Parata fleeing education mess

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, April 24th, 2017 - 37 comments
Categories: accountability, education, Hekia parata, national, useless - Tags: , , , , , ,

Goodbye Hekia Parata:

I have loved it: Hekia Parata on her 5½ years as education minister

Hekia Parata thinks legacy is a “very kind of poncy term”. “It’s not why you get into public office,” the outgoing education minister says as she prepares for her last day in the role on May 1, after 5½ years at the helm.

But she is nonetheless proud in the belief that she leaves New Zealand with a better education system than when she started.

Parata can believe whatever brings her comfort of course (it’s very fashionable these days). But the fact is that this National government has made, as usual, a mess of education. Crucially and unfortunately, NCEA is in trouble. The best analysis recently is on Newsroom:

What PISA tells us about grade inflation in NCEA

Brogan Powlesland looks at why NCEA numbers are on the rise if New Zealand’s PISA results tell a different story

COMMENT: The Government tells us that education is getting better in New Zealand. In Prime Minister Bill English’s election date announcement, he declared that National would be campaigning on their strong record in Government, including the fact that “more kids are staying at school longer and getting better qualifications”.

The NCEA numbers seem to back him up. Qualification attainment rates are higher than ever.

Yet the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a three-yearly worldwide study by the OECD of 15-year-old school students’ educational performance on mathematics, science, and reading, paints a different story. (see Figure 2)

New Zealand’s PISA scores have been declining since tests started in 2000. Despite NCEA grades improving, actual standards in maths, science and reading have declined.

This strongly suggests that the NCEA qualification is suffering from ‘grade inflation’, where the actual standard signified by a given grade is declining. As with monetary inflation, the qualification is losing value.

Figure 2: NCEA Level 2 pass rates vs PISA scores

The Figure shows our own NCEA Level 2 pass rates vs results in the independent and international PISA schools (plenty more data and discussion making similar points in the article). NCEA goes up, independent measures go down. Unfortunately, it looks a lot like grade inflation. Teachers under mad levels of micro-managed pressure to pass more students – do so.

Further reading on the “better education system” that Parata leaves behind:

Dumbing down a generation: Performance of NZ schoolchildren plummeting
NZ 10-year-olds worst at maths in English-speaking world
NCEA pass rates increases ‘don’t reflect genuine increase in learning’
Rodney Hide: Education win not worth cheering (cross party consensus!)
The trouble with NZ’s primary schools
Primary schools in NZ: Is the $250m policy working?
Qualifications in doubt at big school for international students: NZQA
Student cheated three times and still passed: Lecturer
The Big Read: The $25 million student funding scandal
Student visa fraud: ‘It’s not about education’
More tertiary providers under investigation by Serious Fraud Office
Foreign student intake suspended
Private school rorts revealed
Huge $330m under-spend in flagship education policy
Ministry says charter schools “over-funding” is $888,000
School cash flows to owners’ pockets

As far as success stories go, education is right up there with National’s record on housing and the environment. The Brighter Future is a disaster.

37 comments on “Parata fleeing education mess ”

  1. red-blooded 1

    Parata’s contribution to the school sector?
    1) Demands for higher pass rates, with schools shamed if they don’t “pump it up”.
    2) Ever-decreasing resources for special education.
    3) Professional development opportunities – slash and burn.
    4) Charter schools – no accountability, no requirement for trained/registered teachers, but plenty of cash.
    5) The Teachers’ Council (which used to include elected sector representatives) morphed into Teach NZ (no representation, but fees increasing by more than 100% – after “consultation” of course).
    6) To be fair, the Communities of Interest system might have some long-term benefits, but it seems quite clunky and isn’t getting much take-up, at least amongst the schools here in Dunedin.

    I don’t think she’s been quite as bad as Anne Tolley, but then Tolley was a dreadful Min of Ed.

    • Yeah, although I struggle to think of any ministry Tolley would run competently, she’s somewhat like Brownlee in that regard IMO. It will be interesting to see if Kaye actually improves things at all or simply caretakes Parata’s careful erosion of the education sector. I mean, it’s not like she isn’t going to stick with the exact same funding levels of course, but it’s possible she might actually realise some of the policies were problematic if she’s actually sincere in her rhetoric about policy in the past. I’m not THAT optimistic yet though.

  2. NZJester 2

    Imagine what all the public schools could have done if they got similar funding to all those charter schools. That was Nationals biggest kick in the teeth to the education system. And they kept kicking it with ever decreasing weaker kicks. Only a small amount of that charter school money went on educating the students who got more unqualified teachers to look after them. Those running the schools stuffed all the money in their pockets in management fees. The idea of a charter school is meant to be it is part-funded by the government and part by private funding, but nearly all the money has been coming from the government, with no sign of anyone putting up anything but small amounts of seed money that they soon got back with lots of interest.
    Charter schools have just been a waste of public money with a lot failing and those that are doing well doing no better than most public schools.

