‘Teaching the Basics Brilliantly’ – What is in National’s new education policy? 

‘Teaching the Basics Brilliantly’ – What is in National’s new education policy? 

By Sophie Steel

With a promise to increase New Zealand’s literacy rates and classroom attendance whilst also scrapping teacher registration fees, the National Party’s new education policy has raised eyebrows nationwide. 

The New Curriculum – ‘Teaching the Basics Brilliantly’

In a day of iPad kids and merged classrooms, the National Party have argued that the core fundamentals of education are getting lost. This factor drives the key part of their policy: a mandatory dedication of an hour to reading, an hour for writing and an hour for mathematics every day.  

This comes at a time where recent pilot NCEA testing demonstrated that two-thirds of high school students could not meet the standards set by the OECD; only 34% of students could pass the basic writing test. The problem exists in primary schools also, where only 35% of year 8 students achieved the required level for writing. 

Through this implementation would come a complete rewrite of the curriculum, particularly for years 3-8. This rewrite would determine exactly what will be taught each year, almost down to the day. It has been promised that a resource bank would be available in this instance, with teachers being able to share lessons plan with one another throughout the country. It is hoped that this policy would be in action by the 2024 school year, with all the teaching resources and testing in action by 2025. 

National Party leader Christopher Luxon argues that the aim of this education policy is not about “turning the whole thing upside down, it’s about making sure we build on what’s there.” 

This rejig of the system would cause a drastic change in how kids are tested at school. Henceforth, National proposes that the education system takes an old-school approach of testing kids twice a year to ensure they meet the curriculum standards. Luxon argues that this is the most beneficial way to determine a student’s progress, by lining up their individual performance to “a really well defined curriculum”.  

Although arguments have stated that this reintroduction of national standardised tests will be more damaging to the education system than beneficial, National’s education spokesperson Erica Standford begs to disagree. 

“One of the things we saw in National Standards was this tendency to teach to the test but under the tool that we want to use that won’t be possible.” 

In an attempt to perhaps gloss over the fact that teachers may have to insert more work into their classrooms, prominently through an increase in marking, National has also proposed that this policy will involve removing teacher registration fees. This will cost the government around $10 million NZD.

So, will it actually work? 

There has been a range of opinions on the topic of the updated education policy proposed by National, with arguments both for and against. 

Understandably, there have been a range of criticisms for the proposed policy. Current Minister for Education, Jan Tinetti, expressed disappointment in the announcement. Tinetti stated, “The curriculum shouldn’t be a political football and changed every three years”. 

As for the reintroduction of national standards, Tinetti describes it as reviving a “zombie of the past.” 

Tinetti has also established that there is a lack of basis for the funding of the entire rejig. Luxon has not further discussed where or how they are going to fund the curriculum changes but have outlined that the cost of removing teacher registration fees will be around $10 million NZD

Although not outwardly rejecting the policy, President of NZEI Mark Potter explained that the constant changes in the education system are not beneficial for the students, or their results. 

“We have had dropping learning results and one of the things that has been causing that s the constant rejig of education.” 

In New Zealand, you can’t access data that elaborates on learning disability statistics, however, it is estimated that over 80,000 kiwi kids have learning disorders such as dyslexia, and NZEI Te Riu Roa highlights that this factor has been left off the education policy table. “What teachers and children need is an increase in funding and staffing to support higher learners with higher needs”. 

Despite this, National is hopeful that this reset of the curriculum will allow New Zealand to be in the top 10 of OECD countries for education, with over 80% of students achieving at the appropriate level for literacy and numeracy by the time they reach high school. 

You can read the full ‘Teaching the Basics Brilliantly’ policy here

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