented.


Some of the most significant proposals in the report include:

1. Introducing a new, knowledge-rich curriculum centred on literacy, numeracy, and disciplinary subjects.

2. Redesigning the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) to encourage more coherent teaching and reduce superficial learning.

3. Reforming initial teacher education (ITE) to focus on effective teaching methods based on the science of human information processing, sound curriculum knowledge, and formative assessment literacy.

4. Introducing a performance-based career structure for teachers, with promotions based on professional standards.

5. Enabling schools to hire professionals without teaching qualifications and streamlining the process for hiring international teachers.

6. Expanding the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA).

7. Refocusing the core research function of the NZCER on large-scale quantitative, generalisable research on teaching and learning.

Click image to read the PDF report

Dr Michael Johnston has held academic positions at Victoria University of Wellington for the past ten years. He holds a PhD in Cognitive Psychology from the University of Melbourne. This article was published HERE


Robert Arthur said...

8 Adopt streaming and failure to level so teachers are faced with manageable classes with all pupils all at a similar level

9 Drop the obsession with maori promotion and matters maori. This will release time and effort and attract able objective teachers not discouraged by the prospect of a work lifetime of endless maori twaddle.

10 Communicate with the public and parents in plain English. Ban words like pedagogy.

Anonymous said...

There are a few recommendations missing:
1. Removing the current sex education ideology and replacing it with science-based biological facts so children are not being indoctrinated into this repugnant and preposterous idea that sex is not binary, ‘men can get pregnant’ and ‘women sometimes have penises’. It isn’t, they can’t and they don’t.
2. Reverting the school board criteria back to half male and half female - ones personal sex life and preferences, provided is it between consenting adults, has no relevance to school board appointments.
3. Ensure science is based on science, not indigenous myths.
4.Keep professional development to a minimum. Teachers need to be in school teaching.
5. Remove the open plan/free for all digital focused teaching. Kids need to sit desks with pen and paper and learn the basics.

Anonymous said...

11. Or Home school.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

I have read this document with a great deal of interest. On the whole, it resonates well with me. Just a couple of points, though........

The proposals do not address the institutional structure of schooling. A weakness of the British model shared by NZ is that all post-primary schooling tends to occur under one roof. Compare this with the continental European model in which primary, lower secondary and upper secondary are separate institutions. Curricular , assessment and teacher issues for the three are commensurately different. The adoption of a 3-tier schooling structure would be a major step towards solving most of the problem issues identified in this document. With regard to curriculum, we move from a common core at the lower end to a flexible multistrand curricular structure ate the upper end. With regard to teachers, specialised academic qualifications necessarily become more important at the top end. With regard to assessment, the functions thereof very obviously undergo a sea change between lower and upper secondary.

Minor quibbles:

All constructivism is tarred with the same brush. However, a distinction needs to be made between cognitive constructivism and social constructivism. The former deals with the way in which people learn. It is good sound psychology. The latter is the PC bullshit version.

The proposed assessment system whereby all assessments both internal and external are marked by NZQA panels is cumbersome and hideously expensive. It's over the top. It is enough for samples of internal assessments and student work to be submitted to NZQA for moderation.

Withholding assessment results fails to recognise the formative nature of in-course testing. Formative tests still need to count towards a final score or kids won't take them seriously, so keep it low.

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

PS to my above comment:

Another major issue not engaged by the document (hence I missed it first time) is that of the role of continuing professional development for teachers through in-service. The highly successful Asian systems such as Japan lead the way here. As opposed to the ramshackle nature of in-service provision in most locations, in-service is an integral - and mandatory - part of a teacher's professional life, and is coordinated by the Universities of Education and the Ministry.