Need for professional body to speak on education


Karl Du Fresne has worked out what was wrong with Ministry of Education head Lesley Longstone saying New Zealand’s education isn’t world class:

. . . Had she spent more time here, she would understand that only teachers and their unions are allowed to say there’s anything wrong with the education system, and that only they are entitled to define what’s wrong and what’s right. Longstone riled the teachers by drawing attention to the stubbornly high proportion of under-performing Maori and Pacific Island students. Teachers are allowed to highlight this, but only as a way of exposing government failings and condemning inequity in the system. When they are not focusing on the system’s failings, teachers are forever talking up our internationally high achievement rankings (which Longstone acknowledged), for which they like to take credit.

What upsets the teachers when the head of the Ministry of Education brings up the subject of under-achievement is that it threatens to turn the debate in a direction they don’t like. When teachers talk about under-achievement, it’s with a view to leaving the system unchanged but having more money ploughed into it: more teachers at the chalkface, higher pay (to encourage more people to take up the profession) and smaller class sizes. But when Longstone brings the subject up, in the teachers’ eyes it can only be because the government wants to soften us up for some wicked neoliberal experiment such as charter schools.

How much simpler everything would be if we forgot foolhardy alternative ideas and left it to teachers to control the education debate. That’s the natural way of things. The sooner the English interloper comes to terms with this peculiar fact of New Zealand education, the sooner we can all get back to normal.

Doctors have professional bodies which speak on general health matters as distinct from a union which speaks on industrial matters.

When education is in the media it is almost always the union which is quoted, confusing professional matters with industrial ones.

Teachers are badly in need of a professional body which speaks on education without the left-wing industrial bias which reduces the authority of union utterances.


Is it good enough?


New Zealand’s education system isn’t world class.

This is the opinion of Ministry of Education chief executive, Lesley Longstone.

[She] wrote in the ministry’s annual report that New Zealand cannot claim to be world class because Maori and Pasifika children and children from poor communities are underperforming. . .

Not surprisingly teacher unions have gone on the defensive but they’re missing the point.

It doesn’t matter how our education system ranks in the world, what matters is whether it’s good enough.

When one in five leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills and some students who get to university need remedial help it’s not.

The blame for that can’t all be laid on the system or teachers.

If children get to school without pre-reading skills, shift schools often, have insufficient encouragement and support from home and/or don’t have enough food or sleep the best of teachers will struggle to make a difference.

But some children make good progress in spite of the disadvantages they face while others don’t.

What makes the difference?

If the education system was as good as it needs to be it would not only know the answer to that question but how to apply what makes the difference where it’s lacking.



%d bloggers like this: