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“Dumbing down a generation”

Written By: - Date published: 7:02 am, March 21st, 2017 - 137 comments
Categories: education, national, schools, useless - Tags: , , , , ,

“Dumbing down a generation”. That’s the challenging title of an excellent piece by Simon Collins in the weekend Herald:

Dumbing down a generation: Performance of NZ schoolchildren plummeting

International tests reveal the performance of our schoolchildren is plummeting despite years of education reform designed to create brighter futures for the next generation. …

When Elley chaired the international steering committee for one of the first world literacy surveys, in 1990, Kiwi students came fourth.

A decade later, when the Programme for International Students Assessment (Pisa) started testing 15-year-olds, NZ students came second only to Finland in reading, third in maths, and sixth-equal in science.

But it has been downhill ever since. In six three-yearly Pisa surveys, the most recent (2015) reported last December, each group of NZ students has scored lower than the group that went before them in both reading and maths.

Over Pisa’s 15-year history New Zealand’s average score for maths has dropped by more than any other country (down 42 points), closely followed by Australia (down 39 points).

Our average for reading has dropped by 20 points, a steeper fall than in all except three countries (Britain, Australia and Iceland).

Even in science, where we have had ups as well as downs, our average is down 15 points since 2000, although eight other countries including Australia declined more. …

It’s a long piece, full of information, well worth a read. In general the graphs show a fall to 2003, level to 2009, and falling again since (tests are every three years). We have to ask ourselves why NZ’s educational scores in international comparisons are locked in a downward spiral.

There is some suggestion in the piece that the problem is streaming. (I personally doubt it, schools were streamed for decades and NZ did all right.) More significant, however:

In our case, the two biggest changes since Pisa started have been the introduction of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) in secondary schools from 2002, and of National Standards in primary schools from 2010.

Elley points to declining Pisa scores in all five OECD nations that have standards-based assessments with “high stakes”, with results published in league tables: New Zealand, Australia, Britain, the United States and Sweden.

“The majority of OECD countries don’t allow league tables,” he says.

Both NCEA and national standards were born with good intentions – to close our shamefully wide gaps by focusing schools on ensuring that every child achieves the standards.

But Elley believes they have actually dragged most students down. …

Read on for the problems. Those relating to national “standards” at least have been frequently raised, and those relating to NCEA need to be seriously considered at the least.

Changes in teacher training may also be a factor, along with the increasing stress and workload that under-resourced teachers are under, and the increasing difficulty in attracting teachers (especially in Auckland where a teacher’s salary is increasingly unlivable). Then there’s the problems created for families by the housing / rental crisis, where frequent moves disrupt education.

If we were actually interested in educational outcomes as a country, if we believed in evidence based policy, if Bill English was actually serious about “social investment”, we would be modelling our education system on what actually works (etc, etc). But no, instead we get National’s failed ideology.

137 comments on ““Dumbing down a generation” ”

  1. tc 1

    Dumbing down enough so they can hold low wage jobs and not indulge in too much critical analytical thought.

    Thats working as designed, you forget who it’s designed by. Rip George carlin, that’s from his rant ‘rigged system’

    • Cinny 1.1

      Heaven forbid we taught the kids financial management, ethics, media and advertising manipulation among other things at school.

      I teach those things to my kids, all kids should be taught those things, in school.

      Funny story… the other day my mum took my girls to a mayoral function. My youngest during the event decided to tell the Mayor that John Key was a liar. Which he is, the mayor replied ‘that is very interesting’, their grandmother revealed to the girls later on that the Mayor was friends with Key.

      Almost split my sides when mum filled me in on that.

  2. Antoine 2

    +1

    Although i think the bad ideas come from the MoE rather than the pollies, in the main

    • tc 2.1

      Easy when you have your elves all over the public service on large daily rates….remember that women from the UK Nats parachuted in.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2

      Then you think wrong.

      Right wing education policy comes from right wingers. Key started lying about student abilities, manufacturing a crisis, well before the 2008 election. His lies were debunked within days, but he just kept on telling them.

      Notional Standards are having exactly the impact they were predicted, some would say designed to have. Hurting children is a National Party hobby.

      • Antoine 2.2.1

        For sure, I don’t think National’s done much good for education

        A.

      • SpaceMonkey 2.2.2

        I have done work inside MoE and I can tell you that in the main, the dumb ideas all come from the politicians at the top. Their ideas frequently run counter to the advice of the educationalists, whose advice is regularly backed by evidence.

    • Tricldrown 2.3

      Antoine what rubbish this testing endless testing came from the right wing.
      1 to dumb down education
      2 to demoralize teachers by bogging them down with paper work taking away teaching time dumbing down again

      • Antoine 2.3.1

        Yes, it’s not the whole of the problem, though.

        • Cinny 2.3.1.1

          Education is possibly the most important factor in life.
          If one does not agree with how the outgoing government is running our education system, then the wise thing to do is vote for change.

          • Antoine 2.3.1.1.1

            Yes, on the other hand, how can one have confidence that the other lot would be significantly better?

            A.

            • Muttonbird 2.3.1.1.1.1

              An airy-fairy response. It’s as if you are not interested in the decision making process.

              • Antoine

                Its just hard to make an informed decision

                (Not that one person’s vote counts for much, anyway)

                • Muttonbird

                  I’ll help by spelling it out for you.

                  The opposition will address the two main factors in a child’s performance at school. They will reduce class sizes, and they will support housing security in low income communities.

                  So there you go, vote for change.

                  • Antoine

                    Smaller class sizes is great, but at what cost? Will the money come from somewhere else?

                    A.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  And here he is telling us it’s all too hard – again.

                  Are you a National Party Spokesman?

    • D'Esterre 2.4

      Antoine: “Although i think the bad ideas come from the MoE rather than the pollies, in the main”

      A lot of years ago, I attended a conference at which the guest speaker was the then-chief statistician Len Cook.

      He talked about the vast amount of data collected by the stats department on every aspect of NZ society. With regard to policy development, government officials and advisors worked hard to put relevant data before ministers and MPs generally, he said, but it was mostly ignored. Pollies generally put much more weight on anecdotes, he said: what their constituents told them down at the dairy or the takeaway shop.

      I very much doubt that anything at all has changed in that regard.

  3. Tamati Tautuhi 3

    Sounds like we can’t even teach the basics these days, reading, writing and arithmetic.

    These are the basic skills a person needs to function in society, however everyone today is obsessed with technology which has actually sped things up with many people working or engaged 24/7?

    A lot of learning comes within the home however we have a lot of dysfunctional families these days and stress in the lower socio economic sectors due to low wages and inflated living costs especially housing which puts added stress on families/households.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1

      The single most influential predictor of educational achievement is household income.

      • Tamati Tautuhi 3.1.1

        … and with the neoliberal experiment with trickle up economics the lower socio economic sectors of society have been hammered further.

        Goods and services tax is another example of a tax on the lower socio economic groups, it is an additional 15% tax on the tax payers net income.

        Have a think about that, and Governments over the last 30-40 years still can’t balance the books, they have had to rely of the sale of State Assets to fund their operations?

      • Muttonbird 3.1.2

        This. We are fast becoming a two tier country thanks to National. Could take a generation of proper social governance to repair.

      • Mordecai 3.1.3

        As shown by the declining educational outcomes during the depression…oh wait…

    • Mordecai 3.2

      Declining educational standards goes back decades. The core learning priorities you mention have been diluted with a variety of poorly conceived theories of learning (eg the numeracy project) that have been the work of Ministry pointy heads, and which have had disastrous results in our children’s education.

      • Tricldrown 3.2.1

        Your argument is full of hole’s.
        We have had very good periods in that During the last Labour govt we climbed from 18th under Shipley Bolger govt.
        To 4th under Clark govt in international education achievements.
        Clark focussed on smaller class sizes and better trained and qualified teacher’s.
        Increasing funding as well.
        National have focussed on turning education into a business model.
        Continuous testing cutting funding rote learning teacher bashing demoralising the education sector across the board .

      • Antoine 3.2.2

        > The core learning priorities you mention have been diluted with a variety of poorly conceived theories of learning (eg the numeracy project) that have been the work of Ministry pointy heads, and which have had disastrous results in our children’s education.

        That’s what I was thinking, although you expressed it better.

        A change of govt may not do much to change the state of affairs, as long as the same pointy heads are still in the Ministry.

        A.

    • Tricldrown 3.3

      Your argument is full of hole’s.
      We have had very good periods in that During the last Labour govt we climbed from 18th under Shipley Bolger govt.
      To 4th under Clark govt in international education achievements.
      Clark focussed on smaller class sizes and better trained and qualified teacher’s.
      Increasing funding as well.
      National have focussed on turning education into a business model.
      Continuous testing cutting funding rote learning teacher bashing demoralising the education sector across the board.

      • Mordecai 3.3.1

        Much of the money the Clark government introduced was in ECE, and that mostly went private providers. Most of your final comments are demonstrably false. Education funding has not been cut, it has risen under successive governments. And having more qualified teachers does not, in and of itself, guarantee better outcomes. I’ve encountered many ‘qualified’ teachers who were dead set useless.

    • Tricldrown 3.4

      Itinerancy is one of the biggest problems broken families poor families not having stable accommodation and functional family life.

  4. BM 4

    The lack of ability to retain information is a huge issue.

  5. Al 5

    Fancy thinking that removing teachers from the loop will actually improve student outcomes – not to mention the chartered schools debarcle which, at best, shows mixed results overseas. But oh no – push on with internet learning etc – what a load of old plonkers. Talk about not learning from the mistakes of others.

  6. Gosman 6

    Why are standardised tests okay when done at an international level but not at a national one?

    • Tricldrown 6.1

      Because the local testing is a continuous burden on teacher time and reduces teacher time also demoralising teachers who become govt statisticians.
      World surveys are done on a small scale of cohort’s.
      Your still a product of dumbing down Gooseman trying to spin your demoralizing propaganda BS.

      • Gosman 6.1.1

        So you are happy if we have standardised testing once a year then?

        • Tricldrown 6.1.1.1

          No I like the Finish model where have well trained teachers teaching.
          Gooseman you want to put children’s learning into a business model of bean counting.
          Which is a complete failure where ever in the world it is used.

          • SpaceMonkey 6.1.1.1.1

            Speaking of Finland… this article gives an excellent overview of why (I believe) the Finns are on the right track.

            https://fillingmymap.com/2015/04/15/11-ways-finlands-education-system-shows-us-that-less-is-more/

            The “more” thing is a feature of our education system as well. The number of initiatives that are implemented by the Ministry and that require teachers to monitor, assess and report on keeps going up. As a result we have a very high spend per student but a low direct spend on the students themselves (and that includes teacher remuneration), i.e. money for education is being sucked up into initiative after initiative, monitoring of standards, etc.

            The other thing about Finland is that teachers themselves are seen as professionals as important as doctors, for example, and trained accordingly.

          • Mordecai 6.1.1.1.2

            Are you suggesting we don’t have well trained teachers in NZ?

          • Mordecai 6.1.1.1.3

            What ignorance that is. A ‘business model’ in education delivery has been a successful part of the educational landscape for eons. it’s called private education, and families cue up for it, and have done for a very long time.

            • adam 6.1.1.1.3.1

              ROFL Mordecai, if they so successful why did they come cap in hand to beg for hand outs from this government?

              • Mordecai

                What hand outs? You mean like every school does when they need capital or operational funding?

                • adam

                  LOL, really. Typical Tory. Privatise the profit, socialise the cost. Learn some economics then we can have a debate.

                  • Mordecai

                    You made a comment about hand outs. Partnership Scholols costs are funded because they provide a service the the government. Perhaps you should take some time to learn how they work before commenting?

                    • adam

                      4 days and that all you got, classic. You said a model for charter schools was private schools, and I said they came begging to national in it’s first term for money. Which they got by the way – public record and all that.

                      So 4 days for you to try and twist what I sad – sad man. Just sad – you need to work on your rhetoric, like this government – it’s total garbage.

                    • Mordecai

                      “You said a model for charter schools was private schools, ”

                      This is the second time you’ve attributed a claim to me I didn’t make.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.2

          No, let’s employ education models that work instead. You’ve had your face rubbed in this topic enough times to know better.

          • Gosman 6.1.1.2.1

            How do you know they work?

            • adam 6.1.1.2.1.1

              One thing we do know is the libtard model does not work. I mean apart from them coming begging to the state to bail them out. Funny how you lot love welfare for business, but when ordinary people need a hand not to fall over – you lot reach for the hate card.

