Thursday, February 2, 2012

Public Education under attack - frogblog...

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'Public Education under Attack' has been posted to frogblog...

This has been a week of disturbing announcements by the National Government although the leader of the pack was actually John Banks - the lone ACT MP.

Before final sign off and maybe as a way to keep the pressure on, John announced that Catherine Isaac (number 3 on the ACT list and rumoured to be a possible new leader of the Party,) had been appointed as Chair of the Charter Schools pilot. This announcement was premature but still looks likely as John Key also seems to think Ms Isaac is qualified for the task.

From their point of you what could be more appropriate for the job than a free market business person with no qualifications except being on a Board of Trustees. What do Charter Schools have to do with knowledge of education if they are in fact a business opportunity? No one knows for sure which model of Charter School is being implemented but we do know that the ACT Party educational agenda is simple, privatisation, preferably with a voucher system.

The overseas experience of Charter Schools is very conflicted. Where these schools have cherry picked children from low socio economic areas and poured resources into their education those schools get good or comparable results with public schools. However this does little to lift the educational opportunities for the majority of children in the state system where the issues of inequality and poverty are endemic. The Green party thinks all children deserve the best via a state system that is innovative, consistent and equitable and that special character schools are also provided for already.

The other ghastly news on education this week includes the Minister of Education Hekia Parata?s announcement that league tables of National Standards results will be compiled by the Ministry of Education.

This is even worse than National?s former Education Minister Anne Tolley saying that league tables of Nationals Standards cannot be kept from the media. Minister Parata seems to think that publicising results which schools say are neither national nor standard will benefit parents in their choices of schools. She is proposing the Australian model which compares schools within the same decile. There is real concern from educationalists about this because the diversity within deciles is still very wide and crude comparisons don?t help anyone.

On top of this Treasury is recommending in a briefing paper that class sizes could be increased to cut costs. The argument from some is that class size doesn?t matter. I can only speak as a person who has taught in Polytechnics and communities and in my experience the difference between a class of 35 and 20 is astronomical if you are teaching with real student participation.

Everyone agrees the teacher/ student relationship is critical but Treasury say that teachers can manage more relationships if they?re good enough. I say get real. It works in lecture rooms but what about schools?

Lastly there are threats of more small school closures even as they pilot Charter schools. What will happen next week to education? Anything is possible.


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