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Govt ignores advice and PISA rankings drop

Government ignores international advice and PISA rankings drop

4  December 2013

The government knew back in 2009 what it would take to keep New Zealand on an educational footing with the rest of the world, but chose to ignore international advice.

It is no real surprise then, that three years later, the country’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) achievement and equity rankings have dropped, PPTA president Angela Roberts says.

It’s often overlooked that PISA is not just a league table, but it also provides policy advice on what the best countries do, Roberts said.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) advice issued after the 2009 PISA results focused on the importance of addressing socio-economic inequality in schools.

The government instead had chosen to focus on a number of initiatives that were based on ideology rather than evidence – stripping funding from the public schooling system and syphoning it into private projects, Roberts said.

The government had taken a narrow focus on numbers and league tables rather than addressing inequality, she said

“It's fascinating that this government seems pretty obsessed with the results, but doesn't pay any attention to the policy advice,” she said.

“OECD advice shows countries with successful education systems address inequality, invest in teachers and have stability in school funding. In New Zealand we have $10 million a year stripped from schools through the quarterly funding system, large class sizes and 270,000 of our young people living in poverty.

“It’s not just about the data, it’s what you do with that data and for three years the New Zealand government simply ignored the evidence,” Roberts said.

The drop in PISA also reflected the government’s cavalier attitude towards investment in education.

New Zealand secondary schools were funded at a much lower rate per student than in most other OECD countries, Roberts said.

“Our government has been paying much less for our secondary schools than all the other high performing countries and we’ve kept up with them – but you can’t sustain that over time.”

While it was important to be cautious in what was read into the figures, Roberts hoped the 2012 PISA results would start “an interesting and important conversation”.

“There have been a lot of bad decisions made and now it is time for a re-think. We need to get away from quick fixes like the privatization of education, which we know doesn’t work.”


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