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We Must Lift Education Standards

Monday 15 Jul 2002

Curriculum and Examination Policy - Speech Notes for Donna Awatere Huata:

Education is our nation's most important cause. Parents are the most important troops in our battle to lift standards: a mother or father armed with information and freedom will always make the best choices for their child.

Yet successive governments have ignored the wishes of parents and the best interests of our kids. Education Ministers have served the bureaucrats, they've served the unions and they've served themselves.

ACT has listened to what New Zealand parents actually want. It is clear. Parents tell us standards have disappeared from our nation's education system. Parents tell us they don't know whether their children are doing well or not. Parents tell us they are scared for their kids, and they want change.

The unionists, the bureaucrats and the Minister of Education will tell you our education policies are extreme. Parents and kids will tell you that our fresh approach is exactly what is needed.

ACT will scrap the NCEA. We refuse to allow any Government to treat our children as guinea pigs. ACT has opposed the NCEA since the National Government introduced it. We predicted the chaos it has caused our kids, and we have seen our predictions come true.

There was never any question that the School Certificate and University Entrance examinations were flawed. They were based on a vague curriculum with improper use of internal assessment and unfair scaling.

But while the old system needed an overhaul, the poorly designed NCEA has brought a swarm of new problems. It is complicated. The administrative burden threatens to engulf teaching and learning. It holds back bright students and dumbs down results. It provides students, parents and future employers with no useful information.

Last week I received an email from a sixteen year-old. He wrote to every Minister and member of parliament, and said:

"You are jeopardizing my entire life. If we fail now, we fail for life. NCEA is an inadequate system that has not been entirely thought-out properly and should have been looked at for longer before being introduced. This is a corrupt system. This system provides you with every opportunity to fail, where it should be the complete opposite, as it was originally claimed. Switching to NCEA was one of the worst decisions made within this country during my sixteen years."

Reading that email, I was ashamed of the politicians sitting in the Beehive.

This afternoon, I will meet outside a Wellington school to protest alongside parents who have formed a pressure group called PANCEA: Parents Against the NCEA.

I will tell them of ACT's curriculum and examination policy:

· ACT New Zealand will scrap the NCEA. We will upgrade School Certificate so that it is less reliant on internal assessment. We will replace Sixth Form Certificate with a Junior Bursary, which will form the first of a two-year programme of study culminating in Senior Bursary in year 13.

· We will use external agencies to administer and mark independent examination papers. This will ensure consistency and reduce non-core work for teachers. Singapore, one of the highest achieving countries in international comparative surveys, uses examination programmes provided by Cambridge University.

· We will require all schools to teach a national curriculum limited to four core subjects: reading, mathematics, science and social studies. Outside these core subjects, schools will have the opportunity to offer a wide variety of educational courses.

ACT believes that New Zealand children have the right to a world-class education. We need to make a fundamental shift in our outlook if we are serious about prevailing against ignorance and institutional failure.

Too often education is reduced to a battle of wills between griping teachers' unions and politicians with no fresh ideas. Education is our nation's most important cause. It is time for us to raise education standards.


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