I have been left confused by a recent article by Andreas Schleicher.
In it he begins by singing the praises of “New Zealand’s liberal and entrepreneurial school system.” He speaks very highly of the benefits of school autonomy, reflecting that “It would be hard to imagine [principals doing the same] in one of Southern Europe’s bureaucratic school systems” and ends with triumphant praise of the Kiwi schools that “have moved on from delivered wisdom, to user-generated wisdom, from a culture of standardization, conformity and compliance towards being innovative and ingenious”
Wow, I thought. He gets it.
He understands that autonomy beats beaurocracy, that creativity beats standardisation, and that Kiwi schools are doing a good job.
Then I remembered, this is the same man who, in a visit to NZ recently, sang the praises of National Standards, and alarm bells started tinkling far away in the back of my mind, but I read on…
Schleicher says there were Kiwi principals complaining to him that they have difficulties attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers, yet he doesn’t address this at all. Surely that’s a hugely important issue if we are to improve our system further?
Just ponder what school leavers and graduates might be thinking if they consider teaching as a career: Why join a profession that is being battered world wide? Why take a job that is used as a political football? Why pay for training when some are being paid to jump into the classroom with little or no training?
Because, really, if teachers can now go into schools after just 6 weeks’ training over the summer holidays while schools are shut or, in the case of charter schools, go into the classroom with no training at all, surely that will put a fair few off paying fees and taking years to get a teaching degree?
Are we slowly but surely giving up on the idea of trained teachers? And if so, how does that help raise the bar? Just how does it help principals’ concerns over attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers? Maybe that’s why he glossed over the issue – it’s easier for him to ignore it than address it?
But I would love to know what the principals think.
There is no discussion, either, of why teachers are leaving the profession in droves. Maybe it’s easier to gloss over serious issues like that? But you would think, wouldn’t you, that it might be worth a few lines?
No, because all Schleicher is really interested in, is promoting National Standards.
National Standards – a coherent system ?
Despite our own Prime Minister admitting National Standards data is a crock, and despite parents, teachers, professors, psychologists and lord ony knows who else saying the same, Schleicher applauds New Zealand for bringing in a “coherent system of educational standards”.
This also despite the latest results having to be tinkered with and moved down by the Ministry because they were so very incorrect (after being garnered in the first place using Ministry approved assessment tools).
Schleicher must have got a top notch sales pitch when he met with Hekia Parata, if he still thinks National Standards are coherent after that.
But he is sold, that much is clear. He says National Standards now allow teachers to “monitor how individual students progress”. What the hell? Is he seriously implying that teachers only monitor progress because of NS? Truly that is the most ridiculous remark. Teachers monitor, record and test all the time in all key areas, so that they know where students are at and where they need to go next. They always have. All that NS has added is another layer of faffing and inputting, taking time away from that which teachers would spend planning, marking and teaching.
Schleicher’s views become all too clear when he decides to throw in a jab at the teachers’ unions, saying that they “contest the implementation of standards and any notion of public transparency vigorously”.
Let’s be very honest here. National Standards do not add transparency. What is being opposed is a tool that is being put in place under false pretences, not for students but to allow performance pay and bulk funding. The plan is clear from the Ministry’s own documents. I have the paperwork here on my desk. Maybe Mr Schleicher would like a copy?
Do we want ingenuity and freedom, or standardisation and control?
I would say, Mr Schleicher, that you might be better served in judging New Zealand schools if you listened to principals’ and parents’ concerns and addressed those honestly rather than ignoring them and producing a party political broadcast for the National Party’s education reforms.
Because those reforms have little to nothing to do with innovation and ingenuity and everything to do with standardisation and control, in fact they are totally contrary to the very things you profess to love.
You are right when you say that New Zealand’s liberal and entrepreneurial school system gives teachers and principals the space to make great things happen. Sadly, if you and Hekia and those like you have your way that won’t be the case for very much longer.