Putting aside the dirty politics coming out of the Beehive and the right-wing blogisphere, there are some very strong signals that another term of a National Government would do even more serious damage to the public education system.
The Education Ministry’s latest statement of intent provides some clues as to what may be ahead, but poses more questions about just what might be up.
As usual, the plan for education is cloaked in the unique doublespeak so beloved by the Minister. In the absence of plain English, I have some questions about some of the gems lurking in the Statement of Intent.
Firstly, what on earth does the Ministry mean when it says it is “shifting its focus to stewardship”? Is it the same stewardship now imposed on the Department of Conservation which means facilitating commercial access and sponsorship deals, such as for mining? Does it mean that the Ministry is no longer the captain of the good ship education but is rather overseeing, or guiding other people’s ships? This “overseeing” role seems to be what stewardship means and I think anyone who cares about public education should be very worried about the implications of this so called shift in focus.
Many of us are concerned about National’s almost exclusive focus on narrow definitions of achievement. Perhaps the most worrying of their targets for achievement are the code words around early childhood in the statement.
The Ministry says it will use the Early learning Information System “to help identify particular trends and the effectiveness of children’s learning”.
This is seriously concerning. What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning? There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ‘3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers. If you believe measurement is proof of young children’s learning, there is a logic to this approach. If you know anything about the human brain and educational pedagogy, you know it will not work.
The Early learning Information System (ELI) is an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record the children’s enrolment and attendance. If centres do not send in their data on enrolment and attendance it can affect their funding.
The Green Party, along with the ECE sector, has previously expressed concerns about how the ELI could be used to track kids for the purposes of applying sanctions to beneficiary parents who don’t meet their so-called ‘social obligations’ to have their kids attending preschool.
The problem with National’s drive to get preschool bums on seats – its 98 per cent enrolment target – is that it does not discriminate between a quality centre or a crap one.
If National cared about quality, it would ‘t have given $1.8 million to a wealthy business called Kidicorp to set up shop all over South Auckland and Porirua.
If National cared about quality, it wouldn’t have scrapped the review into the home-based sector, where there were serious concerns about safety and quality, and it wouldn’t have focussed on getting disadvantaged, Maori, and Pasifika kids into this sector to boost its chances of meeting its enrolment targets.
My conclusion is that National does not care about quality at all. It cares about meeting its targets.
The Greens have exposed the plan to allow Charter schools for babies which included some kind of outcomes-based funding. This all reeks of National Standards for babies.
We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children.
We have to fight for quality public education which means a new Government on September 20.
The goal of education is to create equity so all children have the opportunity to thrive and we need the Greens in Government to ensure this happens!
Catherine Delahunty is a Green MP from the Hauraki/ Coromandel. She was brought up to be an activist in a left wing Wellington family and works on social and environmental justice from a Te Tiriti o Waitangi perspective. Catherine is education spokesperson for the Greens.