      • The Fairy Godmother 6.1.2

        +111 Trcldrown. Testing wastes time that could be spent on teaching and learning and I think this waste of time is the main reason for the drop on pisa scores. I posted on this waste of time below.

  7. Tricldrown 7

    Gooseman Texas where this right wing BS testing began is dropping standardized testing
    They have found it doesn’t work.

  8. The Fairy Godmother 8

    I think student and teacher time wasted in accountability processes and assessment is a huge factor. My year thirteen daughter at the moment has internals due for all her subjects. From about September most of her school time will be devoted to practise exams, revision and then final NCEA exams. Imagine if this time was actually spent on teaching and learning!

    I teach in Early childhood and teachers spend a lot of time often their own time writing learning stories and putting lots of written stuff and planning up on the wall. This is all accountability stuff to prove that learning and teaching is happening. It is sometimes justified that all this written stuff on the walls will promote literacy. Perhaps, but the main literacy young children need to learn is people literacy, that is how to get along with others and oral literacy. They also need lots of play to make sense of the world and develop people literacy and oral literacy. I really despair at all the time teachers are spending on this written stuff when they could be supporting children in what they really need to learn. Imagine what it would be like if teachers didn’t write lots of learning stories when they could be working with the children and if their home time was spent on work stuff it was on say getting some free wood for construction activities from the local hardware, and if their own time was really their own so they came to work refreshed and ready to work with the children. I suspect our pisa scores would rise big time.

    This would take an understanding at all levels that school should be about learning not ranking students for their place in society and that teachers were trusted professionals with a similar status to the medical profession as it is in Finland.

    • Mordecai 8.1

      Your last comment is, sadly, illinformed. Teachers in Finland are relatively poorly paid, and by comparison with Dictors, very poorly.

  9. One Two 9

    It will be multiple generations of damaged children abused by the state and governments wedded to abusive ideology

    Politicians are the representatives of the abusers, and are responsible for delivering the ‘reforms’…

    How much longer adults will allow the abuse to continue is uncertain, but the abuse will continue until it is stopped

    The abuse is delivered in a myriad of forms. Education is a single piece of a larger puzzle

    Can the adults mount the necessary actions to halt current and future NZ government agendas?

    At present time, the answer is…No

  10. mpledger 10

    I don’t agree with any of the educational policy that National have introduced **BUT**
    I would take the PISA data with a grain of salt.

    The PISA exams don’t test the NZ curriculum and doesn’t test knowledge in the way we test knowledge. Written, multi-choice questions tend to test the lowest cognitive abilities – memory and basic manipulations. NCEA has a lot of practical tests – e.g. giving speeches in English and other languages – it’s not just about the narrow, book-learning, academics.

    Also, the PISA table tends to be a political football in countries’ internal politics so there is quite a lot of manipulation going on in some countries to game the system for political benefit. For example China restricts who can enter. And countries have diverse educational policies – I believe Japan educates their children with disabilities through their health system so those kids are never included in PISA/TIMSS.

    And then their is motivation – I know some kids who have taken PISA/TIMSS and because they don’t find out their score and their score has no effect on them anyway, they don’t bother with the exam once the questions start getting a bit hard.

    To get better at PISA/TIMSS we’d have to go down a pathway in our education system that would be a throwback to a time when learning facts was all that mattered.

    • BM 10.1

      Why do teachers put no value on memory?

      • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1

        Who said that teachers put no value on memory?

        The problem, IMO, with memorisation is that it the builds belief that those things memorised are true factual when they may not be and will need to be changed as new information is learned by the scientific community. Beliefs, as we know, are very hard to change.

        Much better to teach people to think and to do research.

        • Poission 10.1.1.1

          What is the age of the universe?

          How do you know?

          • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1.1.1

            What is the age of the universe?

            Old.

            How do you know?

            Because I’m not stupid and looked it up some time and don’t believe in creationism because it goes against all the research.

        • ropata 10.1.1.2

          I think the modern curriculum includes *both* traditional concrete facts and skills/strategies for young learners. Both are needed

        • BM 10.1.1.3

          Memorisation is incredibly important in the trades, maybe that’s why so many young kiwis struggle in a trade environment?

