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Plain English: Too Smart By Half

9 December 2005

Too Smart by Half

Dr Cullen and Dr Bollard persuaded themselves a few years ago they had found a way to run a fast-growing economy - just don't worry about inflation. A rising exchange rate and the competitive effects of Chinese production helped keep prices down. But there is no shortcut. An economy running above capacity generates inflation. Like a fast hose into a small tank, eventually there are consequences.

Now Dr Bollard is trapped by his own cleverness. The high exchange rate has helped keep inflation down. When it drops, it will rescue exporters, but drive already high inflation up. And Dr Bollard doesn't know any better than anyone else just how hard rising interest rates will hit households. The economy could be headed for recession already, before this rate rise. Remember, it takes a long time for monetary policy to work. We are living now with the lack of action 2 years ago and it will be a good 18 months before the effects of today's interest rate increases are real.

While Dr Bollard is jamming on the brakes, Dr Cullen has his foot hard on the accelerator with a huge programme of more government spending, driving up wages and prices. Now that's not smart.

Education is Important To Everyone

If you are looking for a mess in government, just follow Steve Maharey around. He left the tertiary sector in a mess and he is in charge of TVNZ now gracing our front pages. The next mess is NCEA for which he now has responsibility. Labour are keen to avoid last year's controversy and Maharey is keen to build his leadership credentials so he has told NZQA - get the right results or else. So NCEA assessment is now driven by Maharey's political requirements, the same management style that wrecked TVNZ and the tertiary sector.

Here is an extract from an email I have received from an experienced exam marker:

"Did you know that if the results don't fit what's required, particularly as regards to Achieved/Not Achieved, (no prizes for guessing which one has to contain the lower number of candidates), the Panel Leaders and Check Markers are hammered by the NZQA, and have to instruct markers to 'tweak' results to ease more candidates up into the Achieved category and/or, if necessary, massage the marking schedule to ensure that more candidates can achieve? They are trying to apply a bell-curve model to Standards-based assessment, presumably to make the end results look good (so that the government can trumpet at the end that they have 'fixed' the NCEA problems) and it is making a mockery of the whole examination process. The upshot is that many below-standard candidates will 'pass' simply because the bar has been lowered".

"As things stand, this is such a professionally soul-destroying experience, I doubt that I will mark again next year. I hate seeing kids end up with what is effectively a useless qualification in this way".

Revelations that exams were getting re-marked in this way forced Maharey to own up to about a dozen exams needing to be re-marked officially. But this email is about an unofficial re-marking process as well. Markers are "unofficially" told to remark papers in order to avoid large numbers of exams being "officially " re-marked.

NZQA and the minister have lied to the public on a matter of real public interest. There are credible methods of making sure students are treated fairly, and not punished for badly set exams. Leaning on highly professional markers and making them secretly drop standards isn't one of those methods.


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