Well what a fiasco yesterday’s launch of National’s brave new $36 million education policy was. Despite Key claiming the plan was one of the most important steps his Government would ever take, teachers and principals boycotted the event in droves. Even the government’s education policy advisor Prof John Hattie said the new policy was potentially “disastrous” and government should be ready to pull the plug immediately if if begins to show detrimental effects.
There’s at least a couple of reasons why opposition by educationalists is significant. For one, policy reforms often require a lot of good will on behalf of those charged with implementation. That’s why you involve people in the process, so they feel a part of the changes and buy-in to the process, and so go beyond the call of duty to make it work when the inevitable rocky parts of the change emerge. Without buy-in, especially in very people-based processes, you get low uptake, chain-dragging and even sabotage to ensure the changes fail.
The other significance of educationalists boycotting the launch is that it suggests they believe the changes won’t work, might be harmful or are just a plain old foolhardy waste of precious resources that’ll achieve nothing more than boost National’s polling for a while. But then I guess, what would the Principals’ Federation or the NZEI know about education compared to a retired currency trader turned politician? Being pointy-headed PC liberals and all, teachers and principals just work with actual students every day and probably don’t even appreciate National’s need for vacuous populism in education policy.
So now we have National Party politicians deciding what’s best for our kids while ignoring the expert opinions of professional educators.
In a comic parade act of exquisite unintentional irony Key commented that “The future of New Zealand does not lie with the Government, it lies with the children at school now.” Christ, ain’t that the truth. Heaven help them.