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Bill English - National Education May 5 2006

05 May 2006

Looking for Advice

Officially everyone wants every young person to be in a mainstream classroom. But there is more and more evidence that competent teachers struggle to keep control of, let alone teach very badly behaved students. But there seems to be more badly behaved students in classrooms and it's just not reasonable to expect teachers to deal with all their problems.

A few million over 4 years will employ some bureaucrats filling forms but will do nothing to help classroom teachers with a serious problem. Research into educational effects shows the biggest negative effect on a students learning is other disruptive students in the class. So we can't have it both ways. Teachers can't be expected to teach each child as well as manage very bad behaviour. So why force a very badly behaved student into a mainstream classroom?

NCEA Variability is Back

Students who work hard all year deserve fair and consistent assessment. They deserve at least to get the same chance to succeed as similar students in previous years. Unfortunately, NCEA is still not delivering fair assessment, particularly in high-stakes level 2 and 3 external exams. Analysis shows that thousands of students across a wide range of standards would have passed if they sat the exam last year, but this year they failed. Thirty per cent of all standards fell outside the profiles of Expected Performance as set by NZQA, so even by their own measure NCEA has a long way to go.

How We Know It's Wrong

The assessment systems used in New Zealand, such as AEMP, PATS and the international tests like PISA, show over many years that one cohort of students is fairly similar to another. All assessment systems except NCEA show variability up to about 3%. NCEA shows variability up to 15%, sometimes 20%. NZQA told the select committee that they now believe that 7%-10% of variability is acceptable. But dozens of standards in 2005 fell outside this range. A significant proportion of NCEA did not meet either of the standards that NZQA set, so how can Steve Maharey and NZQA say it's all fixed? There is more to come on this.

Groundhog Day in Tertiaryland

The new tertiary education strategy is seductively elegant, well crafted, and remarkably similar to what the Government said seven years ago, and it will be just as ineffective. Complexity and cost will multiply. The Government already spends $140 million a year running the system, and they readily acknowledge the new system will cost more.

Universities will ignore it - again. Small polytechnics will make a grab for PTE and ITO revenue as they dress up as regional "hubs". This grab for power and revenue will be dressed up in talk in regional consultation. There is more to come on this.

Speech of the Year - so far

I attended the Wintec Trades Training graduation. The Mayor of Otorohanga District gave an inspiring graduation address on the pride and significance of trades - several cuts above the usual graduation clichés and the sort of vision young New Zealanders setting out on a trade need to hear more often.


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