At the risk of being pedantic I describe in detail my efforts in New Zealand mainly because it may be helpful to those who follow me from making the same mistakes that I made, thus saving valuable time and effort etc.
The one contribution I did make!
You may have read previously that I was fortunate to make a significant contribution to New Zealand education in the mid-1980s. Although I was not involved in the logistics I believe it is fair to say that without my presentation to the top officials, the restructuring of New Zealand pre-tertiary education would not have occurred.
The result of this restructuring was due, in great part, to the de-centralisation of pre-tertiary education. I am stating the above because for one reason or another I possess a very clear idea of what administrative process should be in place if childrens’ wellbeing and learning is to be optimised.
This isn’t rocket science or being particularly visionary or insightful.
Who knows children best?
Who knows the children best after their parents and close relatives and it is of course their teachers. Obviously there need to be checks and balances in place but the foundation for successful education is to see that parents and teachers have the main input into their childrens’ education.
This is particularly true for pre-high school students. The scenario does change, to a certain extent, for high school students where the needs of society including finding work, play an ever increasing influence on the decision-making of each student.
The philosophy, viewpoint and thinking that formed the basis for the administrative structure I proposed was detailed and comprehensive. The presentation that I gave to the top education officials in Wellington in 1985 was the kick-starter for a wholesale review of pre-tertiary education and the results were introduced into law in New Zealand in the late 1980s.
For some years after, I had hoped that once this structure was established, administrators and politicians might possess the vision and insight to see that such a structure could form the basis for the next step. This was to examine the wide-ranging and all-inclusive curriculum that was readily available to view for any interested party. The crucial objective was, as always, to optimise childrens’ wellbeing and learning.
Back then, I tended to examine such happenings as what might happen during my lifetime but slowly my mindset is changing and I am coming to a somewhat different conclusion. The different conclusion is that it is a big mistake to impose any kind of time structure on such happenings and it is best left to history to judge whether the speed of the evolution of such structures is applicable and appropriate.
Indeed history indicates that changes usually occur incrementally and that it takes time for the mindsets so involved to adjust to the decision-making that is necessary for the appropriate changes to occur. So now I sit back, attempt to do my best, realise that probably I shall see very little progress in my lifetime and I leave it to a greater authority to judge, if such judgement is necessary, what is occurring.
National Government 2008
It was wise of me to cultivate such an attitude as, unfortunately, quite the opposite happened to what I hoped for in New Zealand. This occurred when the National Government came to power in 2008.
Tragically, for the children of New Zealand, their politicians and administrators followed the example of the UK in politicising and in doing so centralising the pre-tertiary education sector.
If you have read even some of the evidence I have presented describing what occurs when such politicising and centralising occurs, you will also know that the very thing politicians wish to avoid, namely the decline of their society, will be the consequence.
I am not talking about all this occurring in a matter of years. Obviously, there are many other factors relevant to such decline and obviously cultural ones are a main determinant although I would still assert that the way children are educated is the most important contributing factor.
In essence, when such politicising and centralising occurs, the inevitable result is that the curriculum becomes test driven. Later, I’ll describe how this occurs. This may happen slowly or quickly but the result is the same. The focus is on short-term memory recall and the balanced and harmonious hemispheric growth that is crucial for optimising childrens’ wellbeing and learning goes out the window.
Teachers know, or at the very least their instinct clearly indicates, that what they are doing is harming children. It should be no surprise that they leave the profession or do not enter it in the first place. You can read in detail in the appropriate chapters what occurs.
Lose teachers and inevitable decline occurs
Once you have lost your teachers you have lost society and the inevitable decline occurs. It is very easy for a politician or administrator to decide what is best for children. It just so happens that the vast majority of politicians have no experience of teaching and even fewer have taught in schools where there are a considerable number of children from unsupportive home backgrounds.
It would be a salutary lesson well learned if such politicians and administrators were mandated to spend a few weeks each year in such circumstances. I am equally sure their theoretical knowledge would be influenced and honed to deal with the realities that teachers have to deal with on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, politicians and administrators will never experience such situations; their preference is continually judge teachers without really having any clue what teachers need in order to help their students become better learners.
