Monthly Archives: December, 2016

Spread your wings and fly little Boon

After travelling internationally, there is a tendency for the head to lose the ability to keep itself aloft. I sit here in Narita Airport in Tokyo willing the nogginy weight atop my neck to maintain its usual positioning, yet all it appears to want to do is chin-buttered my man-Boobs. 

All is not lost. Some ¥en wisely spent on a large “basic coffee” has the desired effect of keeping me awake long enough to enjoy the free food and beverage British Airways has to offer. 

The length of the distance between New Zealand and the Europe so many of us share familial links with is renowned. The first flight takes half a day. Sure you may have time for a quick nap nestled in your moob, but the reality of the journey means in fairly short order you are devouring another half-day flight before you are even close to your destination. 

Twenty four hours flying time plays many havocs on mind and soul.

But what joy the travel can bring. I awoke from a longer nap on our Auckland to Tokyo flight to just the thinnest hint of a sunrise climbing the distant horizon. Slowly the colours morphed through dark orange, blues and purples until the final explosion of dawn blinded me with a subsequent screen glare that prevented any conclusion to the Great British Bake Off. 

Seeing Fuji loom as the mountainous guardian of the sprawling ubanity of Tokyo was particularly zen. This zen was inversely proportional to the level of chaos and rage that greeted me on landing at Heathrow. Fog had combined with the English inability to organise itself during a crisis to create some exceedingly unhappy travellers. Thanks to a quirk in the system I am yet to identify, our plane was allowed to leave meaning we eventually arrived at our Aberdeen destination over two hours late. Better to be there at 1am than on a couch in Heathrow Terminal 5 cursing the airport gods for the most useless excuse for an airport since [insert useless airport here – cannot currently think of one more useless than Heathrow due to my jetlag (which is far worse thanks to Heathrow)].

So we are now here in Scotland enjoying the pre-Christmas banter. We won’t be returning to New Zealand until late-January. Whether there are more posts between now and then really does depend on my ability/motivation to write them. John Key now gathers dust with Robert Muldoon and the great Jenny Shipley in the Great Big Book of Former National PMs. Our parliament has decided, in their infinite wisdom, to recess until summer is almost over. 

I assume the country will continue to run in their (and my) absence. Who knows whether anything worthy of satirical cut downs will occur in this time? Maybe we will never know. In any case, requests can be sent through the @boonman account linked to this blog. 

Until 2017, or the next blog post, MyThinks wishes all its readers a very merry non-denominational holiday season.

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Could I have the Bill, please? 

The party was over. The turmoil of the last week was beginning to subside and things were slowly returning to some kind of normalcy. Everyone, for example, had stopped laughing at Jonathan Coleman’s leadership bid.

Back in the Beehive after a long weekend watching other people spend money, Prime Minister-elect Bill English was very pleased himself. He was now precisely where he wanted to be – sitting in an office chair with his hands sitting gently on a desk. This was a great day.

Suddenly, and without warning, there was a sensual knock on the door. The jangle of rings and other jewellery could only mean one thing – the wrist controlling the hand knocking on the door to his inner sanctum was a wrist from West Auckland.

Bill turned on his desk fan. He had seen the wind blow the hair of a man in a film once and he had gotten the girl. His power now gave him options. This time it would be he who would get the girl.

As he thought a few moments longer about where this day might be heading, he remembered the chap in the film had sported shoulder length hair. His hair was the classic Gore short back and sides. There was no folicle waterfall careering behind him. He was just sitting at his desk with water streaming from his eyes. 

The fan was turned off.

“Enter!” is what he wanted to say in a way that had him sounding like a classically trained Shakespearian actor. Instead he said, “Yes?” in a barely audible rural drawl. She entered anyway.

“Shit Bill,” said Paula, “we did it. We actually did it.”

“Yes,” he replied, not meaning to be frugal with his sexual wordplay, but being so nonetheless.

“You here at the big desk with the big job in your highly capable big hands while I take on the job of your number 2…”

“Yes,” he said again, even more erotically than the first time

“Now,” replied his deputy glorious in her 9th floor radiance, “I’ve got a lot of work to do so I’ll head. Well done boss.”

“Yes,” Bill replied for a third time. The atmosphere in the office had moved from lightly to highly charged. He knew it. He suspected she knew it. He decided not to ask her about it just in case she hadn’t noticed him manning around.

As Ms. Bennett walked out the door, her Impulse body spray lingered for just a little bit longer. He moved over to his stereo and, taking one more deep breath of the perfume, popped in his Luther Van dross CD. 

This was heaven and he was in it.

Charter school performance “off the hook”

The government had confirmed it is very happy with the NCEA results from its beloved charter schools. This follows concerns being raised about the different methodology being used to calculate pass rates in the privately run but publicly funded cash cows.

Undersecretary of Hekia Parata (pictured) has taken time out from his own exams to say how delighted he was with the results.

Student waits for exam results

“100% of charter school students passed their NCEA exams,” said a delighted David Seymour outside a Wendy’s he’d just been taken to by his mum, “and I’m not afraid to tell all those naysayers and woolly wowsers that they’re all egg-burgers for thinking charter schools would be a failure.”

Mr. Seymour said the seven charter school students who ended up sitting NCEA exams did very, very well with 100% of the students who passed the exams being counted towards the 100% pass rate.

Her Grand Highness Hekia Parata said she had no problem with charter schools not counting students who left or failed in their data because they were “losers” who would actually end up being counted in local public school data because, “that also makes the charter schools look good.”

John Key was reported as saying, “meh… I’m off the clock.”

Taking the PISA

Well, friends, today was PISA day. The day when all media outlets around the world breathlessly pronounce their education system is either “plummeting” down the tables, or, through some miraculous miracle, soaring to new educational heights.

Three years ago I ranted about this nonsensical test, run by the OECD, which tests hundreds of thousands of 15 year olds around the world on reading, maths and science. I’m listening to Garbage on the Spotify at the moment and that is an incredibly apt word.

Despite what the OECD and various governing governments say, PISA does absolutely nothing for teaching and learning around the world. It has been hijacked by the media in order to either hammer the education system of whichever country they are reporting from OR it has been hijacked by those wealthy billionaires who love to take over public education systems to make billions more via a range of government subsidies their charter school model siphoning from the public purse. “I don’t pay tax and I want to take your tax to make more income, which I won’t pay tax on.”

American billionaires suck the Federal Reserve dry

American billionaires suck the Federal Reserve dry

Either way, the OECD spends millions per year allowing countries like China to enter various cities (Hong Kong, Shanghai, & Macau) into the competition because China knows that those wealthy areas are likely to do very, very well. Presumably the authorities there are proactive in preparing the students of those cities for the tests. This happens in many jurisdictions around the world where high-stakes standardised testing rules the waves.

If you want to see the results for yourself you can do what I did and check out the Wikipedia page* on which some nice person has put all the results into nice tables so you can make your own comparisons. If you want gallons more statistical juice, then scroll to the bottom of the page for all the references to previous PISA results. It really can be an exciting evening trawling through tables of data to make a couple of points on an angry blog post.

Comparing the 2000 results to 2015 is like comparing apples with something that is the complete opposite of apples – sausages perhaps… or gardening gloves. In 2002 there were only 32 countries taking part. All the OECD members and 4 “partner” countries. In 2015 72 countries took part. New Zealand came 4th in Maths, 7th in Science and 3rd in Reading. Now we sit 22nd in Maths, 13th in Science, and 12th in Reading.

If you want to compare apples with apples by taking out all of the countries who’ve muscled in on the PISA party the figures are a bit different. in 2015 New Zealand sit 7th in Science, 16th in Maths and 9th in Reading.

To quote our retiring king John Key, at the end of the day, PISA doesn’t test anything important. All it tests is a student’s ability to score a certain number of marks on one exam on one day in 2015.

Exams are rubbish for testing all those important things like collaboration, problem solving, trial and error and innovation – all those important things that all employers are looking for. Don’t take my word for it, The Economist surveyed employers. Here are the results:

economist

Sure Literacy and Numeracy are on the list, but way down the bottom and Science doesn’t even get a mention. All those wonderful key competencies our New Zealand Curriculum published back in 2007 are way up there at the top. And their ain’t no way yous are gonna test for that. **

Remember: millions of dollars are spent on PISA to make governments feel good about themselves, not to improve educational outcomes for our learners, no matter what the politicians or our beloved media owners.

I’ll leave the final quote to Radio New Zealand who disappointed me with their headline this morning. “NZ Scores Drop but Rankings Rise in International Test” it said. Later on in the article, however, the article admitted:

The falls were small – three to five points in scores of 495 to 513 points – and were not regarded as statistically significant.

Why didn’t they lead with the statistically significant stuff? Because that doesn’t make a good headline. Falling education numbers is the headline. We are falling!! Arrrghghghgh!!!! That’s the same kind of fervor Patrick Gower works up every time Winston Peters rises one percentage point in a survey with a margin of error of 3.5%. It’s utter bollocks.

Just like PISA.

Sources: 

2015 PISA results

PISA Wikipedia results page

The Economist Skills of the Future Report

Radio New Zealand: PISA test report 7 Dec, 2016

* I am aware how lame it is to reference Wikipedia in a blog post about education, but the PISA reports are hundreds of pages long and I want to remain angry rather than being bored to death by tables and tables and tables and tables of data and statistical methodology. Even writing that sentence killed me a little inside.

** That sentence has terrible grammar on purpose. Deals with it.