Sunday, October 24, 2004

Tomorrows Schools had their day?

'Good people poor system' it was said when the Labour Government introduced 'Tomorrows Schools' in the mid eighties. These changes were part of the transformation of the New Zealand's economy under an ideology that came to be known as 'Market Forces'.

School changes were 'sold' to the public as a means to develop greater community democratic control and authority over schools. In reality there was no real dissatisfaction or desire to change things at the time. It was later to be seen as part of the above ideology; all about the advantages of efficiency and competition.

As in other areas of government, it all happened so fast. It was, as one politician said , all about 'ambush, hijack and speed.' To add to the confusion, 'hyper - rational' curriculums were introduced. With their endless learning objectives to be 'ticked off', they would provide parents with a means to compare schools. Once again as part of the 'market forces' ideology of choice, accountability, efficiency and competition.

Well it didn't work out according to plan. Nothing ever does it seems. Schools became burdened with compliance demands and curriculum confusion and incoherence. Teacher's professionalism was neglected and morale dropped. This was made worse by Education Review Office reports, made independently of the Ministry, which called the 'tune' that schools had to 'dance' to. School were now being judged on their paperwork and audit trails. Forced to work independently, competing with each other;many schools started to fall by the wayside.

Started by Labour, under Roger Douglas's influence ( dictated by Treasury officials and the Business Roundtable), it was continued by Ruth Richardson and the National Government. Ironically none of the dramatic changes introduced were written into the Manifestos of either government.

Democracy and the 'voice' of the people had been redefined. The social infra structure of New Zealand had been all but destroyed. In the process the gap between the rich and the poor widened.

Things are changing. Disillusioned with politicians New Zealanders limited politicain's 'unbridled power' by voting a Mixed Member Proportional system. What will eventuate time will tell. People are slowly becoming aware of the need for new 'mind-set' to replace the failing 'market forces', 'user pays', one. The importance of the 'common good , an appreciation of the 'health ' of the community and the need for shared of values are becoming appreciated as important elements of the future social fabric of the country.

As far as schools are concerned the all powerful curriculums have all but disintegrated and schools are beginning to work with each other again .

What had become 'Someones Elses Country' ( The title of Alistair Barry's documentary of the era) will have to be returned to the people. Politicians will have to start listening to the people again.

The era finishes with the same saying that it began with: 'good people poor system'. We need to have a national 'conversation' about:

'What kind of country we want to become?'
'What values we want to encourage?'
'How can we create the conditions to realize the talents and creativity of all citizens?'

We have 'sold all the silver' - we now need to tap into our collective imagination. It is time for schools to take a lead!


Anonymous said...

I guess we were all too busy coping with all the imposed ideas to see what was happening to us.
It is about time teachers ( and all other involved ) had their voices listened to.

Bruce Hammonds said...

I think the 'Empire is Striking Back!

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