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Education update May 2023

In brief

  • Teachers’ strikes have been suspended to allow negotiations. 
  • There is a debate about why educational results are deteriorating. 
  • National’s plan is to “Teach the Basics Brilliantly”. ACT is in agreement. 
  • Labour wants to integrate Māori knowledge and the Treaty into all areas of education. 

Teachers strikes update

The Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) and the Educational Institute (NZEI) have suspended strike notices until 30 May 2023 to allow for talks with the Minister of Education Jan Tinetti.

Strike action comes when most students spent only eight days at school in April. Holidays and teacher-only days ate up the majority of school time. 

New funding

The Government recently announced funding to reduce class sizes from 29 students to 28 students, for Years 4 to 8, but starting only in 2025. They have also previously announced funding for new truancy officers to tackle the ongoing truancy crisis. However, that rollout is behind schedule with only one officer hired so far (82 were supposed to start by Term 2). 

Labour’s “enlightened” education policy 

Numerous studies are finding academic achievement is declining drastically.

NZ’s “balanced literacy approach”, which overtook the “structured literacy approach” is thought by some to be at least partly to blame. The former relies on children using context as cues, including pictures to guess at what words mean. The latter focuses on phonics and how to decode words by breaking them down into individual sounds. 

Tinetti admits her preference is for the structured literacy approach, but is loathe to impose the approach on schools nationwide. 

There is also concern that the current model allowing for schools to develop their own curriculum in many cases leaves students without critical skills needed to become advanced readers. 

Labour’s “refresh” of the curriculum attempts to meld notions of Māori traditional knowledge (mātauranga) with traditional maths (amongst other areas) and has been lampooned by ACT’s leader David Seymour, who himself is of Māori descent.

Te Mātaiaho/The Curriculum Framework is being phased in to replace the current New Zealand Curriculum. Under the heading Big Ideas, the policy document states: 

“… When considering concepts, processes, and artifacts from te ao Māori, we maintain their integrity by exploring the mātauranga Māori associated with them before formulating mathematical and statistical hypotheses about them.” 

Do you understand that? We don’t. And remember this is for grade school. 

Auckland University academic Elizabeth Rata is highly critical of the Government’s approach. Rata argues mātauranga Māori is not compatible with “what can be defined as science itself”. She describes the education system as indoctrinating children and says “This so-called decolonisation, indigenisation of the curriculum… it is a disaster”. 

Aotearoa New Zealand’s Histories has already been made compulsory. It emphasises learning about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and is fundamentally rooted in critical race theory. CRT maintains your personal efforts are not as important to your success as your race, if you are from a race “they” consider to be historically privileged or oppressed.

What is Nats plan for education? 

The National party has stated they’ll introduce twice-a-year standardised testing for reading and maths. They are calling it Teaching the Basics Brilliantly. It will require students spend an hour a day on each of reading, writing and maths.

ACT also believes in a return to basics, poking fun at Labour’s policy with their own words, as below.

Education update May 2023 - Centrist
ACT pokes fun of Labour’s education policy in a tweet from David Seymour.

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