Buried deep within the Ministry’s website are these pages. If you’re at all interested in the future of NZ education – please take the time to peruse them and consider what they mean for the shape and feel of schools and learning.
We as educators, in NZ need to pay attention to this effort, and how it links with the N4L, public accountability, performance pay, online moderation, and all of the solutions to the non-defined problem that this government is trying to solve. All of these efforts will shape and direct the way in which we deliver learning within our education system, whether we like it or not.
The rest of this post I wrote in the comments section of publicaddress. The thoughts tap into sentiments I’ve expressed previously, but I think they’re worth repeating.
Keep in mind that this national standards thing is not the debate we really want to be having. To my mind at least. They are an awful thing, because they are skewing and corrupting what we understand and value about learning. And by extension, education.
The debate should be around what we value and want in our learners. How do we want them to think, relate, understand, manage and participate. All values that are at the core of our NZ Curriculum.
This current debate is about measuring outcomes and about justifying public expenditure. Which is a fine and useful thing, and allows a politician to stand and say they have done something fine and noble, you know, for the children.
But all the measuring and justifying actually has little to do with learning. Learning is making connections, struggling with a problem and figuring out how to overcome that problem. Any parent who’s watched their child in the five years before they start school will be well aware of all the learning their son or daughter is capable of.
I can measure how many of my students know the answer to 2+2=4. I can say that 22 out of 25 are “above standard” as a result of that measurement. That measurement can go on a website and be OIA’d and allow you the DomPost reader to make some value judgements about my school, me as a teacher and maybe the state of the nation.
But the reality is the standards don’t measure how 22 of those students made those connections work for them. The standard doesn’t measure any of the conversations we had in groups, or the book work they showed me, how they illustrated the problem, or how what questions they asked along the way. Despite the PR spin and label on the tin, that this effort is about improving educational achievement, none of these efforts measure the process of learning.
And why should they. Learning is the powerful part of human existence, that’s constant and reflective and varied and relevant. None of that really rich part of a student’s life and existence is measurable, and even if we could measure it – would it matter? I mean really matter?
Because no OIA is going to tell you how those students are really doing. How they’re getting on with classmates, or contributing in class, or stood up to do that really brave thing, they’d never done before. That conversation is one that’s shared with parents on a regular basis, if you’re an engaged parent, who works hard to form a relationship with your child’s teacher.
And those conversations – those really relevant bits for a child, their parent and their teacher – are not measured by standards, by OIA’s, by media, or by politicians. But they are the core of what makes a student a better, more confident learner. They are the bits that matter.
The thing you, as taxpayers and voters should be concerned about is the length and efforts this government is going to justifying the very existence of these standards.