web analytics

The education horse race

Written By: - Date published: 11:38 am, April 9th, 2015 - 15 comments
Categories: education, journalism, schools, uncategorized - Tags: , , , ,

education-horse-raceIt really annoys me to see complex educational issues reported in the idiotic “horse race” format that the media is so fond of. Case in point, the front page header for a piece in today’s Herald. Who wins? Who losses? Bring on the league tables!

Despite disclaimers (and this particular article commendably includes one, “This cannot be used as a ranking table in any way”) most of the reporting of NCEA results every year is framed in this superficial horse-race style. That was always National’s intent. It obscures the social and demographic factors that influence outcomes, and the history of where each school is coming from. It creates perverse incentives to manipulate NCEA outcomes, how can we trust the data? For example, also in today’s Herald:

University Entrance change hits low-decile schools hardest

Educators warn drop in student pass rates at low-decile schools is worrying.

Our poorest students have been hit the hardest by changes to University Entrance, with up to 50 per cent fewer pupils making it over the new threshold in low-decile areas.

The changes to University Entrance (UE), brought in by the Government last year, have also affected universities, with 960 fewer students enrolling across six of the eight providers this year. But experts fear some students are missing out because of schools’ resourcing as opposed to teenagers’ academic ability.

On the one hand the government are pushing for more and more NCEA passes to feed the league tables, and on the other they are acknowledging that those passes are no longer enough to suggest success at Tertiary level and tightening criteria to exclude students. From the same piece:

“Lower decile schools would have found themselves in a bind.”

For many it was a juggle between getting NCEA Level 3 with a non-approved UE subject, or risking going for UE but not achieving Level 3.

Labour tertiary education spokesman David Cunliffe said the drop in UE pass rates was a “giant shambles” linked to poor communication around the changes, and some schools pushing students towards “softer” subjects earlier on.

Mixed messages, perverse incentives, a giant shambles.

If we actually cared about educational outcomes in NZ we would stop the ideological posturing, look at systems that actually work in the real world, and implement them.

15 comments on “The education horse race ”

  1. ianmac 1

    Well. Just now we have been coincidentally discussing with two University lecturers, the change in student competency. The questions around NCEA may be a cause for concern in those competencies.

  2. Jones 2

    “If we actually cared about educational outcomes in NZ we would stop the ideological posturing, look at systems that actually work in the real world, and implement them.”

    It may come as a surprise but there are many people working in the education system, including the Ministry of Education who I am sure would agree with you.

    One of the biggest hurdles to overcoming this are parents who have expectations, often a generation or two out of date, of what a good education system should look like for their children. For example, many parents struggle with the concept of a 100% pass rate for students sitting NCEA, and still cling to the 50/50 pass/fail concept.

    Politicians often don’t help, favouring hyped-up solutions that make good headlines but will return very little benefit for the expenditure.

    One of the biggest shifts inside the NZ education system thinking in the last few years, is a move to “contextualised learning” but attempts to introduce it have been limited by the political will to implement it, teachers’ ability to teach in this way, as well as schools ability to resource it alongside the need to juggle parental expectations. However, Finland, one of the world leaders in education, is doing exactly that – moving away from teaching by “subject” towards teaching by “topic”:

    http://singularityhub.com/2015/04/04/finlands-latest-educational-move-will-produce-a-generation-of-entrepreneurs/

    For some good educational thought leadership on education systems, I would highly recommend Ken Robinson’s TED presentation on ‘Changing Education Paradigms’, animated by RSA Animate:

    • r0b 2.1

      It may come as a surprise but there are many people working in the education system, including the Ministry of Education who I am sure would agree with you.

      It wouldn’t be a surprise at all, lots of good people in the system. It’s the political direction from the top that is wrong.

    • KJT 2.2

      Universities seem to miss the point.

      Education is to give a good grounding for everyone. Not just the 17% who obtain University degrees, or higher.

      School is to give a good grounding in life skills. Not just to ensure that the University does not have to teach first year engineering students, calculus.

      • Jones 2.2.1

        From talking with educationalists, this seems to be one of the major conversations: what is the purpose of education? There is a divide between those who believe it is there to support humanity in assisting in the development of well-rounded individuals, and those who believe education is simply there to serve the economy.

        At present, we seem to have a model that is being/has been co-opted to serve the interests of business, and it is happening at both the secondary and tertiary levels. The cynic in me, from way back in the day when I went to school (some 30 years), was of the view that the purpose of school wasn’t to teach the life-skills but find the 10-15% of students who would matriculate into tertiary education. The remainder would enter into a trade or service related job, often by way of an apprenticeship or some work-based training. I haven’t seen much that shifts that view.

        We now have a funding model for tertiary education that has resulted in the commercialisation of universities and universities are increasingly competing head-on with polytechnics and private training establishments. For example, there now seem to be degrees offered in courses, that were initially taught to a diploma level, while other subjects, particularly in the humanities, are falling away as they appear to have no commercial value.