          When you’re attached to a computer all day having a good memory doesn’t really matter, you can jump on the internets and find what you need, when you’re out on the job site or underneath a car you don’t have that option.

          Who said that teachers put no value on memory

          From the post I first replied to

          The PISA exams don’t test the NZ curriculum and doesn’t test knowledge in the way we test knowledge. Written, multi-choice questions tend to test the lowest cognitive abilities – memory and basic manipulations.

          • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1.3.1

            Memorisation is incredibly important in the trades,

            No, I’d say that being able to think is more important. My nephew, a builder, gets the fixup jobs because he can think of how to fix them.

            And he carries his phone with him so he can look stuff up on the internets.

            From the post I first replied to

            But that’s just the opinion of one person – not ‘teachers’.

            • BM 10.1.1.3.1.1


              No, I’d say that being able to think is more important. My nephew, a builder, gets the fixup jobs because he can think of how to fix them.

              Most Trades are about systems and procedures you’ve got to be able to retain that knowledge in your head and be able to extract and use it when necessary.

              How’s your nephew going to get on whens he’s in an area with no internet coverage?

              • Draco T Bastard

                How’s your nephew going to get on whens he’s in an area with no internet coverage?

                Probably pretty well.

                Most Trades are about systems and procedures you’ve got to be able to retain that knowledge in your head and be able to extract and use it when necessary.

                And if you use them all the time you’ll remember them but if you can think you can replace them. Those memories don’t become a belief.

                That seems to be the biggest problem with RWNJs – they believe that what they learned as a child still holds sway when most of it doesn’t but they won’t replace the outdated BS. They can’t because they can’t think.

                • BM

                  And if you use them all the time you’ll remember them but if you can think you can replace them. Those memories don’t become a belief.

                  This is the problem a lot of employers are facing ,you can repeatedly demonstrate how to do a task but it doesn’t seem to sink in and be retained by many young employees.

                  Current teaching methods don’t lend themselves to knowledge retention.

                  No idea what you’re babbling on about with “Those memories don’t become a belief.”.?

                  • McFlock

                    Or it could be that a lot of employers today are untrained, unskilled, and unfit to manage staff.

                    That’s the trouble when the sole criterion for a position is money.

                    • BM

                      How about you pull your flabby carcass out from behind that public servant’s desk and get out there and show them how it’s done.

                    • McFlock

                      lol

                      What, like when I was supervising half a dozen people under 25? That was pretty cushy work, if you knew how to A)manage staff, and B)deal with people.

                      And keep your mind off my flabby carcass, please.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    No idea what you’re babbling on about with “Those memories don’t become a belief.”.?

                    I mean that people who just memorize things and don’t think about them turn those memories into beliefs that they won’t change no matter what the facts are. This is seen extensively in RWNJs.

      • adam 10.1.2

        Wow BM you got anything to back up that stupid comment? Or are you going all bill english, and going with the vibe you been told?

        Come on man, I know you lot are failing, but do you need to flail about as well?

  11. SpaceMonkey 11

    Maybe it was always there but it seems to me that an ideological divide has opened up in NZ and it is evident at all levels of our education system. It comes down to the purpose of education.

    Broadly speaking, on one side sit those who believe that the purpose of education is to develop well-rounded human beings who have the capacity and ability to think for themselves.

    On the other sit those who believe that the purpose of education is simply to provide qualifications and skills for people to get a job. This view has been the sole focus of this National Government with its education policies.

    • BM 11.1

      On the other sit those who believe that the purpose of education is simply to provide qualifications and skills for people to get a job. This view has been the sole focus of this National Government with its education policies.

      Getting a job and a career are rather important, you’re a bit fucked without any means to make a living.

      • Robert Guyton 11.1.1

        But should it be your sole focus?
        All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy, BM…

        …hang on!!

      • Psycho Milt 11.1.2

        Getting a job and a career are rather important…

        Very. But they’re not the purpose of the school system, or shouldn’t be. The public education system exists to educate children, not to train them to do a job. I get why National’s members and donors would want it to re-jig public schools as a delivery system for work-ready employees, but there’s no reason the rest of us should be happy to see that happening.

        • ropata 11.1.2.1

          The other purpose of the school system, since the Industrial Revolution, was to “free” the parents to go work in factories (and train a new batch of workers). Seems a little outdated given the future of work is robots.

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