  3. RedLogix 3

    Those linkies make sobering reading. Those PISA results just appalling.

    Any nation that fucks up the STEM subjects like this is destined for abysmal failure.

  4. The Fairy Godmother 4

    Education has been totally taken over and controlled by the bureaucrats. What matters is the paper-work and that it tells the right story. The paper-work can’t measure a lot of very valuable things like creativity, enagaement and the interest and relevance of the learning to students. Its just as bad in ECE with the popular means of assessment being the learning story which takes lots of unpaid teacher time and is done to fulfil the right amount of learning stories for the child. Teachers are in service to the bureacrats who demand paperwork to prove they are doing a good job.

    • JanM 4.1

      Learning Stories are marvellous if done properly, though in my years as a teacher/lecturer I have seen very few I would regard as effective. And they certainly shouldn’t be done in the teacher’s own time!!

      • The Fairy Godmother 4.1.1

        Absolutely agree here JanM. They can be marvellous. There also needs to be enough time to work with the children and build relationships with them have conversations and so on. Somehow these things seem to be regarded as less important when it becomes all about the paperwork.

        • JanM

          Indeed – the most important part of teaching is to work with the children and build effective relationships with them to support their learning. And that’s where the beauty of properly written Learning Stories lies. Children love stories, and especially stories about themselves that they can read and treasure. We can show we have appreciated and tried to understand what learning has taken place and give them a story about themselves to treasure.
          One of my favourites was a little boy struggling with making friends because his approach tended to be in the ‘me first’ category. One day he was sitting with a group who were patting the rabbit. He got a turn. I took a photo and wrote a story about how kind and gentle he was to the rabbit and about how people like kindness too. He loved that story – he carried around for days and it really was the start of a new approach for him. His mother read it too, of course, and burst into tears of happiness.
          The problem is there are too many people who neither know or care how we work effectively, with too much influence

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      Education has been totally taken over and controlled by the bureaucrats.

      It’s been taken over and controlled by the capitalists who actually need a very narrowly educated populace so that they can continue ripping them off.

  5. RightWingAndProud 5

    “This strongly suggests that the NCEA qualification is suffering from ‘grade inflation’, where the actual standard signified by a given grade is declining. ”

    Excuse me! “Basket weaving” has just as much value as teaching science or math!

    THIS is why we need to get education back to the basics and get rid of all “vocational” crap.

    “Ignoring something is not the same as being able to handle them. If you don’t listen to people on the net, then you wind up in a echo chamber that is not useful.
    We eject the people who violate our rules.”

    • peterlepaysan 5.1

      I do not see any reference to basket weaving above.
      If you knew anything about education basket weaving offers huge teaching opportunities in all sorts of disciplines. Try Maths, Science, Engineering, History, just for starters. Go back to your (pre – basket weaving) paleolithic cave.

      Believe it or not this is the 21st century. Time you grew up.

      • mac1 5.1.1

        Agreed, Peter. I remember with fondness my sewing and crafts at primary school. I learnt as a boy to handle a needle, do cross-stitch, knit a scarf, woodwork skills. These taught usable skills, coordination, dexterity, and some artistic expression.

        They taught how to design, follow a pattern, to persevere and take care, counting, measuring, the domestic virtues, social skills.

        They even taught that boys could do “women’s work”!

        • RightWingAndProud

          So um, teaching “sewing”, or say how to make coffee, as an NCEA subject, has the same value as teaching maths, science or reading. Hell, according to your buddy Pete they may even offer “huge teaching opportunities in all sorts of disciplines. Try Maths, Science, Engineering, History, just for starters.”

          Well I guess that’s why according to PISA NZ’s scores in maths, science and reading have been rocketing up.

          Oh wait.

          “Ignoring something is not the same as being able to handle them. If you don’t listen to people on the net, then you wind up in a echo chamber that is not useful.
          We eject the people who violate our rules.”

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Actually, sewing is one of the classes that we were all forced to take at intermediate level that I have found very useful later in life. Like cooking, some basic ability to mend holes in clothes is a practical life skill for everyone. I agree it shouldn’t be core at NCEA level, but only because I think kids should already have attained the critical skills well before that time.

            • BM

              I remember making a damn fine apple strudel back in intermediate as well as a very useful pillow made from a stylish electric blue nylon.

