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Standards And Innovation Keys To Future

Education Minister Nick Smith today gave a flavour of National's education policy in a keynote speech to the PPTA annual conference in Wellington, emphasising standards and innovation.

"National's education brand is all about standards. We don't believe in fudging failure. We strongly believe in an independent Education Review Office. We believe in credible school qualifications with percentage marks. We fought hard for professional standards in teacher employment contracts. We want to ensure excellence in teacher training."

Dr Smith gave the sector reassurance today that the new National Certificate, to replace School Certificate, Sixth Form Certificate, Bursary and the system of Unit Standards, would involve a mix of national examinations and internal assessment. The new qualifications to come into effect progressively from year 2001 are currently subject to extensive consultation.

"The current regime of school qualifications was founded in a bygone era and has become a hotchpotch of old, new, borrowed and blue. We want a new system but it must give parents, students and employers quality information on the student's achievements. We reject the notion of just giving students a pass or fail and will recognise excellence by giving percentage marks."

Dr Smith also sent a shot across the bow of universities who are frustrating the Education Review Office assessment of teacher education. The Office was instructed by Cabinet in May to review all teacher education providers. The colleges, polytechnics and private training providers are cooperating with the review, but universities are refusing to participate by giving it "low priority" status.

"The standard of our education system is only as good as the teachers standing in front of the classroom. I am astonished that some, notably the universities, are frustrating this review. What have they got to hide? As publicly owned and funded institutions, they have to face modern accountabilities like everyone else."

Dr Smith also announced decisions on ongoing professional development and teacher support, saying the purchase of $21.5 million of such services would be devolved to schools. He also announced the retention of the Rural Advisory Service, support for schools at risk and professional development services directly related to Government initiatives.

"Ongoing teacher training and support should be tailored to schools' needs not the Ministry's. It should be contestable and not automatically go to Colleges of Education. This decision will encourage innovation and give schools real choice. It is consistent with National's broad direction of encouraging innovation and giving schools greater autonomy. We believe schools will get better value for the taxpayers' money when they purchase services directly."

"Education will be a major focus in National's campaign. Our ambitions for education look forward, not backward. We have confidence in schools, not bureaucracies. We value excellence, not mediocrity. We seek innovation, not stagnation. We want nothing less than the very best for our students."
ENDS

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