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Kids need fun, politicians need to think

Written By: - Date published: 12:31 am, December 12th, 2008 - 29 comments
Categories: education, national/act government - Tags: , ,


It seems like only yesterday that we listened to arguments about how exams unfairly punished some students. The National Party initiated the NCEA in office, but now thinks that introducing a national standard testing system for five and six year olds is the way to go.

At least we think they do. At the time the policy was incredibly light on detail. It still is. The National Party has not made the bill available for scrutiny.

It is possible to conclude that this is aimed not at students at all, but at their parents, trying to stir up the hocus-pocus of ‘politically correct schools‘ and ‘they only play to take part‘.

Key certainly emphasized that and not much else :

Schools will have to explain to parents in plain English how their child is doing compared to these National Standards and compared to other children their age.

And this massive change in our education culture is being hastily thrown together and rammed through under urgency. This means professionals in the area will not be able to comment, or even iron out the kinks or stupid oversights in the bill. Let alone give their full opinion on how this might impact on our education culture.

This is how Public Address blogger Jolisa Gracewood has seen the introduction of a similar policy by the Bush administration in the United States:

This No Child Left Behind law, tying school funding to test results, has bled all of the fun and enrichment out of the school day. Second and third graders — six to eight year olds — only get recess two days a week, and art and music and library get an hour each, so that teachers can concentrate on teaching to the test.

Supporters of the policy can hardly argue that the New Zealand policy will be significantly different if we haven’t seen it, and won’t be allowed a proper chance to publicly debate it through the select committee process.

This is a disgrace, on a larger scale than the vindictive workers rights bill. New Zealanders deserve better than this.

Teacher: Well, Key and Tolley, been doing your homework on the bus again? Copying off that Bush boy?

Ambitious for New Zealand? Only if it can be done by Christmas.

A reader of The Standard

lprent: No Right Turn reports that the greens have scanned the bills in A service to democracy since the post was written. It is a pity that NACT didn’t provide them for public scrutiny themselves.

29 comments on “Kids need fun, politicians need to think ”

  1. Zorr 1

    I have been reading through the Bills trying to decode the language used and the meaning and intent of the policies.

    After reading through the Education Amendment, all I can say is that I am horrified by what such a small change will mean when it comes to implementation. My entire family are teachers, on both sides, and my wifes family too. All the way from ECE through to secondary school education. Adding national standard requirements for every level of schooling is NOT the way to effectively teach children and the fact that they are rushing this Bill through without even the decency to let it go to select committee so that the teachers and administrators can rip it to shreds.

    hmmmm… somewhere, I think, a fairy just died because John Key is a prat… urg… x_x

  2. RAS 2

    Sorry but standards are about accountability in public schools -which is a very good thing.

    If kids can’t have fun while learning, AND meet measurable standards, then there’s a problem.

  3. marx 3

    [lprent: dad you are banned]

  4. Miffy Fontford 4

    [lprent: dad you are banned]

  5. Performance target for six year olds??? How about we put them on a bonus system too. Perhaps they should only be allowed a nap time if they meet or exceed their KPIs…

  6. Miffy Fontford 6

    [lprent: dad – banned remember…]

  7. RobinsodsAss 7

    [lprent dad – you are banned]

  8. Miffy Fontford 8

    [lprent dad – you are banned]

  9. Miffy – yes. I’m glad you’re starting to see sense.

    My ass – I think you’ve overrated yourself with your handle there bucko – my arse emits more mellifluous sense than you manage to bang out with your angry monkey paws…

    Being my arse? That would be a step up in the world for you…

  10. yl 10

    This policy is a backwards step.  No where in the world have we seen national testing improve improve educational standards.  It is flawed in so many ways.

    For starters, people that say that teachers are not held accountable do not understand what is going on in education these days.  Teachers do teach with learning intentions on everything that they do.  They then assess students against these, and ultimately themselves.  From this they identity weaknesses in their teaching or there students.  The only difference is that this information is kept within the class school or cluster rather than compared against national averages.

    We have no need to compare the results of a decile 10 school against a decile 1a school because we know there are differences.  These students are fighting different battles.  A child in a decile 1a school is not worried about a test when they have no had breakfast.  It is not a fair comparision.  It is going to result in students that constantly fail to meet these national averages as a self fulfilling prophecy.

    Already in schools, and under Labour we have seen an increase in testing, but it is driven by a need to improve learning rather than show improved results.  This policy is a backwards step.

    In my experience, there is not an issue with the type of knowledge that parents are getting from schools about their child.  This policy is an example of JOkeys filling is ideology rather than it being thought out.

