Key's education guru lashes out
National was "wrong" to backdown on class sizes, says education expert John Hattie - the government’s go-to guru on education reform, oft-quoted by John Key and Hekia Parata.
Professor Hattie's research on higher education while at the University of Auckland (he now lives in Australia) is said to have inspired the government's move to increase pupil-to-teacher rations to save $174 million over four years ($60 of which was earmarked for initiative to improve the quality of eaching"
“I would have kept to the policy”, Prof Hattie said on TV One's Q+A - although he conceded a backdown became inevitable due to political “heat”.
The Auckland academic still believes that in terms of class sizes, "the bottom line is it hardly makes a difference.”
Why? Because teachers typically don’t change the way they teach when given smaller classes, Prof Hattie said.
"They kind of had to back down, given the heat on class size. Like, it’s a very easy hot-button issue. Everybody thinks it’s obvious that reducing class size is a better thing. No one seems to understand, and they certainly don’t accept the research evidence, that it doesn’t make much of a difference. It’s just an emotional reaction."
National had done a poor job selling the reforms, Prof Hattie said. It was an "a mistake, obviously" to lead its argument with a debate over class sizes.
Instead it shoudl have put the primary focus on how some of the $174 million saved would be spent on improving the quality of teaching, and performance pay.
“I certainly would have thought that if the contrast had been about reducing class sizes by one or two or increasing the teachers’ salaries, to me it’s an easy choice," Prof Hattie said.
"Now they’re going to have to find that money somewhere else, and I’m sure it’s going to come out of another part of the education budget."
Watch the interview here.