No silver lining to Key's elite teacher policy
Oh I know I shouldn’t rain on the parade and I do think the policy of executive principals and lead teachers etcetera is very, very good, really I do, but the idea that such a policy is regarded as reform and is debated as such demonstrates how educational policy is out of whack.
I operated within the heart of the beast for a little while and so my report is informed by having been over the wall on the other side. It was like I was parachuted behind enemy lines to find myself high up in the central planning bureau of the old Soviet Union.
I always believed educational policy was weird and perverse. But now I know it is.
So let’s unpack this latest educational policy a little. The policy as always is trumped as extra spending. This time around it’s an extra $359 million over the next four years. Indeed, we are told the government is spending more on education than ever before. Please reflect on that a little moment.
Where else is it seen as a reason to rejoice and be thankful that something is costing more than it has ever done before? Nowhere. Yet such is the perversity that the extra cost is seen as a political winner and a good thing in its own right.
It could be a grand thing if better results were being achieved but no one actually knows the benefits of educational spending – it seems they are all too busy just whooping up the costs.
There is every indication we are spending more and getting less. The OECD reports a falling relative performance. But who knows? There is no guide or measure to how Johnny is doing this year compared with 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Or compared with Mary at the school down the road.
All we know for sure is that it’s costing more.
The job of Expert Principals is to assist other less expert ones. The big breakthrough is the admission that not all principals are equally as good. But out here in the real world we already knew that. And so the less expert principals are to have their hands held by more expert ones.
A couple of questions. Why isn’t School A already paying for the Expert Principal to help? Or is that they don’t even know or care they have a problem? And why doesn’t School B take over School A?
That’s how it would happen for the local dairy. So why do we accept second-rate performance in our schools? And how come the answer to second-rate schools is to commit more resources to them? Shouldn’t their students and their money simply dry up?
The Expert Principals are to be chosen by – wait for it – an Expert Committee. And the Expert Committee is to be chosen by – you guessed it – the Ministry of Education. The policy is straight out of the Politburo’s playbook. The factory’s failure to meet production targets sees the Central Planning Committee bringing in Expert Managers and Lead Foremen from neighbouring factories.
The policy will be as successful as any other designed by the central committee.
It’s all top down, centrally controlled stuff. Individual students don’t count and parents don’t get a look in. There is no profit or loss, no choice and competition, no mergers, no takeovers, no school failure and liquidations, no school expansions. There is no market.
There is a simple policy that would fix education once and for all: privatise it.