31 May 2010
There are questions that float around the education world that I wonder about. Do you?
Have we learnt the lesson that policies which are untargeted will eventually become perverse?
The 20 Free Hours was always going to miss the group it intended to help – those who struggled to get children into early childhood education because they simply didn’t have the money for fees. Instead it became a means of freeing up money for those who were already able to get their children into a programme. Alternately it meant that some who could afford say three days early childhood education while they returned to work were now able to increase that to a full working week.
They should not be criticised for that by any means but the outcome of all this was that there was no increase in access for those sections of the community that could not afford any ECE or were in areas within the community where none was available.
Why reward employers rather than teachers when teachers improve qualifications?
Again, Early Childhood Education has provided a valuable lesson for the rest of the system. Linking the MOE subsidies payable to centres to the level of qualifications of staff meant that over time lifting the level of qualifications of the teaching staff in a centre became a perverse driver for profit rather than a positive driver for quality provision. Private providers of ECE were able to offer incentives for those whose qualifications were gained on the back of other centres and were then rewarded with higher subsidies.
Teachers should be paid for improved qualifications but that should be reflected in wages. There seems no good reason why Early Childhood Centres should not be on the same financial basis as the primary or secondary sectors.
Was it inevitable that National Standards would become less of an issue when teachers got on with what they do best – teaching and knowing what they are doing?
The great hoohaa about national standards always reflected poorly on the professionalism and quality of teachers. They know all of this stuff and the existence of a framework for reporting enables them to demonstrate to their communities just how well the children are benefitting from good teaching. League tables when they make their inevitable appearance will be simply a load of media piffle.
Have the reforms coming out of Tomorrow’s Schools reached the end of their useful life?
Voter turnout for our national elections sits currently at about 80% of voters while local authorities are get about half of this voter support, about 40%. The recent elections for Boards of Trustees make for pitiful reading. The advertisements in my local paper show that the average of the top three candidates elected to their respective six Boards of Trustees did so on the strength of a turnout that was 12.5%, 16%, 16%, 18.5%, 23% and 33% of parents respectively. Boards of Trustees must now have the lowest level of turnout in elections held in New Zealand (this included a good range of deciles too).
Now this research will not create a new standard in the psephological arts but I am wondering whether it is time to say that the governance of school is by and large undertaken by groups that might not really have a warrant to do so in terms of democratic representation.
What recent statistic rang bells for me?
A small group of developed countries now takes a hugely disproportionate number of doctors and nurses trained in developing countries. That group is New Zealand, Australia, United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom. This is the same group of countries in which the phenomenon of disengagement from education had developed and flourished. Go figure, as they say.
New Zealand is also in this pattern with one exception – it finds it hard to welcome and integrate health professionals from the Pacific largely because of English language requirements that a good proportion of home-grown health professionals would not reach.
Whose end of the court is the School Ball in?
Why don’t some people get it? The whole school ball fiasco is the responsibility of the school – the Pre-balls (and why they have escaped attention beats me), the actual Ball (can there any longer be any point to these at all?), and the After- should all be consigned to the scrap heap of social change along with the Debutante Balls, the Grand Parade at balls, the Maxina and a whole lot of other stuff which might once have been good but which now are not.
Will it take a scandal or tragedy before schools say, sorry but…. And the idea that parents should accompany their children to the after-ball for the sole purpose of buying the plonk is so bizarre that we give thanks the idea came from businessmen and not school teachers.
There will be other questions but they will have to wait.