  3. Colonial Rawshark 3

    Philip Ferguson posted a link on OM to this article criticising what university education has become.

    Our universities are turning out thousands of young people a year who are debt ridden and hence dependent on supporting and continuing the status quo to get ahead. Including very many young people trained up in the best that neoliberal economics and modern finance have to offer. I’m sure that kind of education will be very helpful to society given the realities of climate change and energy depletion that these new graduates will be facing in the next 20-30 years.

    https://rdln.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/terry-eagleton-on-the-death-agony-of-universities/

    an event as momentous in its own way as the Cuban revolution or
    the invasion of Iraq is steadily under way: the slow death of the
    university as a centre of humane critique. Universities, which in
    Britain have an 800-year history, have traditionally been derided as
    ivory towers, and there was always some truth in the accusation. Yet the
    distance they established between themselves and society at large could
    prove enabling as well as disabling, allowing them to reflect on the
    values, goals, and interests of a social order too frenetically bound up
    in its own short-term practical pursuits to be capable of much
    self-criticism. Across the globe, that critical distance is now being
    diminished almost to nothing, as the institutions that produced Erasmus
    and John Milton, Einstein and Monty Python, capitulate to the hard-faced
    priorities of global capitalism.

  4. red-blooded 4

    I think we have to acknowledge that NCEA pass rates have been ranked a reported as horse races from the start, and this includes under Labour administrations. It was this kind of simplistic viewpoint that created all sorts of perversities like the (defunct) credits in picking up rubbish and the still widespread practice of not entering the results for students who haven’t achieved internally assessed standards.

    Ridiculously, this administration have insisted on higher pass rates at all levels whilst a standards review has lifted the level of challenge at each year level of NCEA and the UE requirements have also been made more difficult to achieve. And extra resourcing…? Forget it.

    • Jones 4.1

      Students themselves are also gaming the system, by looking at the model and determining the best way to attain NCEA is simply by doing subjects which they find easier than others. Consequently science and maths at NCEA Level 2 and 3 are dropping away as subjects as students can achieve the same level of certification by doing arts and english-centric subjects.

      I suspect this is one of the underlying reasons why so large a number of students failed to attain the required standard to enter university this year. They may have got the NCEA Level 3 certification but was it in the right subjects necessary to gain access to university?

  5. repateet 5

    Something to look forward to is the same brain-dead publicity of National Standards results from primary schools.

    The whole approach is down to leadership, the leadership from politicians not educators. That leadership from Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata is educationally and intellectually bereft.

    The people like Gordon Tovey and C. E. Beeby will be rolling in their graves. The unknown educational bureaucrats, the sycophantic simpletons will not be remembered for their slaying of the world leading NZ schooling system. They deserve to be remembered as arch criminals in our history.

  6. Molly 6

    You may be interested to know that the current project being scoped by MoE is to raise the pass rates for special/high needs students to the same as all other students. This rate is the (as yet unachieved) 85% of school leavers with NCEA Level 2.

    I had an interesting discussion with an educator about how this is a wrong-headed approach. There are no more resources to be allocated, and alternative educational pathways and work opportunities are not involved, and the focus is solely on achieving qualifications, even though students may not be suited to that level or further study.

    In my mind, that is taking already vulnerable students, and exposing them to further failure instead of finding alternative ways that they can contribute. For those that want to achieve academically, then further resources are required. Current personal learning plans are not being met, so I can’t see how further requirements are going to help.

    • repateet 6.1

      They are not interested in those special/high needs students. They are interested in numbers on bits of paper.

      The type of mentality in the thick intelligentsia at the top, is that only when everyone has a PhD will we be able to say our education system is working.

    • Scintilla 6.2

      I presume they would be Supported Learning Standards, rather than regular NCEA standards which are beyond the reach of most Special Needs students. These typically cover areas such as safely negotiating road crossings, for instance, or identifying body organs and their functions/location. Ability to meet the criteria is highly dependent on the individual skills and aptitudes of the student. While success in achieving them gives the students a buzz, (which may be rapidly forgotten as many students cannot retain knowledge over a longer time-frame) I seriously question the value to our students of focusing on standards.

      I’ve yet to meet the parents/whanau of a Special Needs student who was ambitious for their son or daughter to achieve academically in a broad, want to pass ncea and get into tertiary kind of way. Happiness, independence as much as possible, useful and satisfying activities, social skills and fun is the answer usually provided when one asks what their hopes and expectations are. Occasionally a student will show definite talent in one particular area alone – it might be maths, esp. computer apps/coding, music, art, cooking, gardening … isn’t it better to make these flourish?

      The answer lies in being able to meaningfully get a grip on each individual’s existing talents and skills and building on those. Being boxed into standards would stifle opportunities to really respond to students’ strengths and work with them. But it takes $$ for the concentrated, individualised approach.

      Next thing you know, Parata will be holding teachers accountable for not getting those disabled students out of their wheelchairs and walking on water.

