Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Real Issues No. 183

Maxim Institute

real issues.
this week: No. 183, 17 NOVEMBER 2005

* Confidence in the NCEA still questionable

* The role of Foreign Minister

* No school is an island

Confidence in the NCEA still questionable
Secondary school pupils began sitting their external National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) examinations this week, but the real test is facing the overseeing body, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), to get it right after last year's bungle. But problems remain. Recently, for example, NZQA failed a geography project by a Year 13 Wellington College pupil despite its winning a national award as judged by Canterbury University lecturers. It may have received the approbation of specialists, but apparently did not meet NZQA achievement standards.

NZQA came under fire for its marking of external exams in 2004. Extensive variation in achievement standards was said to exist which made it difficult to assess a pupil's acquired knowledge or skills. There was disparity in results across subjects, with a number of top pupils failing subjects. Although NZQA has attempted to remedy the faults, the Wellington College incident suggests the problems have not been fully ironed-out. The mix of external moderation and examinations with internal assessment makes marking difficult. The meaning of achievement standards and how these are communicated between schools and the NZQA is a real challenge.

An August report by the State Services Commission on the NZQA recommended (among other things) that the Authority introduce clearer boundaries around the four grades of Non-Achieved, Achieved, Merit and Excellence, so that grades can be interpreted with more confidence by pupils, schools, parents and employers. There is a real need for grade clarity.

To read the State Services Commission Report on the Performance of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in the Delivery of Secondary School Qualifications, visit: http://www.ssc.govt.nz/display/document.asp?DocID=4703

To read the Maxim Institute report; "The Parent Factor: Freedom for schools", which includes research around parental views towards the NCEA and some positive policy recommendations regarding curricula and examinations, visit: http://www.maxim.org.nz/parentfactor/report1_freedomforschools.php

The role of Foreign Minister
Winston Peters had his first outing this week as Minister of Foreign Affairs representing New Zealand at the APEC meeting in South Korea. Mr Peters was accompanied by Trade Minister, Phil Goff (Foreign Minister in the previous government). Mr Peters' appointment came out of the controverted bargaining between New Zealand First, Labour, and United Future. As a minister outside cabinet, Mr Peters only represents government policy in his portfolios of foreign affairs, senior citizens and racing. He has declined to chair the Cabinet Committee on Foreign Affairs meaning Phil Goff or Helen Clark will fill the role.

Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, recently questioned the unusual arrangement of a Foreign Minister outside cabinet. Mr Peters had earlier sought assurance from Australia that it would help New Zealand improve its uneasy relationship with the United States at upcoming ministerial talks between the US and Australia. Mr Goff later revealed that he had assured the Australians that Mr Peters was acting in line with the foreign policy of the Labour coalition government.

The role of Foreign Minister is a strategically important position in any government, and given that the state's primary task is to protect its citizens, the office calls for clear thinking and policy. Any misunderstanding or equivocation could be very costly. The incumbent minister must speak with a clear government mandate, but the APEC incident suggests a confusion of ministerial roles and authority.

No school is an island
Former PPTA President Roger Tobin recently indulged in a piece of politicised wishful thinking. One highlight of his address published in the October issue of PPTA News, declares that New Zealand schools are "islands of democratic egalitarianism in a free market world". What do we make of such a description of the local school?

For starters, schools are not isolated or insulated "islands". It is true that school zoning and centralised funding insulate schools to some extent from the pressures their communities face and the need to respond to them, but schools are first and foremost servants of parents, pupils, families and their communities. Far from being isolated islands unaffected by the stream, schools are integrally involved in their communities. It would be silly to suggest that schools should be isolated from the wider community, whether it is "free-market" or otherwise.

And in what sense is a school an island of "democratic egalitarianism"? Perhaps Mr Tobin means that all education should be of the same high quality, offered to all, and that schools should be fostering a generation of egalitarian-minded democrats for the future. Some might desire this but it has the unfortunate effect of politicising education, and making schools into centres concerned with political goals, rather than the encouragement of learning and excellence. Teachers and educational professionals' beliefs about the purpose and function of schools will undoubtedly shape their work, and therefore deserves consideration.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - William Blake (1757 - 1827)
Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.

To subscribe send a blank email to: realissues@maxim.org.nz

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Fate Of Julian Assange

Has swapping Scott Morrison for Anthony Albanese made any discernible difference to Australia’s relations with the US, China, the Pacific and New Zealand? Not so far. For example: Albanese has asked for more time to “consider” his response to New Zealand’s long running complaints about the so called “501” deportations back to this country. Really? He needs more time to figure out a response? OK, but the clock is ticking.
The Julian Assange situation is a lot more urgent. Assange’s deportation to the United States has now been okayed by the British courts and also - crucially – by its government. At any moment, Assange could be on a plane and headed for a US prison. He is facing the prospect of 175 years in jail...


Parliament: Grounds Fully Reopened

Parliament’s grounds have been fully reopened today at a ceremony and community event with mana whenua, members of the public, and representatives of Parliament... More>>

Chris Hipkins: Statement On Charlotte Bellis

On 31 January I released a statement regarding Charlotte Bellis and her MIQ application. I stated that emergency allocation criteria includes a requirement to travel to New Zealand within the next 14 days... More>>

Government: Prime Minister To Travel To Europe And Australia

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will leave this weekend to travel to Europe and Australia for a range of trade, tourism and foreign policy events... More>>


National: Goodfellow To Retire As Party President
Peter Goodfellow today announced he will not seek re-election as President of the National Party at its Annual Conference. Mr Goodfellow will remain as a director on the board for one final term to assist in the transition... More>>

Police: Parliament Occupation Investigators Seek Public Assistance
Police investigating criminal activity on the final day of the occupation at Parliament grounds earlier this year are appealing for the public’s help to identify 15 people... More>>

World Vision: New Zealand Urged To Meet Quota As New Report Finds Hunger, Violence, And Death Rates Increase For Refugees
World Vision is calling for New Zealand to work harder to meet its refugee quota in the wake of a new report which shows that life has deteriorated significantly in the past two years for refugees in 11 hard-hit countries... More>>




InfoPages News Channels