Associate Education Minister Tariana Turia is backing the release of national standards data as a way to improve the education of Maori children.
Mrs Turia says it’s time for educators and families to step up so the next generation of Maori don’t face a future of unemployment or low-paid work.
“I think Hekia Parata is doing a really good job. People may not like what she’s saying and they may not like what she’s doing but it’s all research-informed, it is taken from research that has been carried out over a number of years, she’s saying ‘we want that for Maori kids too, and we’re going to have it,’” Mrs Turia says.
Well, that’s the thing: the release of National Stadards data will not improve the education of Maori children. The data is meaningless. Firstly, National Standards are neither moderated nor standardised. This renders comparisons between schools largely meaningless.
Secondly, a different set of standards apply to Kura Kaupapa. So when Mum’s deciding to whether to send little Hemi to the local primary or the local Kura, National Standards are a useless guide. To use a tired phrase, you’re comparing apples with oranges. Keri Milne-Ihimaera comments that standards for Kura reflect “a Maori worldview and are quite different”.
Thirdly, National Standards (as they are) tell us nothing we don’t already know. Maori kids are failing. Am I supposed to be surprised by that?
It’s also worth remembering that National Standards are not an innovative new approach to teaching, nor do they encourage new approaches. National Standards represent a yardstick. All we’re doing is measuring Maori kids against where the government thinks those kids should be. Ka Hikitia, Te Kotahitanga, Whakahau Whakamana Whakahihi; these are innovative approaches to teaching. Pity the government is underfunding them.
So, National Standards are about measurement and communication. Apparently parents want to know “in plain English” how well or not so well their child is doing. Well, what happens when the child is branded a failure and the parents are told? Nothing. National Standards, as they are, end there. The $60m spent determining who is below the arbitrary National Standards line would have been better spent on actually helping the underachievers rather than telling them they’re underachieving. Isn’t that just common sense?