Tuesday, February 16, 2010

School choice - success the only option

I get excited about school choice, whether it be vouchers or an even simpler system of removal of zoning. So I have been eagerly awaiting this announcement from Heather Roy:

It's a great pleasure for me and my National, ACT and Maori Party colleagues to welcome you here today for the launch of 'Step Change: Success the Only Option' - the report of the Inter-Party Working Group for School Choice.

The greatest legacy that parents can leave their children is to prepare them to succeed in the world that they will inherit. This world is characterised by rapid, continuous change and increasing complexity and ambiguity. The successful citizen not only needs a broad range of skills, knowledge and experience but also well refined tools for continuous self-learning.

Indeed. The Inter-Party working Group is a cornerstone of the Coalition Agreement. It's mission was to:...

...report on policy options for funding and regulation of schools in order to increase parental choice and school autonomy. For the past year we have reviewed current practice in New Zealand, and best practice overseas. We complemented our research with visits to schools around the country.

Great. And what of the relationship between the Gnats/ACT & Maori Party?

I have thoroughly enjoyed the interesting, productive and rewarding experience of working across the three Parties. Each MP brought different priorities and concerns to the table. Despite these differences, we have worked effectively towards a common goal and arrived at a point of agreement that we believe will raise the level of student achievement at both ends of the spectrum.

What did Hekia Parata of National say?

We strongly commend this report and its recommendations to the Minister of Education.

And Te Ururoa Flavell?

The Maori Party is pleased to support this report along with National and ACT Parties.

The working group has devoted considerable time to fully debating the issues and has been aware just how significant the issue of school choice is.

The crisis in addressing Maori under-achievement in particular in general stream schools is an issue that the nation cannot walk away from. The "same old, same old", "been there done that" approach cannot continue. The report provides some levers for future work to address that crisis.

Our focus throughout this review has been to ensure that the disadvantaged are not used to advantage those already blessed with privilege.

Definitely. It's about incentives to get to the top, rather than dumbing down from the top.

Has the current system helped Maori?

And I want to make it quite clear that the urgent need to address the way in which institutions of the state have failed our Maori children is a challenge that all educational institutions must address.

We support teaching environments which promote a holistic view of education and where teacher expectations and pedagogies focus on fulfilling the potential of every child.

I can live with that.

We support ongoing performance improvement and the capacity for teachers to be self-reflective and self-analytical about the difference they are making.

Where we would be concerned is where competition drives the educational environment; where institutions minimise treaty obligations and neutralise the push towards cultural competency, and the best interests of each child and their community are sacrificed to cater to market demand.

Hmmm. Not sure about some of that, but the 80/20 principle applies.

Finally, the policy platform of choice must not enable schools any opportunity to continue to fail Maori students. Failure is not a viable option.
Never. Ever.

So far, so good?

What does the Minister think of this great work?

Education Minister Anne Tolley took a cautious approach to the suggested policy.

Cautious over excellence, success and the end of failure in schools? How can anyone be cautious about those!!

I will be considering the report, and have asked the Ministry to provide advice on it," Mrs Tolley said.

In other words, "don't hold your breathe". I truly hope Anne Tolley takes her rose tinted glasses off.

And the Unions?

Primary education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa President Frances Nelson said the Government should ignore the ideologically-driven report which was a "convoluted mish-mash of ideas".

"This would simply be a voucher system in disguise, driven by political ideology rather than what is best for children's learning," Ms Nelson
The Unions hate it. Therefore by default this is a roaring success.


Psycho Milt said...

I see excellent reasons for Tolley to take a "cautious approach."

1. I didn't see any specifics in the linked speeches. What are they proposing in concrete terms?

2. Our education system is already among the best in the world, consistently performing the near the top in international measurements. Any politicians with big ideas for turning that system upside down had better have some compelling account of exactly how they're not going to fuck up what we already have. Don't see that so far.

3. Roger Douglas is involved. If he agrees with the propoals, the proposals can be safely expected to reveal themselves as some kind of ideological gibberish.

4. The Maori Party is happy. As long as Maori continue to regard the failure of their kids at school as meaning only that something must be wrong with the Pakehas' education system, their kids are going to fail at school. No sign from either Maori speaker of any recognition of that fact.

5. The NZEI, ie the body representing the people who actually work in primary education, thinks it's just further peddling of ACT's vouchers scheme. Should we trust politicians, or people who actually work in the field? Before you answer, consider how you'd answer if this was a new Labour agricultural policy and Fed Farmers opposed it, or a new business policy with Business Roundtable opposed.

peteremcc said...

Not sure why i'm even bothering to respond to you PM, but here we go:

1) Maybe read the actual report then, instead of just the speeches?

2) False assumption.

3) Personal attack.

4) Choice would allow Maori to attend Maori schools.

5) Sounds like an excellent reason to implement it immediately. These are the guys who don't want to know how well the kids are doing, never mind help them do better.

Psycho Milt said...

These are the guys who don't want to know how well the kids are doing, never mind help them do better.

Actually, these are the guys who are the reason our education system performs near the top of international measurements. On the other side, we have some dumbass politicians and some right-wing militants with an opinion. Why exactly should I not be backing the experts, again?