My family and I arrived back from two fantastic weeks across the ditch yesterday. Even though the weather today is driving rain with the odd bit of hail dropped in for good measure, there is no place like home.
I have spent much of the day getting re-connected, that means checking email, going through my RSS reader and catching up on facebook. All of which takes much time as many of those things take you off in different directions with links to this and that. So a couple of observations.
The national standards debate continues, entries continue to be made on the Ministries educational leaders website adding to a comments origianlly made by Luke. The NZEI have set up an online discussion forum, which is quite cutting edge for them historically, well done. However by far the best thing I have read on this issue today was published in the Taranaki Daily News and written by a parent, Sarah Foy. Click on the link to read the whole article, however hre are some quotes that interested me.
On the nature of the consultation
We'd been invited to consult with the ministry about the nationwide change. From next year the progress of primary school children in maths, reading and writing will be measured against government-set standards.
But the two-hour meeting was contrived and our well-intentioned feedback felt meaningless.
On the narrow focus of the standards
The ministry ladies said a prime motivation was lifting the achievement level of kids who fail at school. But is telling those parents that their kids don't make the national grade in reading or maths going to inspire them?
I believe schools are already doing their utmost to lift the achievement levels of those kids. How is this going to change that kind of work, except make it more pressured?
Schooling doesn't happen in a vacuum and if the Government is genuinely concerned, why doesn't it address related issues like better funding for social workers. (This year's Budget cut baseline funding for the ministry of social development by $3 million.)
There's something else: the National Standards are only relevant for the three r's: So Johnny at six years could be slow off the mark when it comes to writing but might be a whiz with a coloured pencil or a soccer ball. Doesn't matter. Sciences or arts or physical activity won't be assessed nationally.
On the purpose of education
Ministry press releases have reiterated that standards will be given out in plain language but compartmentalising our budding learners isn't that simple. Encourage a well-rounded, diverse education and don't narrow the focus, I say.
I think this is interesting as when I was at the NZPF conference at the end of last term I along with about 300 others by the Minister that the national standards were going to happen because parents wanted them. It is my belief and experience that parents do want to know where their child is at and what all parties concerned can do to make progress. However my feeling on hearing this from the Minister and again from the Prime Minster (appears like a rehearsed media line) is how do they know that? All I know for sure from parents I have communicated with is what I have said above. I grow concerned when our representatives speak for a group but not showing any evidence they have such a madate to do so.
Anyhow onto more fun things
You need to check out We Choose the Moon website. A real time interactive site that gives you all the experiences of the 1969 moon landing. It is very cool, it includes all the mission video and audio. You can download a widget with a mission clock on it including a countdown to critical mission stages. As I write there is 65 hours 13 minutes and 47 seconds until man walks on the moon.