              • Indeed. Cooking never helped me particularly that much as I was already interested, but I would never have learned sewing if I weren’t forced into it. Starting earlier with those two might be pretty beneficial.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            rocketing up

            [citation needed]

            No, wait, I found one: Someone has you believing porkies.

            New Zealand’s rise in the rankings was largely because countries previously ranked above it declined, Craig Jones, deputy secretary for evidence, data and knowledge said.

            Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the figures showed student performance was dropping across all three subject areas.

            “The biggest drop was between 2009 and 2012, but it’s continued to decline,” he said.

            The average score for New Zealand kids had gone from 516 to 513 in science, from 512 to 509 in reading, and from 500 to 495 in maths between 2012 and 2015.

            My bold. Where do you get your “information” from? Will you name the person who lied to you? 😈

            • RightWingAndProud

              I was being sarcastic. As can be seen by the graph that the thread author thoughtfully provided PISA scores have been going down while the NCEA scores have been going to up.

              I agree with the thread author. NCEA is a mess. Actually it’s worse than that – it’s a corrupt mess. And from your reply it seems we’re on the same page. Correct?

              Whether we can blame solely National, I don’t know. But if I was Parata I certainly wouldn’t be crowing.

              “Ignoring something is not the same as being able to handle them. If you don’t listen to people on the net, then you wind up in a echo chamber that is not useful.
              We eject the people who violate our rules.”

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Grade inflation is a well-studied phenomenon with a number of causes. I suspect your haste to lay the blame at NCEA’s door may be politically motivated.

                National set out to attack teachers before they were even elected, with Key lying to Parliament about literacy and numeracy rates well before the 2008 election. The National Party is a blight on children and adults alike.

                Whatever Finland is doing, we should copy it. That means teaching being one of the highest paid professions. And to do that, the National Party has to be kicked until it breaks.

                • RightWingAndProud

                  I blame the schools who push students into soft subjects just to inflate the school’s NCEA average instead of pushing the student to study and work harder.

                  “Ignoring something is not the same as being able to handle them. If you don’t listen to people on the net, then you wind up in a echo chamber that is not useful.
                  We eject the people who violate our rules.”

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Yes, I figured you for part of the problem.

                  • Pete

                    I don’t blame schools who push students into soft subjects just to inflate the school’s NCEA average instead of pushing the student to study and work harder.

                    Isn’t the point of schools to have high NCEA averages so they look good in the stats? The point of schools is to have high NCEA averages so the Minister can crow in Parliament?

                    The qualification on teachers being ‘professional’ is not to be based on the quality of kids’ learning and kids learning what is important, it is on churning out stats which look good. Any teacher with their head screwed on will get rid of highfalutin notions like altruism and doing what is important.

                    The irony is that those making the loudest calls for teachers to be professional, improved professionalism and improving professional qualifications, are those who most steadfastly have sought (and got) a system which encourages paint-by-numbers approaches and the meeting of minimum standards. The least informed about learning and teaching and the importance of quality in those things, are those who have set the tune. The lunatics like Tolley and Parata were organising and conducting the asylum and the baying cretins who purportedly are the products of more enlightened educational times, have happily and whole-heartedly sung along and are turning the page onto the next verse.

                    • RightWingAndProud

                      “I don’t blame schools who push students into soft subjects just to inflate the school’s NCEA average instead of pushing the student to study and work harder.

                      Isn’t the point of schools to have high NCEA averages so they look good in the stats? The point of schools is to have high NCEA averages so the Minister can crow in Parliament?”

                      Well yes, at the top of the totem pole sits the government telling schools to get their NCEA averages up or else. So I acknowledge ultimate blame lies at the feet of the government.

                      What I’d like to see is schools wiling to stand up to the government and say we’re not going to make it easy for our students just to inflate our NCEA average. We’re going to challenge them and get them to study and work hard even if our NCEA scores end up being lower. Surely you can’t disagree with that.

                      “Ignoring something is not the same as being able to handle them. If you don’t listen to people on the net, then you wind up in a echo chamber that is not useful.
                      We eject the people who violate our rules.”

                      [lprent: Why exactly are you quoting something I said last week? It just makes me suspicious about you wanting to waste my time at some point in finessing some kind of a legal point. Can I point now as warning, that my usual responses are to either use decades of experience in tying personal knots in your ego as you try to explain yourself and/or just dumping them because they are wasting my valuable time. Read the policy and you will see what I mean. ]

                    • Pete

                      RightWingAndProud@ 5:39 pm

                      I’d like to see schools stand up to the government too. The easiest path though is to just go along with things. The professional thing would be to fight every inch of the way to achieve what is best for kids and their learning. Fighting the good fight would mean less energy to play the game as it is stipulated by the Government and demanded by the cretins I’ve referred to.

