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. Continue reading “National’s Luxon may be glum about his poll ratings but has he found a winner in promising to raise scholastic achievement?”

Letter to the NZ Herald: NCEA pseudoscience – “Mauri is present in all matter”

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  • Nick Matzke writes –  

Dear NZ Herald,

I am a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland. I teach evolutionary biology, but I also have long experience in science education and (especially) political attempts to insert pseudoscience into science curricula in the USA.

I just read the NZ Herald article on mātauranga Māori and NCEA: How mātauranga Māori is being rolled out in schools, Rangi Mātāmua explains the knowledge system.

Unfortunately, I think the NZ Herald is uncritically repeating an overly rosy take from NCEA and the Ministry of Education. At least amongst scientists and science teachers, there has actually been a huge controversy over the NCEA Level 1 Chemistry & Biology draft curriculum. Continue reading “Letter to the NZ Herald: NCEA pseudoscience – “Mauri is present in all matter””

Champion of mātauranga Māori dabbles with a myth: European navigators didn’t fear sailing too close to the Earth’s edge

Dave Armstrong, a columnist for state-subsidised Stuff, went out to bat for mātauranga Māori this week and to remonstrate with Richard Dawkins, the renowned British biologist, science communicator and atheist.

During his recent New Zealand tour, Dawkins had written an article for The Spectator about our government’s decision for Māori “Ways of Knowing” (mātauranga Māori) to have equal standing with “western’ science” in our education curriculum.

Armstrong challenged the renowned scientist’s critique:

Dawkins calls this “ludicrous policy… adolescent virtue-signalling”. Is this a reasonable point or a God-like delusion from an arrogant overseas scientist with little local knowledge?

The columnist’s riposte has not been informed by the concerns of New Zealand scientists and academics about the place of mātauranga Māori in the science classroom, some of them cogently contained in a recent open letter to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

Mind you, Armstrong may well be unaware of the thrust of that letter. Stuff – and other mainstream media – have made no mention of it, perhaps because they needed the space to bring us news about Meghan and Harry.  Continue reading “Champion of mātauranga Māori dabbles with a myth: European navigators didn’t fear sailing too close to the Earth’s edge”

PAUL MOON: Shaping things to come: New Zealand’s new history curriculum

  • Professor Paul Moon writes –

For decades, our secondary school students have been undernourished when it comes to the country’s history, and so the appetising prospect of New Zealand’s history being made compulsory is one that many of us have keenly anticipated.

History is more than a rote-learned chronology that it is sometimes perceived to be. In fact, it is part of the architecture of our identity. And collectively, there can be no true sense of citizenship without a knowledge of history. Dismissing what has gone on before leaves us with little more than a succession of snapshots of the present, with each one deleted as soon as it is seen – a sort of Instagram existence devoid of any greater context.

History is where memory and materiality mingle, and where social and cultural meaning is largely derived from.

What’s in the curriculum and what isn’t?

There is much in the new history curriculum that addresses the current deficit in how we see ourselves, but to an extent, the positives are undermined by some inexplicable failures. The first of these is the content selection. At some point, it seems that the impossibility of addressing everything in a curriculum became a pretext for making some deleterious decisions on topic choice. Continue reading “PAUL MOON: Shaping things to come: New Zealand’s new history curriculum”

Graham Adams: Hipkins’ stealth revolution in education

  • Graham Adams writes – 

The PM’s tenure as Minister of Education has given NZ school students a racialised and unbalanced curriculum.

Even if Chris Hipkins is no longer the Prime Minister after October’s election, his legacy will be locked in for some time.

Chances are it won’t be on account of his role as Prime Minister over the next seven months — or his time as Minister of Police, Minister for Covid-19 Response, Minister for the Public Service, or his brief period as Minister of Health.

It will mainly be the result of his five years as Minister of Education.

Hipkins may, in fact, not even have been the principal architect of the stealthy revolution that has occurred on his watch but it will be seen as his legacy nevertheless because formal power over the education portfolio rested with him from 2017 until he became Prime Minister in January.

Over those years, Hipkins and his ministry have given the nation’s schoolchildren a radical (“decolonised”) history curriculum, which teachers throughout the country have begun implementing this term. “Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories” is now compulsory for schools from Years 1-10, with the subject optional in Years 11-13.

Professor Elizabeth Rata et al: Open Letter to the PM

Professor Elizabeth Rata, a sociologist of education and a professor in the School of Critical Studies in Education at the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland, is the Corresponding Signatory of this open letter to Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

She is one of four academics from three universities who have signed the letter, dated 8 February 2023. 

The letter has been included in an article by Professor Jerry Coyne (which featured in a Point of Order post) headed Proposed New Zealand school curriculum and some strong pushback from four academics. 

