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It’s great to see Chris Hipkins abolishing ‘National Standards’ as a matter of priority. This policy was nothing but an unfortunate bit of populism from the previous government, and a Prime Minister in John Key who specialised in band-aid solutions to problems that required stitches.
While it may have made some people feel better that it looked like action was being taken on literacy and numeracy in Primary Schools, in practice National Standards were more hindrance than help.
The policy stigmatised children with disabilities and learning difficulties, it narrowed the curriculum and worst of all it put too much focus on measuring and labelling instead of things that can make a real difference.
Just because I can measure how bad I am at golf by looking at my handicap, and by feeling the sting of it being the maximum number possible, doesn’t mean I can do much to improve it without some intensive one-on-one coaching from a pretty amazing teacher.
Which brings us to the real problem in education. There are lots of pretty amazing teachers out there but we need to attract more. And I would strongly argue that it’s hard to achieve this when the starting salary for a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree is $48,000 and there are plenty of less stressful jobs out there that pay more.
It would certainly take more than that to convince me to spend my working life trying to impart knowledge onto other people’s children in groups of thirty plus at a time.
It’s by no means a less stressful job, but Police start on $56,000 and have their training fully funded so aren’t starting with a student loan. Having good dedicated motivated and talented teachers should be just as high a priority for us as a country as good dedicated motivated and talented cops.
In fact, more of one could lead to needing less of the other.
You also need to provide the best possible learning environment for children and that means better teacher student ratios to allow more specialised help as well as smaller class sizes.
It’s not rocket science. Those are the problems that need addressing if we are serious about lifting educational achievement. They are more expensive than just giving everyone a test and hoping for the best. But hey, you get what you pay for right?