Once upon a time there was a little country called New Zealand. The children in New Zealand went to schools and were ranked. There was practise at this ranking for a decade or so before the earnest ranking began. All the fifteen year olds in the land would sit their school certificate. They tried their hardest or nearly their hardest. Most of them mucked around and made their teachers fear for their (the children's) futures right up until their teachers had drained the local liquor store of booze as a result of their stress. Then, and mostly only then, they would pull finger and work very hard and mostly do themselves proud and make many people beam and reach for more alcohol. That is the nature of teenagers. I remember it myself.

The thing about this ranking was that only half of the people were allowed to pass. Every year far more than half of the people would try very hard indeed. They would study and swot, swear and stumble, make leaps in understanding and climb some very high mountains. But the thing was, even if the group of people who gained very good marks was higher than 50%, the entry gates still had to be the same. They did something called 'scaling' to keep the requisite 50% out.

They called this system 'school certificate'. Limited edition. Only 50% may pass. Ever. Up and down the land teachers and other interested people noticed that for the very very many, half actually, who did not pass, there was no recognition of their achievements.

Some of the very concerned and interested people tried to do something about this. They spent a long time and a huge amount of energy trying to do something about it and eventually what came out of their very many conversaations and conferences and white and blue and green papers was somethign called standards based assessment.

Standards based assessment proved to be a lot of work for the people who already knew how to do such things as read long complicated things and write long complicated things and indeed it turned out to be a lot of work for the children who needed to demonstrate that they too could read and write increasingly long and complicated things. Sometimes things which looked incredibly easy to people who were destined for passing old systems and new and becoming university students and maybe even professors, were not actually easy at all for people who had learning difficulties and behavioural difficulties and who had moved schools many times and who just plain found school work really hard. When they achieved their unit standards, as they came to be called, the generally more accesible of these standards based assessments, they were justly proud of real progress.

Well our current government wants none of that. Even though the bright and talented writers and readers of very very long and complicated things don't have a particular need for any qualification at 15, because they will stay longer and schieve higher qualifications which will count for more on their journeys, apparently a certificate has no credibility if it is accessible by people who have to work very hard to gain the skills of reading and writing partly complicated things.

I have the pleasure of knowing young people in second chance education for whom the unit standards are a lifeline and greatly valued.

And I'm angry. What do you want to do to our country, to our young people, Mr Keys? Rank them and shove the weakest in a ghetto? Then blame them for benefit dependency?


Sharonnz said…
Sandra - this household shares your anger.

What are your thoughts around the proposal of national standards at a primary school level?
I'm against that as well. It will do terrible things to our schools and our children. Most disturbingly, the government is rolling it out despite being advised not to by places which had tried it, e.g. the UK.
Corrine said…
Oh I so agree. Not so long ago I sat in on a very small meeting with Mr English. Nothing will change in education he told us, (Oh good, we all said) Why change something that seems to be working very well? (why indeed, we asked ourselves)
You are not alone in your anger
Thanks Corrine and Sharon. Nice to 'meet' you Corrine. I bet Gelnorchy is a truly beautiful place to live.

I am encouraged each time I meet people who are angry - perhaps there will be enough of us to prompt some real change in the not so distant future.

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