  11. ieuan 11

    The problem with having national tests is that children are taught to pass the tests rather than taught to actually think.

    You also have the problem that for young children they develop their abilities to learn at different rates (especially boys v girls) so how can you have a standardised test for 6 year olds that has any meaning?

  12. Zorr 12

    I see a lot of replys saying that our teachers need to be held accountable. The thing is, they already are.

    A lot of people do not know about ERO – the Education Review Office. Schools and teachers are held under a very fine microscope once every couple of years (every year if need be though) by their best. For me, until my own mother started working for them, I didn’t really know about them or how they worked. However, you can find all their school reports online and available for the past 8 years or so.

    Teachers are held VERY accountable for their performance and the idea of putting performance standards on children (and for full disclosure, MY children) when they are only 6 – 7 is very scary to me. I remember primary school as a fun place where not only did we do a lot of running around outside, we also got a lot done in class. I would like for my children to have the same opportunities.

    Falling literacy and numeracy skills will not be reversed just by creating a national benchmark at which children must succeed. There is no secondary plan, there is no “what if a child fails the test” plan. All that is happening is that when I go in to a school to a parent-teacher evening, instead of being able to see what my child has been doing in class through what is on the walls and in their desk and all that, I will instead just be told what score they got on some irrelevant standard.

    None of the other hoops have been removed either. So all this is doing is providing another hoop that overworked teachers have to jump through. Maybe the thing to do is actually seriously consider what is needed to be done to fix the current issues rather than just add to them with what will be just another one. A full education review by qualified, competent people who understand the science of learning would be a better approach than bueraucrats adding another tick box.

  13. tsmithfield 13

    The whole education system is hopeless.

    I see that now Kazakhstan is ahead of us in achievement in science for instance.


    So, any effort to improve an obviously failing system should be applauded.

    Furthermore, the education system fails in preparing kids for life in the real world. Practices such as not keeping the score in sports activities is one such example of the stupidity of it all. Winning and losing is inherent to the real world. Depriving kids of the opportunity to learn how to deal with the joys and disappointments associated with this is stupidity in the extreme.

    Theory-based learning also does not suit a lot of kids, especially a lot of boys. IMO some of the best learning, from a learning transfer perspective, is apprenticeship style learning where theory is applied practically as learning occurs. IMO a lot of kids would perform better if learning was structured in this sort of way so that kids could apply what they learned as they learned it. An example could be maths taught in the context of an engineering course for instance where the kids had to perform calculations for measurements, angles etc in order to build their project.

  14. [Deleted] 14

    [lprent: dad you are banned]

    [Tane: Change your username.]

  15. Peter Wilson 15

    It is a serious worry. Further to what has already been said, about standardised testing raising a generation of kids who know only how to sit tests, my concern is that this is the first stage of a concerted campaign to introduce bulk-funding style competition into schools.

    Basically, the conspiracy theory goes like this – introduce standardised testing, force schools to publish their results, and then tie funding to results. With the abolition of zoning, rich schools will get richer, poor schools will get poorer.

    Time for the teachers unions to get active me thinks.

  16. Tim Ellis 16


    You should be flattered that he’s paying you so much attention.

  17. Zorr 17

    “Theory-based learning also does not suit a lot of kids, especially a lot of boys. IMO some of the best learning, from a learning transfer perspective, is apprenticeship style learning where theory is applied practically as learning occurs. IMO a lot of kids would perform better if learning was structured in this sort of way so that kids could apply what they learned as they learned it. An example could be maths taught in the context of an engineering course for instance where the kids had to perform calculations for measurements, angles etc in order to build their project.”

    Primary schools already teach in this fashion. There is a lot of emphasis in primary teacher training that the learning context is authentic. Everyone has a tendency to think they are an expert on education because they have seen it from the inside, however most opinions are decades out of date and ill informed of the actual science of teaching.

  18. Ari 18

    While I don’t really like this policy either, I don’t think comparing it to No Child Left Behind is entirely fair. NCLB took away money from children who were underperforming. This law will target extra resources for them, which will help it avoid the biggest problems of NCLB.

    That said, it will still be a bunch of extra hassle that distracts from real learning. One of the best parts of primary school was that it didn’t do formal assessments, which let teachers actually concentrate on those areas that needed improvement, rather than just teaching to a test.

  19. RobinsodsPeachyBehind 19

    [lprent: dad you are banned]

  20. Tim Ellis 20

    RPB, piss off. If you haven’t got anything remotely mature or useful to contribute, then go do it elsewhere.

