National Standards – from the bowels of Nexus

This was originally printed in Nexus Magazine Issue 6 2012, released Monday 23 April 2012.

This week we’re talking Education. Fitting, given the University of Waikato is an educational institution. It’s also fitting then, that a few weeks back, I was in the Faculty of Education for a tutorial and I noticed some brainstorming on the walls about what National Standards are and what they mean. While I was quite happy to see that they weren’t just looking through press releases from the Labour and Green Parties for their responses (they actually had some positives written down there), it did annoy me that they had some of the more unreasonable “negatives” regarding National Standards. Time to set the record straight, I think.

The one that got me the most riled up was that it’s one size fits all. I am a little confused by this. When you have someone in Year 4, for example, is there a certain level they should be at in terms of reading? What about in terms of maths? And writing? Science? IT? Of course there is. Yet the left will tell you that it’s a one size fits all policy that stops children excelling at what they’re good at. What utter poppycock.

Right now, children are getting to high school unable to read and write. They’re getting to high school thinking the earth is flat and before the dinosaurs there were teenage mutant ninja turtles. High schools can’t start teaching what they need to teach to get kids through NCEA because the primary schools haven’t done their job as it’s more important to allow for creativity rather than teaching 1+1. In fact, it’s so bad that apparently (not saying this is definitely correct, but I’m quoting someone who I would have thought would know…) the average reading age of people entering the University of Waikato is 13. A friend of mine that I went through both primary and high school with finished primary school with a reading age of 5 years 2 months. How is this a system that is working?

According to the unions involved with our education system, the education system we had before National Standards is, by evidence, one of the best in the world. However, I cannot see how an education system that lets so many of our young people fall through the cracks is one of the best in the world. And if the rest of the world is that bad, do we really want to be comparing with them?

If we shouldn’t be testing our children and putting them in boxes, then how is the pre-National Standards system any better? We had testing for reading age. We had testing for spelling age. We had PAT and AsTLe tests. There is a difference though – the new system is equivalent across the entire education system. We can see which schools are working and which need to be looked at. Is that really such a bad thing? Schools that aren’t doing so well can have help to fix whatever needs fixing. How can giving children a school they can learn at be a bad thing?

I understand the fears of teachers and education students. National Standards could create a huge workload for them, but is the idea of education not to give the students the knowledge they need to move forward in life? National Standards forces this from the beginning of the compulsory education system. If a teacher has a little bit more work now, that’s nothing compared with the huge benefit brought to our society with an education system that works and gives children the start in life that they need to succeed (ha, I’m a poet).

And for a small plug, if you want more of this, head to


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Posted on April 23, 2012, in From Nexus Magazine, New Zealand Politics. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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