Fiddling While Schools Burn – Bryan Bruce. 

Congratulations to our teachers for standing firm against bulk funding. We have a very unfair Public education system and Hekia Parata’s proposal to force principals to choose between hiring a teacher or buying school equipment would have made an already terrible situation worse.

The way to fix our broken education system is not to tinker with the Decile funding model. It is to admit that the self-management system of school administration, introduced by David Lange and designed by former Supermarket boss Brian Picot 3 decades ago, has been a disaster for children of low (and now also middle) income families.

THAT”s what we need to fix.

We are the only country in the world that has a completely autonomous self management school system and you would think that if it was such a wonderful thing then, at some point over the last 30 years, some other country would have copied us. But they haven’t.

They haven’t  because they can see that not only has school self-management created rich and poor schools within a Publicly funded school system, it has also loaded teachers  with so much “accountability” administration that it has robbed our educators of invaluable teaching and professional development time.

If the Decile system serves any useful purpose at all it is simply as a measure of how unfair our school system has become.

A student who attends a Decile 1 or 2 Secondary School has about a 30% LESS chance of attaining NCEA level 2 than if they attended a Decile 9 or 10 school. That’s not because teachers in Decile 1 and 2 schools are worse than teachers in Decile 9 and 10 schools, it’s because over the last 30 years we have created a very unequal society.  

So fixing our school system cannot be separated from fixing our society. 

In Finland and Shanghai (who the OECD say lead the world in education) they have the centralised system of school administration that we once had before Lange introduced his radical new scheme. Back then, teachers from other countries used to visit us – not Finland – to see how we ran things like our reading programmes because we taught that skill better than anyone else. Why? Because we had a cooperative education system in which teachers shared information and good ideas in order to make every school a good school. Not the competitive one we have today, which inherently encourages teachers and schools not to share good ideas and methods but hold on to their “intellectual property” so they can gain more pupils and funding.

So in my view, returning to a centralised system of light administration that unburdens our teachers from unnecessary administrative tasks in order to spend more time on the difficult job of preparing our children for life is the place to start. Fiddling with funding won’t fix our systemic school administration problem. Taking away the  control of education from politicians and putting back into the hands of our educators however, just might.

If you would like to know more about my views on our Public education system you can watch  my documentary World Class? for free for the next 10 days here: Bryan Bruce


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