Pisa Tests And Stupidity. New Zealand’s Outdated Education Philosophy. – Bryan Bruce. 

I see the latest OECD Pisa Test results are out and NZ’s scores fell very slightly in the three tested subjects – Reading, Maths and Science.

Frankly I don’t care. Only the stupid would think measuring 15 year olds in 3 subjects was a measure of whether our education system is good or bad.

I don’t know what Lorde’s test marks were in these 3 subjects at 15 for example, but she left school and won 2 Grammy’s .

My point is that a good education system is one (in my view) that aims to foster the talents and abilities of every individual child…. and a system hell bent on measuring kids to see how much they are the SAME as other kids their age, risks missing how DIFFERENT every child is – so that teachers can help each of their students be the best that they can be.

To continue with a 19th Century testing approach to assess today’s young people for life in the 21st century is again – stupid.

Remembering and regurgitating facts isn’t that important in a world where Google knows everything. What’s important is being able to determine what is good information from what is bogus and how to join the dots between information to achieve the result you need.

Also today’s young people will increasingly live in a world where being able to work with others to solve complex problems will determine their success in life. That ability to cooperate with others to solve problems isn’t measured by any of the Pisa tests.

One thing the latest PISA results DO show however is that 15 year olds from rich schools are about 3 years ahead of kids from poor schools and while teachers in lower socio-economic areas are clearly doing a very good job by lifting the performance of their students – our school administration system is against them.

The introduction of self-managing schools by Labour’s David Lange 30 years ago has proved disastrous for children who come from our poorer homes. It has delivered a Public School System where kids in rich areas are clearly benefiting  more from a system funded by the public purse. Not only is that unfair it’s stupid.

It’s stupid because it means we are wasting the brains of kids who weren’t lucky enough to be born into wealthy homes.

We’re a small country. We can’t afford to waste a single brain, a single ability or a single talent.

Just how stupid is our system?

It seems to me the fact that no other country in the world has sought to follow our self-management school system says it all.

We need to get smart and fix our broken system because decentralisation is getting in the way of teachers doing their job.

How so? Well, for one thing, in an effort to  try and force our grossly unfair system to perform  the Ministry has loaded teachers and school principals with volumes of paperwork to make them “accountable”.

Again that’s stupid,because it robs teachers of invaluable teaching time with individual students.

What we need to do instead is charge our educators with the “responsibility” for educating our nation’s children, because there is a world of difference in those two words.

To make someone ‘responsible’ for something says “we trust you”.

To make someone ‘accountable’ for something says ‘we don’t trust you at all and we are going to check up on you every five minutes to make sure you are doing your job.

Shall I say it again? “That’s stupid.”

It’s time to develop a school system where teachers are trusted to get on with the job of teaching.

We need a centralised school system created in consultation with our teachers and educators and driven by them and not politicians.

A system that has as light an administration system as possible. One that is designed (amongst other things) to bring back the principle of equal opportunity for ALL our children.

A focus on PISA style testing also doesn’t prepare our children in the best possible way for the future.

To be honest if I’d be more worried if we were Number 1 in those three PISA subjects because it would mean in all likelihood we had adopted a very authoritarian system of teaching.

“Do as you are told” teaching doesn’t foster creative thinking – and our economy will need creative thinkers if it is to grow in the future.

You can’t learn to be a creative thinker in an environment where the only answer is the one the teacher wants to hear.

We need to make our schools safe places to learn. Places where students are free to try out their ideas and maybe get things wrong now and then. Because in life we don’t get everything right first time and new innovations and discoveries are often made when we learn from our mistakes.

So we need to develop 21st Century methods of evaluating our young people not ones based on 19th Century ideas of what will prepare our children best for a successful life.

For example  PISA doesn’t measure many of the the essential skills we use most everyday.. such as oral language.

How many of us make our living from sales – persuading people to buy your idea or product? Or instructing people? Or using the telephone or , yes, (God help us) .. politics.

Being good at Oral Language, being able to organise your thoughts and communicate them is essential for success today. Why isn’t that one of the subjects used to determine who has a successful education system and who has not?

So let’s stop being stupid. Let’s have a nationwide hui on education to design a better way to administer our public education system that takes politics out of it  and entrusts our teachers with the responsibility of helping every child to realise their particular talents and abilities and be the best that they can be.

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