  21. Ari 21

    Can someone please ban the troll? It’s neither funny nor inventive.

  22. PeachyBehinds 22

    [lprent: dad you are banned]

  23. sunny 23

    Years ago I asked permission to sit in on my child’s classroom to try and work out why their achievement was so far behind our other children. Within minutes the answer was clear. Our child just couldn’t hear what was being said. The back ground noise in the classroom was just too loud.

    Not only that, but the desk was faced away from the whiteboard and the teacher, which required constant turning around. No adult learner would tolerate this set up for a minute. Their hand would shoot up and they would say, “Excuse me, but I can’t hear what you’re saying…and I want to turn my desk around so that I can see what you’re writing” But children put up with this nonsense and absorb the ‘message’ that they are stupid, lose all confidence and stop trying.

    Take the money that is going to be wasted ‘testing’ and buy clip on mikes and speakers for all classroom teachers…and turn the damn desks around to face the front! There’s research out there now that proves this link…but it’s so obvious especially when you think about how many children suffer from colds and glue ear and are effectively deafened throughout those extended periods.

  24. bill brown 24

    This really pisses me off, more than the fire at will law, which just pisses me off.

    Fucking around with adults (or near adults) work rights are bad enough, but a bunch of ideologue retards fucking about with a 6 year old’s education is just too fucking much – there is far too much at stake here.

    Enough is enough, this is getting beyond a joke – now it’s getting dangerous.

  25. ianmac 25

    Sunny: In most modern classrooms there is no front of a classroom. Wher constructivist approaches are used, (see above Tsmithfield) the old traditional teacher teaching from the front is irrelevant. The words which precede each session are”Within a meaningful context…..” and the research based on questioning by and with children drive the learning. This in turn is the context for learning skills.
    However there are some kids who are never going to reach the average skills or otherwise if they could the the average does not exist. What would be a better use of funds would be to identify the underachievers and help them. Might be health, glue ear for example, peer pressure (Better a rioter than a dumby!) specific disability like dispractia or autism. 80 % of learners do Ok  or very OK. Spend money on those who would benefit most.

  26. Jum 26

    Will each school have a name and shame board for the dummies who are keeping their school in a lower points bracket?

    Janet Frame ‘remembers’ the shame of being hauled out with other poor kids to have their heads examined for nits. i.e. how will Nactm deal with the results showing up the ‘intellectually challenged’?

    Will they have 3 lines forming each day at school
    – the dummies in the unheated prefab to prepare them for the great outdoors and earth moving?
    – the intellectuals in the library having tea and scones, preparing for leadership of the other two groups?
    – the worker-cogs of industry in the hall for mass education up to level 1 1/2? Mustn’t let the workers get too clever. With the new ‘efficiencies’ – more people in more soul destroying mass production – that NactM has planned, they’ll only get bored. I know – invent Soma for the masses.

    I guess imagination and vision have no place in this brave new world.

    Yet again National/Act/Maori ignore National Council of Women who voted against this nonsense of national testing. (Theyalso ignored NCW’s wish to retain Plunket funding years ago – which ties in nicely age-wise with our current bad record of caring about children.) Knowing the country-wide misogyny inherent in NZ, I guess women will continue to be ignored.

    Sunny – have you told Nat,Act,Maori what you want? What did they say?
    the government would be better off paying that ‘testing’ money into reducing class sizes by half and in every classroom of every school – primary, intermediate, high – having a teacher and assistant (a qualified new teacher on practical experience and doing class set up research) and keeping children twice as busy.

  27. George 27

    I wonder if Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics, could draw some conclusions on when it was our young males educational attainment started to slip. I bet it started with the ending of corporal punishment. I had both systems, and i tell you, i worked a lot harder when i knew i could get the strap for being a dick in class, than given the laughable option of detention. detention was lunchtime for the naughty, not bad, kids at my school, and consequently was hilarious.

  28. Jum 28

    What an insult to teachers – every teacher knows their children. Having witnessed the present government’s rabid attacks on the previous Labour Government as being full of teachers who never had a proper job in the ‘real world’, it is now clear why the Nactms are ignoring information already available from teachers.

    Now we have a bunch of cut throat lawyers in the new government – way scarier – a bunch of lawyers telling us they want teachers to supply parents with reports in plain language – excuse me. Lawyers – plain language – arrrrghhhhhhhhhhhh.

  29. Irascible 29

    Check out:
    Pansy Wong assured the Principal & Staff of Howick college this policy was a definite non-starter. Big joke from a joke Minister in an arrogant government.

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