Last night Education Minister Hekia Parata issued a media release headlined International studies show changes must be made to improve education outcomes.
Education Minister Hekia Parata says two international research studies on student achievement released tonight confirm that more work must be done to improve our education system.
“While we have a good education system overall there are persistent signs of under-performance. The findings of these studies must serve as a wakeup call. We cannot take for granted that our overall achievement at the senior end of our system can be maintained if we do not improve the system all the way through.
“Unfortunately these results show that we are either standing still or falling behind in reading, maths and science. We must pay urgent attention to what these studies tell us and tackle some system-wide challenges.
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), was completed between November 2010 and October 2011 for Years 5 and 9 and shows marked drops in maths and science achievement, particularly at middle primary school level, and no improvements in reading literacy.
“While we have some high performing children, we have many children who lack basic skills and knowledge, particularly in mathematics and science, compared to children of a similar age in other countries. That is seriously worrying,’’ says Ms Parata.
“These studies indicate that we need to increase our focus on improving teaching quality and leadership. And, as our own research shows we must give particular attention to transitions – when children move from one level of schooling to the next.
“We must ensure that children develop good reading and writing skills from the moment they start school. Given the critical role this has in starting children on the right path it would suggest that our best and most experienced teachers are needed most at this level.
“In the transitions work that our Education Review Office has done they have also identified how important it is to create a successful transition at Year 9 so that the progress to NCEA2 is much more planned and assured.
“We need good, quality data so we can see how a child’s learning is progressing. We are starting to see the benefits of that this year with the first reporting of National Standards data. The data enables us to support all learners and target those who are falling behind much earlier and give them the help they need. We have a five year plan to improve the quality of that data.
“We are also working with schools to better understand and use their data to change the way that teaching occurs when it is clear that what is being done is not working.
“ERO has also identified the importance of using assessments to get better learning – rather than assessment simply to have assessment. National Standards is built on developing consistency and progression and not on a high stakes national test, as happens in other parts of the world.
“Given the disturbing trend reflected in the PIRLS and TIMMS studies it is important that we get on and embed national standards into routine practice.
“We know that the strength of a parent’s involvement with their child and their school makes a very positive difference. It also helps to identify those families that may be struggling and to find the assistance needed from other agencies.
“We need to ensure parents are involved in their child’s learning, that they know what questions to ask teachers and how they can best support their child’s learning.
“We also need Boards of Trustees to ensure that their main focus is on raising student achievement. The changes we are proposing in the Education Amendment Bill will provide more clarity for schools and Boards of Trustees, and ensure children’s needs remain the central focus for our educators.
“We must work with parents, children, teachers, principals, Board of Trustees, the education sector and experts to address the issues raised by this research. We want all our children to leave school with the skills they need to reach their potential in a modern society.”
This is carefully worded.
It acknowledges the good work being done, outlines concerns and accepts that improvements are needed, notes the importance of assessment for better learning rather than assessment for its own sake, recognises the important part parents play in their children’s education and the need for everyone in education to work together to address the issues.
Contrast that reasoned message with this advertisement from the NZEI which appeared in last night’s Oamaru Mail – and presumably other papers:
The Government is imposing standardisation and competition on our primary schools, claiming this will make schools and teachers more accountable.
These failed policies from overseas known as the “Global Education Reform Movement” (GERM) are infecting our schools through the introduction of National Standards, school league tables, charter schools and performance pay for teachers.
New Zealand has a world leading education system. It does better than countries where the GERM has been introduced. When a GERM infection arrives schools and centres get ill and kids learn less.
New Zealand educators have an antidote to the GERM.
We want fair and equitable education for everyone.
We pledge to work together with parents and communities to ensure all our schools are great schools.
And we will continue to work to ensure every child gets the education they need.
To find out more visit http://www.standupforkids.org.nz
Full marks for emotion and confusion (imposing standardisation and offering charter schools?) ; zero for reasoning.
It’s a stark contrast to the reasoned and factual release from the Minister.
That was embargoed until 10 last night. The advertisement appeared in yesterday’s paper which is published in the morning.
Could it be the two are related and the union knew what was coming, or is it just a coincidence?