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Will Labour Repeat Nats’ Fail Mark on NCEA?

Will Labour Repeat Nats’ Fail Mark on NCEA?

"The New Zealand Initiative's new report Spoiled By Choice is a severe indictment on the National Party, whose targets for NCEA pass rates severely distorted the system, and a massive challenge for Labour, who are now promising change", says ACT Leader David Seymour.

"The thoroughly-researched report calls New Zealand’s whole secondary school qualifications framework into question.

"I set this problem out in my election year book, Own Your Future, when I said: 'The government understands the importance of education, but its Better Public Service targets have just helped disguise the problem by encouraging schools to massage data. While the Ministry of Education crows that more eighteen year olds are leaving High School with NCEA Level 2 qualifications, international evidence shows that in objective tests that aren’t graded by friendly teachers we are going backwards.'"

"The OECD’s PISA rankings saw New Zealand schoolchildren’s ranking in English, Maths and Science achievement drop relative to other countries between 2009 and 2012. The most recent results, in 2015, saw our kids gain a few places in the rankings, but with worse test results.

"The frenetic, grandiloquent diva that could only be Hekia Parata has exhorted them to succeed over the past five years. Nearly singing her way through her speeches, Parata would often say things like “we must get Pasifika Level 2 pass rates to 80 per cent by 2017!”

"Of course, setting such a challenge in 2014 was implausible. The students in question started school eight years earlier and preschool nearly a decade earlier. The whole point of the Government’s ‘social investment model’ is that a stitch in time saves nine; that a dollar spent on a kid early can get them back on track and save many taxpayer dollars later on. And yet we are expected to believe that students from 2010-16 made enormous improvements after the Government set targets.

"A more plausible explanation comes from a visiting British expert, Briar Lipson of the New Zealand Initiative, who said: 'Between 2002 and 2004, NCEA replaced the traditional trio of School Certificate, University Entrance and Bursary. With its equal emphasis on academic and vocational programmes, NCEA puts course choices from nuclear physics to nail technology into the hands of teachers, parents and students. Then in 2007 the new New Zealand Curriculum was introduced. A high-level document, it leaves much of the selection of curriculum content to its teachers... It is hard to imagine a system more likely to accentuate the gap between our ‘haves’ and our ‘have nots'”.

"On average, our students compare well with the rest of the world, but outcomes have got worse for kids from poorer backgrounds. That’s a concern, because these are the students who need good education the most. But, surprisingly, outcomes have also dropped for kids from better off families. We’re often told by teacher unions that bad educational outcomes are the result of income, race, colonisation – anything, in fact, except the education system itself. But they are wrong. The fix for bad education is better education. The party that will provide it is ACT.

"The New Zealand Initiative report is meticulously researched and comprehensively damning. If we want students to leave school well-equipped for 21st century jobs, and if we want to have a high-productivity, high-wage economy, the new Government must take its recommendations seriously and restore basic educational standards so that students cannot avoid numeracy and literacy requirements", says Mr Seymour.

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