Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search

 


Martin Thrupp: Apathy will deliver damaged schools

National Standards: Apathy will deliver the damaged schools we will deserve

In recent weeks both the NZEI and Education Minister Anne Tolley have been touring the country trying to shore up support for their respective positions on the introduction of National Standards. These charm offensives both warrant close attention, but for different reasons.

The teacher campaign is an exceptional event in the politics of education. Contrary to some commentators, New Zealand primary teachers and principals are hardly a radical bunch. Many work in small communities, they work with an obviously vulnerable section of our society and they are predominantly women, many of whom take time out to raise their own families.

These factors tend to have a conservatising effect on the profession. Yet support for the NZEI bus tour and boycotts of the National Standards by schools in various parts of the country show that that National Standards have many primary teachers and principals concerned enough to be actively contesting the policy.

I share those concerns and have been giving numerous presentations to support the NZEI meetings. The main risk is the development of a culture of performativity. This can be expected to involve damaging shifts in the culture of primary schools as the assessment ‘tail’ ends up wagging the teaching and learning ‘dog’.

League tables of school performance in the National Standards will be the main driver of the cultural shifts. Once the public begins to judge schools by these league tables, wider criteria for choosing schools will become increasing ignored and the relationship between schools and families will become less productive. There will be an intensified local hierarchy of high performing ‘star’ schools and others demonised as ‘failing’. This pattern will largely reflect socio-economic differences.

Within schools, greater anxiety around performance in the National Standards can be expected to lead to a narrowed teaching focus. Schools and teachers will come to measure their worth and value by National Standards. Schools towards the top of the league tables will find it easy to recruit new staff, whereas applicants for low socio-economic schools will be further discouraged by their poor showing on the league tables.

A ‘National Standards economy’ can be expected to develop where school energies and funding will be directed towards achievement in National Standards and away from other areas. ‘Educational triage’ will see attention to some pupils over others. Children will become commodities sought or repelled by schools depending on whether or not they have the kind of National Standards profile that is likely to enhance school performance and reputation.

Across the socio-economic spectrum, it can be expected that school will become a more tedious experience for children as the curriculum becomes narrower. Teachers’ frustrations with ‘underachieving’ children will translate to them even if nothing obvious is said. The National Standards will decrease pupils’ internal motivation and undermine their identities as learners.

Such cultural shifts reflect the logic of the National Standards and once they occur they will take on their own momentum and be very difficult to reverse. This is why National Standards need to be contested by schools and their communities at the outset. The risks are clear and there is much of value in our existing primary system to be lost.

Meanwhile Anne Tolley’s meetings are seeing her presenting various arguments in support of National Standards. These arguments are often delivered with conviction but are invariably flawed, implausible, or in some cases downright disingenuous. They rarely cut the mustard once the detail is worked through.

Examples are the unrealistic view that the Standards will somehow fix the problem of the ‘long tail of underachievement’ and the mischievous reporting of ERO data to argue that many teachers are incompetent. Even where a valid concern could be conceded – such as the unhelpful nature of some school reporting – the National Standards are the wrong response. They would be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Most people who take the time to properly engage with the Government’s case for National Standards will realise the limitations of its arguments. Unfortunately there is considerable risk that public apathy around the debate will deliver the damaged primary schooling we will have deserved.

Opinion poll results suggest that the public has little understanding of the National Standards policy and the NZEI meetings continue to highlight this problem as well. If people do not understand the intended National Standards regime they are unlikely to pick up the concerns about it either.

When the first instinct of primary teachers and principals is to accommodate reform, some schools may also find it easiest to just go with the policy. Board members who never envisaged themselves dealing with such a contested issue and those who will soon be finishing their term or those newly elected after the forthcoming elections may not be well placed to protect children’s interests in this area either.

Parents and other members of the public who have concerns about the National Standards need to be raising them with local teachers, principals and board members as well as with the Minister of Education. The outcome of the battle over National Standards may well turn out to be less about the pros and cons of the policy than about professional conformity and public indifference.

*************

Prof. Martin Thrupp
Professor of Education
University of Waikato
thrupp@waikato.ac.nz

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 

Architecture:
Ian Athfield Dies In Wellington

New Zealand Institute of Architects: It is with great sadness that we inform Members that Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand's finest architects, has passed away in Wellington. More>>

ALSO:

Wellington Production: New-Look Tracy Brothers Are F.A.B.

ITV and New Zealand’s Pukeko Pictures today released an exclusive preview of the new-look Tracy brothers from this year’s hotly anticipated new series, Thunderbirds Are Go. More>>

ALSO:

Cardinal Numbers:
Pope Francis Names Archbishop From NZ Among New Cardinals

Announcing a list of bishops to be made Cardinals in February Pope Francis named Archbishop John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington, overnight from Rome. On hearing the news of the announcement, Archbishop John Dew said "This news is recognition of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the contribution it makes to the global Catholic family." More>>

ALSO:

Nomenclature: Charlotte And Oliver Top Baby Names For 2014

Charlotte and Oliver were the most popular names for newborn girls and boys in 2014... The top 100 girls’ and boys’ names make up a small proportion of the more than 12,000 unique first names registered for children born this year, says Jeff Montgomery, Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriage. More>>

Werewolf: Katniss Joins The News Team

From the outset, the Hunger Games series has dwelt obsessively on the ways that media images infiltrate our public and personal lives... From that grim starting point, Mockingjay Part One takes the process a few stages further. There is very little of the film that does not involve the characters (a) being on screens (b) making propaganda footage to be screened and (c) reacting to what other characters have been doing on screens. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Review Of Books: Ko Witi Te Kaituhituhi

Witi Ihimaera, the distinguished Māori author and the first Māori to publish a book of short stories and a novel, has adopted a new genre with his latest book. But despite its subtitle, this book is a great deal more than a memoir of childhood. More>>

Werewolf: Rescuing Paul Robeson

Would it be any harder these days, for the US government to destroy the career of a famous American entertainer and disappear them from history – purely because of their political beliefs? You would hope so. In 1940, Paul Robeson – a gifted black athlete, singer, film star, Shakespearean actor and orator – was one of the most beloved entertainers on the planet. More>>

ALSO:

"Not A Competition... A Quest": Chapman Tripp Theatre Award Winners

Big winners on the night were Equivocation (Promising Newcomer, Best Costume, Best Director and Production of the Year), Kiss the Fish (Best Music Composition, Outstanding New NZ Play and Best Supporting Actress), and Watch (Best Set, Best Sound Design and Outstanding Performance). More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
Education
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news