                      The professional thing isn’t to do what you know is right, the professional thing is to do what know-littles expect.

                      Anyone with real intelligence should not become a teacher.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      …except in Finland and other places that can do education without National Party values ruining everything.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Surely you can’t disagree with that.

                      It looks like ignorance or malice if you ask me. Your narrative of blame has no foundation other than the one between your ears.

                      In order for teachers to properly educate their students, first we have to get you out of the way.

                    • RightWingAndProud


                      I’m just posting as someone on the right wing side of politics and posting what I hope are on-topic and relevant replies. I can assure you that I have no plans to “waste [your] time at some point in finessing some kind of a legal point”, and you can quote me on that.

                      I have read the policy and can also assure you that nothing I post here is for the purpose of wasting anybody’s time, lest of all moderators.

                      This is all I have to say on this topic and, seeing as it makes you suspicious, will refrain from including the quote in future posts.

          • mac1

            I appreciate your concern is about NCEA quals, but I couldn’t let pass a denigrating of ‘basket weaving’ as not being worthwhile. I see below that you acknowledge that the crafts have their educational worth.

            At that level we agree, I believe.

            As for the worth of qualifications as they now are, I fear that the university system which I knew where bachelor degrees comprised some 5% of the population and masters were about 1.5%, now we have masters being awarded at the old bachelor’s level, and bachelors at the 11% mark.

            Now I acknowledge that many more are now reaching university which was the privilege of the middle class in my day. One NZ History tutorial I attended canvassed the group of 20 and only one was of working class origins. But I fear that the worth/value/attainment of these degrees has been lowered.

            I hope I am wrong.

            • RightWingAndProud

              For the record I believe they have worth – just not at the NCEA level at the expense of the core subjects. I have no problems with them being taught at primary school and intermediate or even what was third and fourth form levels. And I certainly have no problem with them being taught at vocational training institutes. Definitely there’s nothing wrong with basket weaving for example being taught at a vocational institute as a craft to build confidence and give students something from which they can make a living.

    • Nic the NZer 5.2

      Students used to learn all these vocational subjects well before 2004, when NZ scored a bit higher in PISA scores than today. Your just raising this ‘point’ to try to deflect from what is being raised here. To give some focus the point is that, the NCEA results are diverging from the PISA results which are thought to be a more stable level of educational achievement. It seems quite plausible this is due to NCEA becoming teach the test, while PISA remains a test of the subject.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 5.2.1

        Looks like right wing pride, like any other sort, comes before a fall. See

      • RightWingAndProud 5.2.2

        Sure, you could learn cooking, woodworking, etc but those sort of “technical” subjects were never taught at the expense of core subjects like math and science.

        “Ignoring something is not the same as being able to handle them. If you don’t listen to people on the net, then you wind up in a echo chamber that is not useful.
        We eject the people who violate our rules.”

        • peterlepaysan

          Are you really saying that some time spent on domestic skills detracts from time spent on your favoured subjects? Perhaps all sports activities should be abolished.

          All those wealthy parents taking their kids out of school for overseas trips, ski trips in term time are detracting from your favoured subjects.

          When was the last time you sewed a button on your shirt?
          When was the last time you cooked a meal?

          You sound like a male chauvinist relic from the last century in you denigration of domestic and artisanal skills.

          I suggest you read
          “Storm in a teacup, the physics of everyday life.”
          Bantam Press 2016
          ISBN 0593075420
          Author Dr Helen Czernski
          Research Fellow
          Department of mechanical engineerin
          University of London.

          Obtw where did you get you degree in education from?
          Or are you really a troll from the National ACT spin room?

  6. The Chairman 6

    “As far as success stories go, education is right up there with National’s record on housing and the environment.”

    And I see (TV1 news at 6) the new education minister plans to build upon Parata’s legacy.

  7. millsy 7

    The problem goes deeper than Parata.

    NCEA and the Unit Standards were developed by National back in the 1990’s to create ‘mix and match’ qualifications that would be delivered by any provider, including people working out the back of their garden shed.

    They were trialling NCEA in some schools as early as 1996/97. I know, I was one of the guinea pigs. All it did was confused me and I just about flunked out, Literally handed in 90% of the years work on the last day of school to pass.

    • Pete 7.1

      In contrast to doing and exam on the nearly last day of school which would have been 100% of your years work?

      • mac1 7.1.1

        I remember the campaign in the late Sixties at university level to try and draw away from the old exam system, pass or fail, end of term three. That move met with much approval then. We saw the failings of three hours takes all.

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