Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 65
Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 65
NCEA results fuel school choice debate
Statistics for each school's performance in last year's NCEA Level 1 examinations were released on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority's (NZQA) website this week. They revealed students gaining qualifications in not just standard subjects, but also gunsmithing, pest control and casino gambling. Results have been published in newspapers around the country fuelling debate. NZQA secondary education manager Kate Colbert cautioned against using school-specific statistics to compare schools: "Students in different schools are not necessarily following exactly the same programmes. The framework is a tool for individualising student learning so whole school comparisons will become increasingly misleading." The Ministry of Education is also sceptical that too much will be read into the statistics as a means for comparing schools.
There is some validity in this - there are many variables influencing academic performance including the ethos of the home and family, the quality of teaching, class sizes, and 'value-added' factors such as the quality of the leadership, and school culture. But given that both parents and students are the main 'stakeholders' in schools, the urging of caution is incredible and makes a mockery of the national system. The real source of the apprehension is that league tables (used in the UK for a decade) introduce some reality into the ideologically-driven ethos of state-controlled education which has equalisation of outcomes as its key goal. Of course parents want the best for their children and seek what they consider the best performing schools. While parental choice and accountability are desired they are highly constrained by Government policy and regulation. Public disclosure of variances in outcomes then creates some embarrassment and demand for fewer restraints.
The teacher unions are sceptical of parental choice. In this month's Metro magazine, for example, an Auckland field officer for the PPTA has said: "Choice is like a neurosis...Parents are motivated by fear. They feel that they have to look around to make sure they will not destroy their children's futures." Results are essential to enable parental choice which helps explain why the value of comparing is being played down.
Home Improvement - Dads at home
Recent research in New Zealand and the United States has highlighted the importance of bonding between parents and children. Researchers have found repeatedly that family bonds fostered 'constructive goal-orientated' behaviour among young people. The deeper and more intense parent-child ties were the more predictable were 'desirable outcomes for young people'. The ties were measured across family socio-economic status, two parent family structure, and organised involvement between parents and children.
A team led by psychologist Bruce Ellis of the University of Canterbury, followed more than 700 girls from preschool to age 17 or 18, monitoring ten different aspects of their lives including family income, behavioural problems, exposure to violence and parenting styles. Results recently published that teenage girls raised without fathers are more likely to suffer from depression, drop out of school, have early pregnancies and exhibit other behavioural problems. Dad's too, are critical to the nurture of children.
Results of a study released last week from the Heritage Foundation (US) has found that among non-married mothers romantically involved with the fathers at the time of the child's birth, marriage reduced the odds that a mother and child will live in poverty by more than 70 percent. The study analysed data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study which interviewed nearly 5,000 mothers in 20 cities and found that if the mothers remain single, approximately 55 percent will be poor. But if the mothers married the father of their child, the poverty rate would plummet to less than 17 percent.
The data is clear - the best policies to help prevent our children and youth problems are those which promote marriage and family bonds rather than an 'inclusivist' concept of family.
To read the report by the Heritage Foundation on Fragile families and Child Well-Being Study visit: www.heritage.org/Research/Family/cda0306.cfm
Prostitution laws: laissez faire or state as pimp?
Debate on the Prostitution Bill in Parliament appears to be taking us in the direction of Victoria which legalised prostitution in various stages. MP Tim Barnett's Bill started out with the intention of removing all constraints on prostitution, a model similar to the decriminalisation one in New South Wales. However, even many MPs generally in favour of prostitution believe there should be some controls. Justice Minister Phil Goff for example, is promoting amendments which would bring in a system of licensing, along with restrictions on the location of brothels as is the case in Victoria. The situation there is no better than New South Wales, though.
The number of legal brothels and businesses providing sexual services in Victoria has escalated alarmingly since the introduction of the Prostitution Control Act 1994 (requiring providers to obtain a licence). In 1999, there were 84 legal brothels and authorities were considering an additional 90 applications. The number of illegal brothels has also risen sharply - in 1999, police estimated there were more than 100. Chief Inspector John Ashby of the Vice Squad said, "I suppose there was this utopian view that legalising prostitution would minimise street and illegal prostitution. It clearly hasn't done that".
Illegal street prostitution has increased, especially in St. Kilda. Following public complaints, Attorney General Rob Hulls established a Reference Group which reported 'the current operation of the street sex industry in the City of Port Phillip is untenable and requires immediate reform.' A range of solutions were proposed but subsequently rejected following further public protest. To date, the Victorian Government has not come up with a satisfactory way to deal with the problem. On-going adjustments to legislation have been necessary as state policy makers attempted to deal with a myriad of unforeseen issues that are not addressed by treating prostitution as commercial sex - child prostitution, trafficking of women, the exploitation and abuse of prostituted women by big business.
Debate on amendments to Tim Barnett's Prostitution Bill will continue on 11 June with the third and final vote on the bill possibly two weeks later. If you would like to receive updates on the bill email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'PRB alert' in the subject line.
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THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Alan Coren
Television is more interesting than people. If it were not, we should have people standing in the corners of our living rooms.