Mike Hosking on National Standards

Mike Hosking discusses National Standards in his editorial.

I guess I have been lucky. National standards have been a non-event for me, well as a parent anyway. National standards though as a broadcaster have been a hotly debated, contentious concept that according to a report out from the Ministry of Education this week is wrong quite a bit of the time.

The teachers’ unions hate them, the claims over national standards from the unions have been many fold and none of it good. The detail is vague, it can be misinterpreted, teachers don’t like them, some schools held out against them, it leads to parents making comparisons with other schools which means that makes the education system competitive.

If all I knew about national standards was what I had heard on the radio and I had no kids and no teachers to talk to, I’d have come to the conclusion they were a risky, problematic concept riddled with issues that were leading the nation’s kids and schools down a slippery old slope. It is perhaps a good lesson as to why there is often more than one side to most stories. 

The unions have scaremongered as usual.

National standards in my personal experience has been an exceedingly simple exercise which has involved the teachers of my kids either in an interview situation or through a number of school reports pointing out what’s been achieved in any given subject, where my kid sits within that achievement and where that achievement sits within the national standards criteria. I know where they are currently and where they are supposed to be by the end of the year. It has come in the form of shaded charts or graphs and it’s come in the form of numbers.

The only tricky part was when I initially saw them, I double guessed myself by thinking it can’t be this easy, I am sure I am reading something wrong here because all I’d heard was this was a mess, schools didn’t know what they were doing, schools didn’t like it, and it was impossible to collate the information. So I was ready for some whiteboard PowerPoint presentation that would leave me emotionally exhausted and mentally drained at its complexity, when in reality it turned out to be nothing of the sort.

Here’s the simple truth. Parents want and like to know where there [sic] kid is at. They like knowing something more specific than ‘they’re doing fine’ or ‘they’re settling in nicely’. National standards places them. It places them ahead, on or behind others around the country. And when you know that, you start to work out how much of that performance or lack of it is the child’s, is the teacher’s, or is the school’s. In other words, you know what’s what.

To be worried about that as those who have spent so much time scaring the bejesus out of us clearly are requires a mindset and view of the world I have trouble getting my head around.

Heh, if you are going to comment on national standards it might pay to use the correct ‘their’. Other than that though Hosking is spot on.

Perhaps we could now legislate to ensure the teacher unions stop political campaigns and focus on OSH and work conditions for their members instead of scaring parents.

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