  7. fisiani 7

    Far too many students with no chance of getting a degree were wasting money. Stopping this waste is a good reform.

  8. mpledger 8

    @fisiani

    But the kids who are missing out aren’t the dumb kids but the poor kids.

  9. millsy 9

    This all goes back to the Picot reforms.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 day ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Community benefits from Māori apprenticeships
    Up to 50 Māori apprentices in Wellington will receive paid training to build houses for their local communities, thanks to a $2.75 million investment from the Māori Trades and Training Fund, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Ngāti Toa Rangatira Incorporated to provide its Ngā Kaimahi ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Training fund supports Māori jobseekers
    Rapidly growing sectors will benefit from a $990,000 Māori Trades and Training Fund investment which will see Wellington jobseekers supported into work, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “This funding will enable Sapphire Consultants Ltd. to help up to 45 Māori jobseekers into paid training initiatives over two years through ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ruakura Inland Port development vital infrastructure for Waikato
    The Government is investing $40 million to develop an inland port at Ruakura which will become a freight super-hub and a future business, research and residential development for the Waikato, Urban Development and Transport Minister Phil Twyford, and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced today. The funding has been has ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Appointments made to Defence Expert Review Group
    Defence Minister Ron Mark announced today the establishment of an Expert Review Group to review a number of aspects of the New Zealand Defence Force’s (NZDF) structure, information management and record-keeping processes.  The Expert Review Group’s work arises out of the first recommendation from the Report of the Government’s Inquiry ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • No active community cases of COVID-19
    There are no active community cases of COVID-19 remaining in the country after the last people from the recent outbreak have recovered from the virus, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “This is a big milestone. New Zealanders have once again through their collective actions squashed the virus. The systems ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Clean energy upgrade for more public buildings
    More public buildings will be supported by the Government to upgrade to run on clean energy, the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw announced today. Minister Shaw announced that Lincoln and Auckland universities will receive support through the Clean-Powered Public Service Fund to replace fossil fuel boilers. Southern, Taranaki, and ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Schools back donations scheme for the second year
    More schools have opted in to the donations scheme for 2021, compared to 2020 when the scheme was introduced. “The families of more than 447,000 students will be better off next year, with 94% of eligible schools and kura opting into the scheme,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “This is ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ruapehu cycle trails gets PGF boost
    The spectacular Mountains to Sea cycle trail in Ruapehu District will receive $4.6 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund for two additional trails, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today. “This is an exciting development for the local community, and one that will provide significant economic opportunities ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Update to air border order strengthens crew requirements
    Additional measures coming into effect on Monday will boost our defence against COVID-19 entering New Zealand through the air border, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “As part of our precautionary approach and strategy of constant review, we’re tightening the requirements around international aircrew,” Chris Hipkins said. The COVID-19 Public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • A true picture of Māori business activity
    A better picture of the contribution Māori businesses make to the economy will be possible with changes to the way information is collected about companies and trading enterprises. Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Small Business Minister Stuart Nash have announced a new option for Māori enterprises who are part ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • PGF funding for Taranaki projects
    The South Taranaki museum, a New Plymouth distillery and a Pasifika building firm will benefit from a Government investment totalling more than $1 million, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says. The $1.05m in grants and loans from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will help the recipients expand and create ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Fijian Language Week 2020 inspires courage and strength during COVID-19 pandemic
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says the theme for the 2020 Fijian Language Week reflects the strong belief by Fijians that their language and culture inspires courage and strength that is strongly needed in times of emergencies, or through a significant challenge like the global COVID-19 pandemic ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Trades training builds on iwi aspirations
    An investment of $2.025 million from the Māori Trades and Training Fund will support Māori to learn new skills while making a positive difference for their communities, announced Employment Minister Willie Jackson today. “K3 Development Limited Partnership will receive $2,025,000 for its Takitimu Tuanui apprenticeship programme, which will support the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Conservation Minister plants two millionth tree in Raglan restoration
    A long-term conservation project led by the Whaingaroa Harbour Care group in the western Waikato reaches a significant milestone this week, with the planting of the two millionth tree by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage. “Planting the two millionth tree crowns 25 years of commitment and partnership involving Whaingaroa ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Seniors – our parents and grandparents
    International Older Persons Day is a chance to think about the individual older New Zealanders we know and to confront ageism, Seniors Minister Tracey Martin said today. “What happened around COVID-19 is a reminder that our over-65s are a very large and diverse group of people and we need to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Residential building sector growing stronger
    Figures released by Statistics New Zealand today show healthy growth in residential building consents in an environment of Government support for the sector during COVID-19, says Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods. Statistics New Zealand reported today that a record 10,063 townhouses, flats, and units were consented in the August 2020 ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • PGF helps Bay of Plenty youth find jobs
    Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) support for a pathways to work hub in Tauranga will help address high youth unemployment in the Bay of Plenty by connecting young people with training and meaningful employment opportunities, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau has announced. “Priority One Western Bay of Plenty ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago