Sunday, December 11, 2005

End of year Ministry Report.


Who watches Big Brother?

We need the view of people
who are distant enough
to see through the delusion. Posted by Picasa

Once people believe in things it is hard to change their minds. What is needed in an innocent view to point out the blindingly obvious – the Emperor has no clothes. And of course this truth creates great panic amongst the courtiers who rely on the delusion to keep themselves in positions of power.

Fortunately for us all, with time, pressure builds up and the system can no longer cope with top down excesses.When is does those at the top can lose their heads – literally. But do we have the time to wait?

For too long teachers have been forced into a defensive posture to protect their fading professionalism from the technocrats (modern day courtiers) who spend their lives thinking of ways to improve those below with endless accountability processes. And, to make things, worse technocrats have had little experience actually doing the real work – they are driven by an ideology of standardization and control from the last century and are blind to the need for flexibility and diversity in a new complex interrelated world.

As Lily Tomlin quips ‘I worry that whoever thought of the term quality control thought if we didn’t control it, it would get out of hand.’

It is time to turn the tables.

How well are our policy makers and technocrats doing? Isn’t it time for those, who insist in controlling the system, to face the music? Isn’t it time to turn accountability on those living in luxury in their glass towers?

1. How well have they balanced top down change with the need for local creativity?
2. Do schools feel that they are given the freedom to innovate and try new ideas or do they feel restricted within an imposed intellectual curriculum and assessment straightjackets?
3. Has the Ministry spread creative ideas of school – particularly ones that have just ‘emerged’ as a solution to local conditions?
4. How much have they encouraged regional diversity and school collaboration?
5. Have they encouraged the establishment of a diversity of new schools to cope with the lack of engagement of students at years 9 and 10?
6. Have they begun a national dialogue/conversation about the future of education or are they relying on their own in house 'court' policy makers?

The overall impression I get is that they are just pleased to have survived the last election. The specter of the guillotine must have been frightening for many of them!

Their 'Curriculum Reform Project' is just the old material after a crash diet – just the same but less. It will do nothing to inspire creative education but, I guess, it will save the face of those who pushed such a technocratic model on schools in the first place.

The idea to cluster schools around so called identified ‘lead schools’ must have come from a market forces education kit from the 90s. This is just a localized version of top down thinking and nothing about tapping into teacher creativity.

The Te Mana ‘Teachers Making a difference’ was great but hardly the Ministries own idea and, being labeled for Maori students, will have the effect of it being sidelined – it needs to be implemented al all our monocultural antiquated industrial aged secondary schools.

The Ministry refuses to face up to the fact that they are responsible for the disjoint between primary and secondary schools and are thus responsible for all the students who fall through the cracks between the two incompatible systems.

And this obsessive focus on literacy and numeracy, and the need to send targeted results (soon to be computerized) to the Ministry, is killing the joy of learning and teaching. As one writer in the UK says, ‘The evil twins of literacy and numeracy are crowding out all the other equally important aspects of education’.

Overall I can only give the Ministry a pass mark for surviving. I guess they have had no time for real innovative thinking trapped as they are in their dress up box busily providing patched up clothes for the Emperor to wear.

The new Minister has written he is off to do some thinking over the holidays – there is plenty to think about!

The future is about democracy, creativity, imagination, diversity and the need to personalize education to realize all student’s gifts, talents and love of learning. There is no excuse for for failing 20% of our students - we know enough about learning that no student need fail, but only if we change our own minds first!.

The future isn’t about dull standardization, or 'evidence based teaching', or mindless grinding efficiency, it is about hope, spirit, trust and soul. Hardly words in the technocrats lexicon!

Time for some new clothes.


Rachel Whalley said...

Thankyou Bruce for touching on many of the things that we have discussed that make us feel so hamstrung in what we try to do. What are we sending our children to when they leave our Primary schools? (I know as i have also worked in the secondary sector) How can we make High Schools a more fertile ground for our kids or should we just make sure they have got a good grasp of the basics & throw them in the Lions Den!
Literacy & Numeracy - everybodies doing it - has it been worth the investment in time & effort? The same goes for ICTPD - substantial funding - what have we got to show for it? It is quite an intangible - lots of anecdotes but evidence - where does it match up? How do you quantify the benefits?
MOE - How do you bite the hand that feeds you? When you need to justify the ED funding or the next instalment of PD funding??
I think the Ministry are also driven by accountability (literacy, numeracy, achievement in middle school & Maori - you could put this in the global policyscape & it wouldn't look out of place anywhere around the world) they continue to pass it down the chain to whose at the bottom? Ah Teachers!
Yes, the Minister has got some thinking to do over the summer - not me though i plan to read as much NZ Fiction as i can :-) Any recommendations?

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks Rachel - I sent the Minister a letter today, more or less ( well actually more - you know me!) saying what you have written. I am sure he will be pleased to get it.Not

Anonymous said...

The Ministry technocrats must love you Bruce!

Bruce Hammonds said...

Who really cares - but they know I am around!