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Taking a lesson from British education

No. 147, 10 March 2005

- Taking a lesson from British education
- Economic freedom needs social cohesion
- A New Zealand principal speaks out
- 'Hate speech' information evening

Taking a lesson from British education

Last week the British government released a White Paper on educational reform, entitled 14-19 Education and Skills. The White Paper is pertinent for New Zealand in the light of the reform of our qualifications system introduced by the NCEA. The British government has proposed the retention of the current GCSE and A-level examinations (roughly equivalent to what used to be School Certificate and Bursary in New Zealand) and the introduction of a new Diploma qualification.

The new Diplomas will cover 14 subject areas, including engineering, retail manufacturing and public services. Each Diploma will include academic as well as non-academic components, each tailored to specific vocations. The Diplomas may include practical components, such as a work-based placement.

The strength of this system is that the businesses that will ultimately employ many of the pupils have been involved in setting the course outlines. The paper promises "We will work with employers to offer more opportunities to young people to learn at work and outside school" (pg 6).

In New Zealand the NCEA represents a recognition of the need for a greater emphasis on skills, but this has not been balanced by a commitment to academic rigour. Britain has not been as hasty in their reforms and is maintaining a clear distinction between subjects assessed by norm-referencing and those that are standards-based.

New Zealand could learn from the British initiative. Each school subject should be analysed and judged as to whether it is best suited to a standards-based or norm-referenced assessment system. Further, businesses should be encouraged to become more involved in developing non-academic courses as work-based units.
To read the White Paper visit http://www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/14-19educationandskills/

Economic freedom needs social cohesion

This year's Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom has been released, and New Zealand has moved from third in 2004 to fifth equal in 2005. The Index ranks countries according to factors such as proportion of state-owned enterprises and protection of private property. According to the compilers of the Index, "countries with a higher degree of and strong commitment to economic freedom enjoy a higher standard of living".

New Zealand should be pleased to rank closely behind Hong Kong and Singapore, the two top countries in the world. Freedom, however, must be guarded. It is worth noting that New Zealand has dropped two places. So has Sweden, where only one-third of GDP comes from the private sector, and whose social and economic policies the Prime Minister wishes to emulate - it is now ranked considerably lower at number 14.

While there appears to be growing agreement that economic freedom contributes to increasing national wealth, it is often forgotten that freedom cannot be sustained without social cohesion and order. A free economy cannot survive a breakdown in the social ethic, or the disintegration of family and community which are at the heart of a civil society.
For more information on the Economic Freedom Index visit http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/index.cfm

A New Zealand principal speaks out

A new book by Allan Peachey, the principal of New Zealand's largest secondary school, was released this week. In What's Up with Our Schools? Peachy (head of Rangitoto College) draws attention to the dangers inherent in state regulation of schooling and curricula. He strongly criticises the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office and teacher training institutions.

In particular, he claims that New Zealand's central education bureaucracies have squeezed the initiative out of schools, principals and teachers. He speaks out against the drive by central government to normalise politically correct notions of equity throughout the national curriculum.
Teachers' colleges receive scathing criticism for too much emphasis on ideology, and introducing bright-eyed graduates to the world of "institutionalised mediocrity". Peachy also accuses the Ministry of diminishing the importance of knowledge as the basis of a good education.
The book calls for a return to teaching students the foundations of education, beginning with reading, writing and arithmetic, while instilling in them a passion for learning. He isolates as a critical part of the solution, the importance of putting in front of every classroom talented and enthusiastic teachers who are well-educated in their subject field. Peachy advocates that principals play a pivotal role in modelling academic leadership and in setting high expectations for staff and students. His leadership has consistently placed Rangitoto College among the top schools in New Zealand, and his insight and recommendations deserve consideration.

'Hate speech' information evening
Are you concerned about possible 'hate speech' law? Be informed so you can take action to protect freedom of expression.
For details of a free information evening in Auckland visit http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/events/event.php?id=2

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Joseph Stalin (1879-1953)
Education is a weapon, whose effect depends on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.


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