Competition, cooperation, schools

Written By: - Date published: 12:14 pm, June 27th, 2012 - 12 comments
Categories: class war, education, national, schools - Tags: , , ,

Conservative political types, like our Nats, have an essentially competitive model of the world. Willfully ignoring the massive generational continuity of wealth and power, they ascribe all success to “hard work” and inherent virtue, which “justifies” their indifference towards (or contempt for) those less fortunate than themselves. Although most of them don’t know the term, their belief system has its roots in social Darwinism, an ideology which at its most virulent has “motivated ideas of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism, fascism, Nazism and struggle between national or racial groups”.

Competition is not the answer to all questions. Even in evolutionary theory cooperation has a major role. Not even the most basic primate grouping, let alone our current human society, would be possible without the unifying, moderating and civilising force of cooperation.

Blah blah blah, sorry, just background ruminations as I ponder the Nats’ bull-in-a-china-shop need to break systems that work perfectly well by trying to make them competitive. Case in point, the education system, where the Nats would dearly love to turn the cooperative profession of teaching into something competitive and broken.

Competition between schools already causes enough problems. “Tomorrow’s schools”, introduced under the badge of Lange’s Labour government (by the neoliberal ideologues who went on to found the ACT Party), initiated the competitive process. Popular high-decile schools grew fast, while enrollments at less popular low-decile schools fell. Because popular schools could cherry-pick, local students could be excluded. This was the problem that the school zoning system, introduced by the last Labour government in 2000, was designed to fix. But even that system is being perverted by competitive forces:

Principals and the Green Party are calling for a review of the Tomorrow’s Schools model which they say has caused secondary schools to adjust school zones and cherry pick students.

Concern has mounted after a report by a visiting US scholar found most Auckland secondary schools are zone-fixing – intentionally skewing their enrolment zones to improve their decile rating. Principals say zone-fixing is nothing new and competition between schools has grown since the Tomorrow’s Schools model was introduced under David Lange in 1989.

Fulbright scholar and Associate Professor from the University of Illinois Chris Lubienski looked at 49 secondary schools, comparing surrounding areas with the areas actually included within the zones the schools have drawn. Professor Lubienski said that in 36 cases, the enrolment zones did not match the surrounding population. He said he could only infer there was an intention by schools to distort their decile rating, although he said in the qualitative part of the study, principals talked about intentionally drawing up zones to enhance their school’s market position. … “We found in a vast majority of cases that the schools were serving students who were more affluent,” he said. …

Head of the Secondary Principals’ Council Allan Vester said the issue of schools selectively setting their school zones was not new. … “Unfortunately the market type model also encourages behaviours which, while advantageous for an individual school, can actually reduce the quality of the educational experience overall for the community.”

This problem is going to get even worse with the Nats’ introduction of “league tables” (based on nonsense data). Competition is simply the wrong model for education, and it is going to break a system which is working perfectly well, and very cost effectively in this country.

12 comments on “Competition, cooperation, schools”

  1. Kotahi Tane Huna 1

    NZ’s position in the OECD PISA tests needs to be kept firmly front and centre in contrast to the Nats’ repetition of the lie that schools are failing.

    Or watch them point to whatever the 2013 PISA scores are and then claim credit for “improved performance”.

    Or am I being too cynical?

    • mike e 1.1

      KTH ConmanKey is saying 1 in 5 pupils are failing ,that is a blatant lie using outdated statistics its now closer to 1 in 10 most of that improvement was made under a previous govt.
      What was found during the 1990’s govts own research through Otago university that money ended up being spent on schools and tertiary institutes promoting themselves at the expense of education .
      If one school uni or polytechnic spend some money another would spend more ending up in a viscous cycle of increasing amounts being spent on promotion at the expense of education .
      The outcome we see being repeated on TV every day more promotion.
      Funny that our universities are now slipping out of the top 100 internationally since Nactuf has come to power.
      Dumbing down education again no surprises.

      • Bunji 1.1.1

        The figure of 20% illiterate (“leave school unable to read and write”) was never true (at least not for a century or so…), but was based on 1 in 5 leaving school without qualifications. That was an old number rounded up at the height of a boom and the lowest unemployment in the OECD. It did not mean anything like illiterate (except for perhaps the people who came up with the statistic…).

        The same measure now – with ongoing economic hardship, and National’s high unemployment meaning people stay in school – is about 5%. So 1 in 20, not 20% – and the number of illiterate is still less than that…

        4th best education system in the world, on one of the smallest budgets per pupil in the OECD, trying to improve by copying from much more expensive systems with much worse results… National Standards, gotta love ’em…

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.1.2

        All that’s true, but anyone who has swallowed John Key’s deliberate lies (why isn’t a lying Prime Minister guilty of treason?) will likely also swallow the line that a good PISA score in 2013 means the government has turned the situation around.

      • Vicky32 1.1.3

        being spent on schools and tertiary institutes promoting themselves at the expense of education

        Yes, very true!

  2. BernyD 2

    I can’t see the “League Table” being accurate anyway.
    As curriculums change and the marks get scaled anyway, how can you compare them ?
    Any parent using them as a sole source of information about a school, would never happen.

    Which makes the desire to “Publish” them a reactionary response to the perceived Parents wishes.

    If they do the homework, they’d realise it can only hurt the students and wouldn’t be useful to parents.

    • Descendant Of Smith 2.1

      Yeah well the league tables should also include clear progress from entry in school to exit tables to indicate improvement by pupils while at school so it can be seen which schools have the cherry picked students and which ones don’t and which schools actually make a diffence to achievement, and another table which shows the $ spent from all funding sources per student so it can be seen which schools are the most cost effective and whether $spend per pupil makes a difference.

      There’s a world of difference between a school like New Plymouth Boys High School who owns the race course, the land the polytechnic is on, the land NPGHS is on and has an extensive old boys network and PTA vs a low socioeconomic school who has none of those things and has actually lost funding under this government and has lots of unemployed parents who can’ pay the school fees.

  3. Ed 3

    To a certain extent the confused thinking and rush indicate the theme of another recent thread – that of an attempted distraction from the failure of this government to meet any economic targets – or indeed any major target other than that of reducing the top tax rate.

  4. My daughter has for a number of years taught, referenced from Winz, people to help to get a driving licence – why ? – because they cannot read well enough to get a driving licence for a job.

  5. Blue 5

    Society doesn’t teach people to read, parents and schools do. Or they did in my day.

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