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PISA - Need to take politics out of education


4 December 2013

PISA results reinforce the need to take politics out of education

The latest PISA results show that we have been right to focus on the need to improve the performance of our education system over the past few years, rather than resting on our laurels says NZSTA President, Lorraine Kerr.

“It’s been obvious for a long time that just keeping on doing the same old, same old wasn’t cutting it and we can’t keep claiming to be the best in the world just on the basis of our past record” she says.

“With any kind of data-driven reporting in education, it’s not just the numbers that matter, or whether you’ve gone up or down or sideways - it’s what you’re doing about it. And as a sector we can say, hand on heart, that we are already doing something about it.

“The bad news is that we haven’t done as well by these students as they need us to. And by ‘we’ I mean all the adults in the system. I mean boards, principals, parents, teachers, Ministry, politicians, and their local communities. These results show that we all need to get over ourselves and focus on what is best for our students.

“The good news is that we have already recognised that we need to raise our game, and the sector has made some real progress over the past few years especially in recognising the need for change and starting to think strategically and collaboratively about how we need to adapt our practises.

“We talk a lot about taking a strengths-based approach in education, and we are getting better at it when we discuss things as a sector, instead of focussing on the deficits. That doesn’t mean we have to pretend that there are no problems – obviously these PISA results confirm what we have recognised for some time, that we need to do better by our students. It can be hard for Kiwis to give themselves credit for doing things right, and there are still some pockets of the old, deficit ways of thinking that you see reflected in the stories about how woeful our schools are and how much teachers and principals hate anything new, but in fact this does them a disservice. The vast majority of teachers and principals that boards of trustees work with are much more professional and open to change than those stories make them look.

“The missing piece of the puzzle still is how we engage our communities in these conversations. In Finland, the lead time between deciding what needed to be done in education, and seeing the results show up in PISA was around 30-40 years. They did that by involving everyone in the conversation and then taking education out of the political arena so that they could get on and implement it. They’ve had 40 years of consistent effort where we’ve had 40 years of chop and change every time we have a change of government.

“Boards and principals and teachers do their best – and each new set of policies has some merit – but we have kept throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“If we really want to embed the kind of changes we need to make over the long term we need to have that conversation properly and then take education out of the political arena altogether.”


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