July 1, 2005
National's Policies Will Not Enhance Children's Learning
The country's largest education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, rejects National's plans to introduce vouchers, a testing regime and bulk funding in our schools because they will do nothing to enhance children's learning.
National's education spokesperson, Bill English, released the party's school policy today stating that he wanted to make literacy and numeracy the top priority and will introduce a testing regime and vouchers to improve student performance in these areas.
"NZEI supports making literacy and numeracy a top priority in schools but rejects National's policy of introducing vouchers and a testing regime for seven year olds," says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President, Colin Tarr. "These policies have been applied overseas and have done nothing to enhance children's learning."
New Zealand has already developed a programme that is proving highly successful in improving the literacy levels of five to seven year old children in Otara and Mangere schools. This has been achieved by having smaller class sizes, providing focussed professional development for the teachers and undertaking small group precision teaching.
"What we need is funding to extend this model across all schools, not a testing regime and a voucher system, that is simply a device to privatise education and will require a new and costly system to administer," Colin Tarr.
Mr English says National will also impose bulk funding on all schools. One of the major problems primary principals have is that while their core job is to foster students learning, a huge amount of their time is taken up with administrative and managerial work.
"This situation will only get worse if compulsory bulk funding is imposed on schools," says Colin Tarr.
Teachers and principals will have some sympathy for Mr English's proposal to simplify the curriculum in schools. But they will also remember that the current over-crowding of the curriculum began when National-led Governments imposed 'top down' curriculum requirements in the 1990s.
"Traditionally the strength of the New Zealand curriculum has been that it was grass roots driven," says Colin Tarr.
"Teachers and principals are happy to work with policy makers on developing and designing a more focussed, manageable and student centred curriculum," says Colin Tarr.