A goal we can all agree on

Insights Newsletter
24 February, 2017

There is not much in this world that people agree on. 

But one philosophy we at the Initiative hope remains uncontroversial is that improving access to quality education will create a better New Zealand.

The main obstacle? New Zealand is in denial about the pervasiveness of school failure. Failure has become the status quo in some schools, and our ignorance to this is in turn failing New Zealand’s students. That is why The New Zealand Initiative’s latest report: Fair and Frank: Global insights for managing school performance looks to the UK and the US to inform the debate about how New Zealand could identify and respond to failing schools.

Though we can all agree that providing more children with a better education is a respectable goal, there are a lot of differing opinions about how to achieve that goal. This was abundantly clear in the response to Fair and Frank.

Too many involved in education policy discussions have forgotten why they are having them in the first place – the students. Much of the ensuing debate after our launch focused on how a system that rewards good teachers would disadvantage teachers.

Others yet have taken issue with importing ideas from places that have imperfect education systems.

The Initiative did not choose the countries included in the report because they have the best test results, but because they have implemented innovative ways of identifying and reforming failing schools – challenges New Zealand knows very well.

And here is at least one inconvenient truth: we are by no means perfect either – New Zealand’s average maths performance in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study is the lowest in the English speaking world.

New Zealand looks to other countries for guidance in a range of other areas. Take rugby, for example – once an alien concept from the far away shores of the UK, we now have the best team in the world. So why should education be any different?

We all agree that a high quality education is the key to unlocking the potential of young students – our future doctors, engineers and administrators. Now let’s have a debate about how we can get better at delivering it.

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