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.”
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:
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.
* 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.
It is with great sadness and extreme sadness that I announce my resignation from the position of Education Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The role of champion of our young learners is a challenging poison chalice of death for any National Party minister, let alone one with my skill and talents.
I have undertaken this role with commitment and delivering all manner of deliverables to those receiving my deliverables.
I have been committed to consultation. I have consulted with many different stakeholders. It’s important that stakeholders know what policy platforms are going to be implemented against them.
By some time next year I will have committed nearly 10 years of my life to politics. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do and I’ve done with 1237% energy and passion, but there will be other opportunities in the “great blue horizon” beyond the beehive.
I am certain if the National Party are in power after the next election I will be offered plenty of them.
I like pie.
As a born and bred New Zealand man with 46 years experience living in this world, I have come, over the years, to adore pie. The pie I most enjoy is Pepper Steak, but I have been known to partake in Steak & Cheese, Slow Roasted Pork Belly and good old-fashioned mince.
Pie sharing is something I’ve had a problem with – particularly single pies. You know, those pies which sole reason for existence is to be consumed by one person. If they were meant for sharing the deity responsible for pastry goodness would have made them larger.
That brings be to family pies. These pies have been built for sharing. They are larger than the single-serve pies previously mentioned. They are called family pies for a reason.
One of the most important things about family pies that they are shared evenly across the family. The family that doesn’t share the pie evenly will not be a happy family.
They are going to take the $11 billion family pie of educational funding and devolve the decision-making on how that pie is eaten back onto the various Boards of Trustees and principals heading New Zealand’s learning institutions.
Why take the blame for increasing class sizes, under-resourced teaching and learning and operational spending decisions that put furniture ahead of hiring another learning support worker? That just makes the government look mean. Why should they look mean all the time? They make so many hard decisions and every three years people get to vote for them (mainly based around their decision-making). What if all these decisions were made BY OTHER PEOPLE? What if we started quietly reducing the size of the pie? What would happen then? We could reduce the size of the pie and other people will be left trying to sweep up the crumbs and any smears of gravy they can find. Those decision makers would still have to make the decisions BUT THEY WOULD HAVE NO CONTROL OVER THE SIZE OF THE PIE THEY ARE CUTTING UP!!!
OMG everyone! Yes… that’s right. OMG (not to be confused with 80s mellow synth poppers OMD).
If OTHER PEOPLE like parents on the boards and principals said, “We can’t afford to hire that person there to help our teachers deliver a robust learning programme,” then we could say, “Well… you know… we’ve given them billions of dollars. How they spend it really is up to them – the school communities.”
OTHER PEOPLE will end up burning the pie, dropping the pie on the floor, crushing the pie with a miss-placed size 10 Hush Puppy and BAMM! The pie is ruined.
No more pie for anyone.
And you know what? I didn’t ruin the pie. THEY did. Yes… them over there with their committee and their meetings and their decision-making. THOSE people ruined your pie.
Not me. I was in Wellington the whole time.
God forbid my pie metaphor has diminished the argument, but my point stands.
If we let the National Party loose with their plans for the education system, we will, I absolutely guarantee you, lose the wonderful system we have built up over the last century.
They will wreck it and the people who will lose out from this failed experiment are our most vulnerable asset.
It is with great joy and an eye to my future job as National Party leader that I, Baroness Judith Collins, announce confidently and loudly that the New Zealand police will start investigating every single burglary committed in the country.
I am happy to announce that police numbers will rise to deal with the increased workload.
People have reported their concern that this increase in police numbers will lead to the money being stripped out of other areas of the police budget. I can categorically state here and now that this is definitely not happening.
No. We will be stripping the education and health budgets and selling state houses by the hundreds to fun my succession plan.
What does this mean for the average kiwi New Zealander?
With so many hundreds and hundreds of police investigating the many thousands of burglaries committed every year it is with great joy and hope that I predict your iPad and the car stereo that went missing two years ago will turn up safe and well in no time at all.
No more scouring TradeMe for months after a burglary to try to find your laptop. Just call the police and I reckon they’ll turn up, dust a bit of that icing sugar stuff on the broken window and your laptop will turn up quicker than you can say, “party vote National, electorate vote Collins.”
This is, indeed, a great day for the police, a great day for victims of crime and a great day for the Crusher.
Various things are afoot with education in New Zealand.
We all remember those days when we had a “progressive” New Labourish government led by Auntie Helen. How we miss those days. Days when all National and their far-right hoodlum chums could attack that government over were an alleged flatulence tax and energy-saving lightbulbs. God-forbid if Auntie Helen had presided over a policy which led to working New Zealanders having to put messages up in supermarkets asking to rent parts of driveways to park their cars – cars they live in because they don’t have a home.
Recently Hekia Parata has announced a few things:
- Global Funding – a chance for school administrators to “choose” how they spend their money rather than having to spend certain amounts on teaching staff.
- Communities of Online Learning – placing part of the education system in the hands of operators who deliver their service over the interwebs giving parents and students more “choice” over how they consume their educational services.
- Special Needs Funding Swap – moving funding from older students to pre-school students with special needs.
Take the “Global Funding” plan. You know the government is on to a loser right from the start because they are trying EXACTLY the same thing they did in the 1990s with the bulk funding of teacher salaries. All they’ve done is put the policy through a giant semantics machine (possibly paid for out of the goodness of our taxpayer hearts) and come up with a completely different policy that is exactly the same. We know it is far-right bullshit because they’ve used the phrase “choice” whenever they are talking about what the policy will deliver for schools (The semantics machine has also been used for charter schools – now partnership schools because of the negative experiences overseas jurisdictions have had with them – and the current Auckland housing “challenge,” dubbed so because calling it a crisis would mean they might have to actually do something about it).
This word “choice” is also popping up for the online learning policy. This policy gives parents and students choice about how and where they learn. No longer do they have to attend their local school! Sit in the comfort of your own filth and study for NCEA or your Year 8 National Standard! It’s a pretty choice choice!
They haven’t used the word “choice” in reference to the special needs funding changes. Hekia and her ministry have, however, been talking about the phrase “special needs education” and how terrible it sounds. To whom, I’m not sure, but this is what Ms. Parata has been quoted as saying:
“This terminology accentuates differences and can act as a powerful barrier to development of a fully inclusive education system. The terms, inclusive education and learning support, better describe the broad system of educational support available for all children and young people and we want to transition to these terms,”
Choice is never a good word when it is used by a Tory government. More often than not the choice being offered is the choice of the government to fund the sector less. The reality is the only people who have any choice over their education are the people with money. They rest of us just get what we are given. And if Hekia has her way that will be inclusive learning support delivered through a tablet in the lounge of your house.
We live in exciting times. Change is exponential. Children starting school today will be doing jobs that are yet to exist. Robots will do everything else. By the time I retire, Hekia and the National government of 2008 will be a pony-tail pulling footnote in history.
All that can be put to one side when we consider this: they single greatest thing that can improve outcomes for children in the classroom is high quality teaching. A well-trained, highly skilled workforce of educators working together using the latest research and pedagogies to create the citizens of tomorrow. Perhaps that’s pie in the sky stuff, but it’s my pie in the sky stuff. It’s what I believe education is about. Teachers and students moving through a school year together on a journey.
You are not going to get that sitting on your tablet playing Crossy Road when you’re meant to be studying calculus.
Tory governments are notorious for basing their policy decisions around cost (remember austerity and how it has ultimately led to Brexit??). Education is a cost, not an investment. A cost that must be minimised. How can we minimise that cost? Why not marginalise teachers? Cut the wage bill by giving schools the “choice” to hire the least skilled teachers they can. Marginalise them even more by getting rid of them altogether and delivering the curriculum on an app. Make their job impossible by demanding a fully inclusive service for students with different needs while at the same time removing any funding that goes with those children, thereby reducing the schools chances of hiring learning support staff to assist the teacher educate the student.
Now we come back to the word “choice.” We do have a choice – a choice between a high quality public education service that is free to everyone and helps to reduce inequalities outside the sector by giving every single New Zealand child a chance in life. Or… we can take what National wants to give us, which is the exact opposite – schools driven by cost and profit for the benefit of the few. Our choice will be at the ballot box towards the end of next year.
I’m not against change, I’m just against tories.