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Competition harming schools and students

Media Release

Competition harming schools and students
says educationalist

Students are suffering from New Zealand schools’ obsession with competition according to leading educationalist Stuart Middleton.

A keynote speaker at this weekend’s New Zealand School Trustees Association conference in Hamilton, Stuart Middleton says schools have become competition driven to the detriment of students. As a result they have lost focus of the key goal of ensuring all children receive a good education.

He says the trend towards competition between schools has been good for the education system in that schools and other educational institutions now have greater regard for their communities and their views.

But that same competition has now gone so far that it has become the “politics of division” in education. Instead of schools pulling together for the greater benefit of all students, their focus has narrowed to simply working only for the benefit of their own school, their own students and what is best for them.

“If we want the best for all New Zealand children, and our particular school has the top echelon of students, then we’d better pray someone else is doing a good job of educating the less fortunate and the less advantaged.

“Because the equation is simple. Educationally successful people go on to earn money and as a consequence pay taxes. Those who don’t succeed will simply use up those taxes in benefits, housing costs, health demands and the cost of being kept in jails.”

Stuart Middleton says the popular argument of a level playing field for education funding is all very well if everyone starts with the same advantages. But the reality is that in New Zealand’s diverse community some children do require many more resources.

“If schools are all working together towards the common goal that by the end of compulsory schooling every New Zealand child has a certain level of education, then the next step is to look at what it takes to achieve that goal.


[Competition harming schools/2]

“Instead of arguing that funding going to low achieving schools is money that should be going to everybody, we should be looking at the students in that school and their needs. Schools with a disproportionate number of children with learning barriers such as special needs, language problems or from homes characterised by poverty are going to require many more teachers, so you just have to be prepared to do that.”

Stuart Middleton says New Zealand cannot succeed unless both ends of the spectrum are doing well, not just the “so called top schools”.

“Otherwise no-one’s going to benefit from a well-educated community. Everyone’s going to be held back by what some countries describe as the dead weight of underachievement.”


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