Thursday, October 07, 2004

Dramatic thinking from Minister!

Earlier this year the Minister of Education, after three years of exhaustive research, announced that he would be placing greater emphasis on teaching and learning and that this would be his priority for lifting student achievement. Appreciating that the quality of teaching practices by educators is the largest ( but of course not the only!) influence on the achievement of students is, to say the least, to state the stunningly obvious. That many teachers are exhausted from trying to implement the almost incoherent curriculum demands imposed by his own Ministry seems to have escaped his attention. As well many creative teachers of older students are trapped in a school structure designed for an earlier age. At least the students who feel equally trapped can play truant. Still it was at least a start to hear that teachers were now being seen as the most important factor, replacing a previous blind faith in nationally imposed curriculums. By the way the curriculums are away being reshaped as 'key competencies' - the next miracle 'snake oil' to be imposed on schools.

Recently the Minister, in another attempt to close the achievement gap has suggested that schools not waste time using Maori powhiri to greet visitors. Possibly this was more being politically expedient than educational? Now his latest contribution is to add another hour of physical education a week to combat the growing obesity problem in our young people.

The Minister could rename one of his responsibilities as the 'Minister of Instant Responses'? Just as failing students, or the 'achievement gap' can't be solved without facing up to other important factors such as poverty issues, poor health and housing, nor can the obesity problem. When you think of it, is all to easy to blame poor achievement and obesity on schools. It could equally be seen as a way to shift the blame away from the depressing social conditions created by poor decisions made governments over the past decades.

If this is the extent of the Ministers visionary thinking we are in trouble. Every other organization has had to change dramatically the past few decades but our secondary schools carry on in all their antiquated Victorian glory. Be great if one of his solutions to the 19% of failing students was to introduce some new innovative community based schools in every centre to provide a more sympathetic learning cultures for students that can't be made to fit into the current schools.

I have course forgotten to mention that it seems all our educational problems will be solved by providing every teacher with a laptop and by new information technology policies.

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