Tolley twisting on education

Written By: - Date published: 8:02 am, October 29th, 2010 - 24 comments
Categories: education, national - Tags: ,

Pity Anne Tolley. She is required to hold two completely contradictory views in her head.

The first is that our education system is terrible, in disarray, in need of reform. In particular our primary school education is so broken that “one in five children” is failing (repeat ad nauseam), and the only solution is to ignore all professional advice and force through untested, probably damaging, national standards, which will magically allow every single child to achieve.

The second, rather more fact based view, is that NZ has an excellent education system, including excellent primary education. It’s the view expressed in, for example, this government website:

New Zealand’s education system is world-class, modern and responsive. It combines proven, traditional principles of education with innovation, creativity and fresh thinking to produce leaders and citizens equipped for the 21st century.

From a child’s first day at school, our government-funded schooling system provides a comprehensive curriculum of academic, sporting and skills-based learning options in a positive environment.

I’ve been wondering if some reporter will ever get around to questioning Tolley on why it is that national standards are needed if our education system is excellent, “world-class, modern and responsive”. And it looks like Michael Dickison at The Herald might have had a go, in the context of this piece on NZ’s high score on some world prosperity index. Here’s Tolley:

Education Minister Anne Tolley said a recognition that New Zealand’s education was the best in the world did not rule out reform. “I’ve always said that New Zealand has an education system to be proud of,” she said.

“[But] up to one in five children are not getting the basic reading, writing and maths skills they need, and we are addressing that with National Standards and raising the bar for all students to ensure their success in the modern world.”

Can you hear the grinding gears of cognitive dissonance?

We have an excellent education system. But one in five children fail so somehow it is also a disaster for which Labour is to blame. (Here’s a hint Anne, one in five children fail in all education systems).

We have an excellent education system. But strangely it also a disaster that must be reformed by forcing an untested and probably unworkable new standards system, against all advice and massive professional resistance, right down the throats of our primary schools.

We have an excellent education system. But Anne Tolley is determined to break it.

24 comments on “Tolley twisting on education”

  1. Craig Glen Eden 1

    Classic case of National knowing that something is in fact white but claiming it is black because it suits their purpose and PR. They have done this with education from day one with the whole one in five fail dog whistle. If education is one of the major building blocks to moving our economy forward and insuring our kids can foot it in this world surely their pay should reflect that.

    Stop misrepresenting the truth Anne Tolley.

  2. Fabregas4 2

    In fact 1 in 5 do not fail in all education systems. New Zealand’s so called ‘tail of under achievement’ is less than 16% and amongst the lowest in the world. A clue for Tolley and all politicians – to lift achievement first take a look at social indicators – poverty, housing, crime, employment, health and in particular how they relate to Maori and Pasifika children and see if there is any correlation with how well these groups do at school.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      One other thing – parents have to care about their childrens’ education. I believe that this is an important independent variable in childrens educational outcomes which is not well captured in current measures.

    • Someone should tell her that one in two New Zealand students are below average. That will really get her going.

      Seriously though given the very positive comments about our education why would you want to f**k with it?

      • Colonial Viper 2.2.1

        Hmmmmm below the median maybe 😛

        Seriously though given the very positive comments about our education why would you want to f**k with it?

        She’s a National Minister who needs to flex her stupid muscles.

        • mickysavage

          With sufficiently small steps average nearly, median definately!

          • ianmac

            The moment you define an average point, it follows that 50% must be above and 50% must be below. Only way out is to not have an average point.

            • Lanthanide

              No, it means 50% of the values must be above and 50% below.

              Take 10 numbers: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 10. Average of that is 19/10 = 1.9, but 9 of the numbers are below 1.9 and only 1 is above 1.9, or 90% below the average and 10% above.

              For a true normal distribution (and I mean the statistical definition of ‘normal distribution’ here), the average will be the same as the median, and 50% will be above and 50% below. Student achievement is probably a normal distribution (it may be shifted upwards so that average on an exam score is not 50/100, though) so would probably hold in this case. But it is important to understand that the average does not mean “50% above, 50% below” – that only holds true for normally distributed data. Median, on the other hand, always means 50% above and 50% below, because it is the ‘middle number’.

              • wtl

                Of course, ‘average’ does not have to be defined as the arithmetic mean, defining it as the median would be just as correct.

                • Lanthanide

                  Yes, that’s true, but it’s always annoyed me. It’s silly to have a term that can apply to one of 3 different mathematical values (median, mean, mode) which are often difficult to separate based solely on context.

                  Also I meant “50% of the sum of the values must be above and 50% below”, not the values themselves.

                • Colonial Viper

                  None of this rally matters as I am reasonably sure that Tolley would not be able to differentiate and define the terms ‘average’, ‘mean’, ‘mode’ and ‘median’.

                  • Lanthanide

                    Of course, but neither can the media. It is important to understand these concepts as it lets you take a more informed stance on a particular story and whether it’s bullshit or not.

                    • I have done this before. Next time I will say “median”.

                      Mind you if I said “average” or “median” I think that Tolley’s response would be the same …

  3. Bunji 3

    And spending all your time measuring them still won’t improve those 1 in 5’s standards. The teachers already know who the kids failing in their class are. Best leave them more time to fix it, rather than penalising all the children by wasting quality education time on preparing them for tests, then testing them to find out what they already know.

    • Lanthanide 3.1

      National Standards is a way of measuring teachers performance, so they can then institute different payscales for well performing teachers. The fact that she has to pretend it is somehow about children is what is driving this endless stream of nonsense, because she can’t just come out and say it’s really about teachers.

      • ianmac 3.1.1

        I bet that you Lanthanide, like everyone else cannot define a good teacher. The work done by teachers in decile 1 schools is incredibly competent. But the “standards” reached can be much lower for socio-economic reasons.
        The teachers in a decile 10 schools can have high “standards” but not work nearly as hard since the intake have advantaged beginnings. (Actually a teacher I know is looking for jobs away from his decile 10 school, because the kids are smug, complacent and very hard to motivate. Yet their “standards” of 3 Rs are high?) Perhaps the Decile 10 teachers should get performance pay/bonuses?

  4. ianmac 4

    Rob: Well said. With such contradictions, one would look seriously for motivations of Tolley/Key beyond National Standards.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    We have an excellent education system. But Anne Tolley is determined to break it.

    We already knew that. An educated populace is dangerous to the dictatorship that NACT want to bring back.

  6. Crumble 6

    This is the education system, for me a teacher. I was called a cunt the other day by a student for telling them to put their cell phone away in class. They were in a grump because they were hung-over from the night before. On the other end of the scale one of my students got all excellences for their internal work for Level 2 History.

    They education system is not “broken”, it does not need “fixed” what teachers need is time and the training to deal with the increasingly violent and aggressive behaviour from students.

    • Vicky32 6.1

      “I was called a cunt the other day by a student for telling them to put their cell phone away in class. ”
      Hells teeth! My sympathies indeed… (I am glad I am an ESOL teacher – Chinese students have an ingrained cultural respect for teachers that means that when I say “put your mobile away” they jump to obey! The same with the other students, apart from the Vietnamese who don’t have intrinsic motivation – just the ‘rents sending them here… 🙁 )

  7. marsman 7

    National say it’s broken when in fact it’s not broken but they are in the process of breaking it.

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