The academics wrote: 

Dear Prime Minister Hipkins,

We, the undersigned, draw your attention to two major problems in the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Refresh policy and in the associated NCEA qualification reforms. These problems were created during your tenure as Minister of Education and can only be solved by calling an immediate halt to the radical initiatives causing the problems. Because the matter is of such urgency, this letter is an open one and will be made public.

The first problem is the fundamental change to the purpose of New Zealand education contained in the Curriculum Refresh document, Te Mātaiaho: The Refreshed New Zealand Curriculum: Draft for Testing, September 2022.

The second problem is an effect of the first. It is the insertion into the curriculum of traditional knowledge, or mātauranga Māori, as equivalent to science. Continue reading “Professor Elizabeth Rata et al: Open Letter to the PM”

Jerry Coyne applauds the pushback by academics against the rollout of Govt’s schooling plan to control what we think

Jerry A. Coyne, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, this week published an article headed Proposed New Zealand school curriculum and some strong pushback from four academics.

Not for the first time, he has commented on the reform of New Zealand’s curriculum for secondary schools.

Right now – he points out – the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Education has begun rolling out “proposals,” documents that outline the curriculum area by area.

The Ministry is soliciting comments from the public on these areas, with the intention of implementing a final curriculum by 2026.

The first document, 61 pages long, deals solely with mathematics (including statistics) and English, and has apparently already been subject to comments.

Coyne has provided a link for his readers to click on it if they want to read it.

He warns that the document is heavily larded with untranslated Māori words and phrases.

Continue reading “Jerry Coyne applauds the pushback by academics against the rollout of Govt’s schooling plan to control what we think”

Chris Trotter – Pressure towards the mean: do we really want to abolish streaming?

Political  commentator CHRIS TROTTER writes – 

ABOLISH STREAMING, that is the demand of the Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA). They are not alone in their determination to put an end to the “blatantly racist” practice of grouping secondary-school students according to their intelligence/academic ability. The Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, considers streaming “inequitable” and the Ministry of Education agrees with him.

With forces as powerful as the Minister, the Ministry, and the Union ranged against the practice, its days would appear to be numbered.

 Which leaves New Zealanders with the vexed question of what will happen when streaming is no more? Will their children emerge from the public education system with the skills and qualifications necessary to foot-it in the modern world? Or, will their education be limited to whatever the least engaged and least talented students allow their teachers to impart? Continue reading “Chris Trotter – Pressure towards the mean: do we really want to abolish streaming?”

Govt gets a “fail” mark in Education but (with another $24 million of our money) ministers pledge they will try to do better

    • UPDATE:  Re the above headline.

Jan Tinetti said the government is investing a further $24 million in initiatives to deliver close to 1,000 additional teachers.   

Chris Hipkins said it is putting $20 million into additional teaching and tutoring services.

The grand total:  $44 million….

And here’s our original post:

Yet  another  failure  of the  Ardern  government,  this  time  in  education,   has  surfaced, with  ministers earmarking another $24 million in an effort to  recruit  more  teachers and provide  “extra  support”  for  young  people whose  learning has been disrupted  by  Covid-19.

Earlier  the  government  lowered   the  bar for  NCEA achievement in schools for  the  third  year  running.

Critics  at   that time  said  lowering  the  bar   is  a  natural  response if  you want to  paper over the  cracks rather  than fix  the  actual problem, which is a combination  of low school  attendance,and  acres  of   missed  learning as a  result.

In  the  words of  one  of  these  critics,

“Rather than the inconvenience  of  mobilising a  full-court  press to  help  those  who have  been  missing  out,we  are  to maintain  a facade that  these  students  have  been as   well  educated as  those  from  pre-Covid  years”.

Other  countries have  spent  big  money  on catch-up  learning, arranging  extra  days  of  schooling, or  vouchers for  private  tuition to help students learn  what  they need to learn before they leave school.

Then  there  has  been  the disaster  of  the  polytechnics, where the Ardern government’s move to  centralise the  administration  has   virtually  wrecked  the system, piling  up deficits  at the  same time as rolls  have  fallen.

But none  of  this  can  be  detected   in   the  latest   statement   from  Ministers  Chris  Hipkins  and  Jan  Tinetti.

Point  of  Order produces  the statement  in  full, to enable our readers to appreciate the  irony.

Government investing in 1000 more teachers and student learning affected by COVID-19

      • Hundreds more overseas and domestic teachers to fill workforce gaps
      • Funding for additional teaching and tutoring in schools
      • More targeted Māori and Pacific tutoring and mentoring
      • Additional places on Te Kura’s summer school

The Government is continuing to invest in teachers and students, through a multi-million dollar package to boost teacher supply and provide extra support for young people whose learning has been disrupted by COVID-19, Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti announced today.

“Teacher supply has long been a priority for us. Ensuring we have more teachers is vital to ensure our kids are getting the education they need. There is high international demand for teachers and New Zealand trained teachers are also well received internationally,” Jan Tinetti said.

“This Government has invested heavily in teacher supply initiatives both here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and through recruiting overseas. By investing a further $24m in these initiatives, we plan to deliver close to 1,000 additional teachers – we expect to recruit approximately 700 internationally and 300 domestically.

“Overseas trained teachers have always been a valued part of the workforce; they bring diversity and rich experience to our communities. It’s also the quickest way to get experienced teachers into schools, so we’ll bring in hundreds more through this package. 

“But the long-term goal is to improve the supply of domestic teachers, so we can meet demand when needed. So we are increasing the number of teachers who can train while they are placed in schools, putting more incentives in place to get beginning and returning teachers into hard-to-staff roles and expanding our successful ‘career changer’ scholarships, which are designed to encourage and enable mid-career professionals with valuable life experience to become teachers,” Jan Tinetti said.

“As well as increasing teacher supply, we are also ensuring our young people, whose learning has been disrupted by COVID-19, won’t fall behind,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“We know that young people have missed some crucial time in the classroom throughout the last two and a half years and we need to address the impact of that head-on.

“So we are putting $20 million towards additional teaching and tutoring services. This will include exam preparation, workshops, tutorials and homework, and one-on-one mentoring. We know that schools are best placed to make the best decisions to target the funding where it is needed most,” Chris Hipkins said.

Of this, over $2 million will support programmes designed specifically for Māori and Pacific students, while $17.4 million will help year 7-13 students in schools with greater proportions of young people facing socio-economic challenges to educational achievement, which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

“The Ministry of Education will expand existing community-led programmes across the motu that can target the specific needs of Māori and Pacific NCEA learners in their community,” Jan Tinetti said.

“Altogether, these community-led programmes will be able to help at least 2,245 year 11 to 13 Māori and Pacific learners get extra practical NCEA help during Term 4 this year.

“The Equity Index will be used to weight the rest of the funding, and schools will decide which students are offered the service, drawing on their knowledge of their own learners. The Ministry will also directly purchase additional tutoring and teaching for non-enrolled or at-risk students, to help support them to re-engage with schooling.

“In addition, 500 more Te Kura dual tuition summer school places are being added. This gives students in Years 11 and 12 more time to study over the 2022–2023 summer term to gain those all-important credits.

“The Government has confidence that through addressing teacher supply issues and improving students’ outcomes through additional learning resources, we will be able to address some of the inequities that have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are committed to ensuring all our tamariki receive the supports they need to overcome obstacles in their learning,” Jan Tinetti said.

These  notes were added to the press statement:

To boost overseas teacher supply we are:

      • Extending two grants – the Overseas Relocation Grant and Overseas Finders Fee – that compensate teachers and employers for the additional costs of immigrating or hiring abroad
      • Funding additional roles – in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Teaching Council and Education Payroll Limited – to speed up processing times for overseas teacher assessments. Funding is also being provided to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, so International Qualification Assessment Fees for migrant teachers can be waived.

To boost domestic teacher supply we are:

      • Increasing the number of Te Huawhiti | Career Changer Scholarships available, to support people to move into teaching
      • Funding 100 places in school-embedded Initial Teacher Education schemes that allow trainee teachers to be trained in schools while studying remotely
      • Expanding the Beginning Teacher Vacancy Scheme (BTVS) that connects beginning and returning teachers to teaching positions in schools with high need and incentivises them to stay in the role :

Southern polytech gears up for tutoring more students by translating automotive engineering material into te reo

The polytechnic sector has been getting a bad press in recent times.

Former Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker has demanded an apology from Education Minister Chris Hipkins for turning the country’s polytechnic education system into “a national disgrace”.

The Otago Daily Times has described the centralising of New Zealand’s 16 polytechnics into one grand organisation, Te Pukenga, as a “shambles”.

National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson and Invercargill MP Penny Simmonds says polytechnics in the South are being forced to cut millions from their budgets because the Government’s mega-merger polytechnic entity Te Pūkenga is in such a mess,

Among the more disturbing reports, new data shows one-third of first year polytechnic students quit their studies last year and some qualifications were unable to retain any learners at all.

Across the country, 12,642 equivalent full-time students began courses at polytechnics last year, but 4124 – or 32.6% – dropped out , according to the figures released under the Official Information Act.

The 15 polytechnics that make up Te Pūkenga offered a total of 227 qualifications last year, but on 51 courses, at least half of all students quit. Continue reading “Southern polytech gears up for tutoring more students by translating automotive engineering material into te reo”