Politicians might even come to the conclusion that it would be advantageous for them to examine education structures of countries where students are obtaining the highest test scores (way above New Zealand and other countries namely USA and UK where scores continue to decline). As I have emphasised many times one of the key components of such success is the freedom given to teachers to practice their craft successfully.
Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD PISA Reports
I once wrote to Andreas Schleicher, Director of the OECD PISA Reports stating “I am a firm believer that politicians and administrators should spend one month each year teaching in a school where children from unsupportive home backgrounds are enrolled. The result would be policies entrenched in realities rather than on mindsets based on unrealistic ideologies!” More about that later but I add it to indicate that policies introduced by politicians are usually of that ilk.
If you have taught children that come from such backgrounds you would know that the last thing you need is for you, the teacher, to bring pressure on such children to sit and pass tests. As a teacher you have an enormous responsibility to try and inspire such children to learn. It is possible as I know from my own experience teaching in the East End of London and the industrial north of England, but it is very, very hard work.
Politicians, administrators and schools
The last thing you need is some bureaucrat telling you that they know what is best for such children especially when they have never entered the classroom. There are thousands upon thousands of teachers going into their classrooms every day attempting and in many cases accomplishing the very difficult task of inspiring such children to learn.
Why don’t politicians and administrators go into the schools and ask such teachers what resources they need to improve what they are doing? Of course, that solution is far too simple. Sadly, I have reached the conclusion that the bottom line is that it is more about power than attempting to improve childrens’ learning skills.
Introduction of nationalised standardised testing 2010
The National Party came to power in 2008 and was re-elected in 2011. It had already stated that it would introduce nationalised standardised testing and this occurred at the beginning of 2010. The newspaper with the easily the biggest circulation in New Zealand is the Auckland based “New Zealand Herald.”
I was in Auckland at the time and wrote many letters and also submitted articles indicating the disastrous consequences that would occur from such a policy. It didn’t surprise me that not one was published although it would have been nice to receive some sort of acknowledgement regarding the submission of my articles.
What follows is something of what occurred. I have included in chronological order what I consider relevant material starting in January 2010 up to the present day. Even so there is a great deal more that could be added!
Every school would have to test pupils against the government’s standards from Year 1 to Year 8, the last year of intermediate school. They will also have to report to parents on each child’s progress twice a year and send results for all their pupils to the Ministry of Education by 2012.
One obvious concern was that the information might be made public; for example, if journalists compiled league tables showing school rankings from this information. New Zealand has a system that schools are classified according to deciles. A school’s decile indicates the extent to which the school draws its students from different socio-economic communities.
Decile 1 schools are the 10% of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities, whereas decile 10 schools are the 10% of schools with the lowest proportion of these students. However, a school’s decile does not indicate the overall socio-economic mix of the school.
The five factors that make up the socio-economic indicator are 1) Household income 2) Occupation 3) Household crowding 4) Educational qualifications and 5) Income support; with certain weighting where appropriate.
Why not ask the teachers?
The situation hadn’t quite reached that stage of farce in New Zealand but the principle was the same. Politicians and administrators could have gone directly to the teachers and asked them what they needed in the way of additional resources to help them teach children from unsupportive homes.
That was far too simple! Instead they decided that nationalised standardised testing would be applied in every school. Apparently, this would give them an accurate assessment of which teachers were failing etc. which if you have read the above was bordering on farce.
Why so many of the general public were duped that this idea possessed any credence, I do not know. But first let us examine what occurred and how the New Zealand Herald supported such unrealistic and poorly thought out policies.
The Herald 2010
The first article in the Herald was on 28th January 2010 describing how National’s standardised testing could make poor schools look bad. It was accurate in as much it described that pupils from the country’s poorest families at decile 1 schools always started behind, some substantially behind, the national average.
Typically they scored in the bottom 10 per cent for reading ability, putting them well out of reach of the national standard for several years.
It also described how many low-decile schools improved their pupils’ performance against the national average and sometimes lifted them to catch up with the average by Year 6 (10 to 11-year-olds). It was obvious that children with good pre-school education and strong home support would enjoy a huge head start over children attending lower decile schools. In those latter schools it might take years to make noticeable improvements.
The next article on 30th January described what was to come. The Minister of Education, Mrs. Tolley travelled the country holding meetings with school boards of trustees, teachers and communities to explain the policy. She explained that “the results of that are going to be posted publicly and we are asking the (education) sector to keep an eye on those and if we need to make changes we will make them based on the outcome of that evaluation.”
Meanwhile the New Zealand Principals’ Federation released the results of a survey taken of more than 600 principals before school break-up last year (2009). It showed that only 3 per cent of the respondents had been prepared to back the standards unanimously while 49 per cent of all boards had serious misgivings or some disquiet about standards.
So a couple of politicians know better than over 300 principals who have spent their lifetime in education what is best for children. I think an excess of hubris is somewhat of an understatement!
On 2nd February the Herald came out with an editorial indicating unequivocal support for National’s policies. Under the heading “Govt should hold its nerve on standards” the editorial describes how parents are not interested in fairness; that in fact they are looking on how their children can be advantaged. It shows clearly the type of society that the editors (or perhaps the owners of the Herald) and National wish to evolve.
The editorial continued “The Government should not compromise that policy for the sake of pacifying a sector of state servants who can make its life difficult.” I can only repeat what is obvious in those countries that possess the highest achieving students that teachers in those countries are highly respected. Obviously, National politicians and Herald editorial writers have quite a different view of the profession. It continued “The battle with educational failure has just begun. The Government must not give it up now.”
Anyone who is willing to spend a few moments researching what happens in those countries that possess high achieving students will know that National policies and Herald editorials are damaging New Zealand and we shall see the results of their policies and support in the years to come.
In the same paper Marilyn Gwilliam, president of the Auckland Primary Principals’ Association, said she children hoped that the new standards would not change how children were being taught, “We don’t want it (National Standards) to drive what’s happening at school.”
If she has comprehensive knowledge and experience of what has occurred in the UK and USA, she would know that is exactly what eventually occurs. Slowly or quickly the curriculum becomes test- driven and many good teachers leave or never enter the profession.
Of course, the propaganda war was now being won hands down against the teachers and the knives were really out. Following on from this was another article in the Herald entitled “National standards will expose worst teachers.” It continued “It is a problem principals face at this time every year: what to do with the substandard teacher. Just about every big school has one. In secondary schools they don’t matter as much because no pupil has them all day. But in a primary class the teacher is crucial. A poor one can harm a child’s progress for a year.”
As usual I responded “Dear John, yes, why not join the “conventional wisdom” that has already occurred in the UK and USA – so easy, isn’t it, the popular pastime of knocking teachers. Hey but look – according to the 2007 UNICEF Report (Report Card 7) the worst two countries in the developed world in which to raise a child a child are UK and USA and of course the continual knocking of teachers by journalists and the extreme intervention by politicians had nothing to do with it!
Journalists and politicians of your ilk will no doubt succeed in seeing that New Zealand falls down the league tables (see OECD PISA tables) as quickly as the UK did but please do not complain when, in the future, you see the results of yours and similar mindsets.
Left the UK after trying mightily, unsuccessfully, for many years to persuade people similar to your mindset the consequences of such policies – no surprise to me to see where UK is today. I tried same thing in USA – same consequences, same result. Now I see the same things happening in New Zealand and the consequences, as with UK and USA will be the same.
You might consider, according to a recent UK survey why journalists have the lowest respect of any “professional” group (15%) – as one wit responded – he was surprised the figure was so high! And I thought we were supposed to leave a better society for our children. Guess I was wrong about that also! David”
As already described not one letter (never mind article) was ever published. The farce reached its height when the Herald published a front page article on the 7th February saying that very few parents understood the application of standards and all it entailed but they liked it! 88% said they only partially or not at all understood the new system. This is journalism and propaganda at its worst.
I would add that for those teachers that need help the reader might want to research what is occurring in Shanghai (or read my series of articles “Shanghai: A Model for Reform.”) They assist and help those teachers who need to improve and the results of their policies in general are indicated by the unprecedented and unparalleled achievement of their students. They came top in all OECD PISA categories in math, science and math in both the 2009 and 2012 assessments.
I responded “Perhaps if the 73.2 per cent (399) of respondents who said they supported the introduction of standards for reading, writing and maths in their children’s primary schools, were given the information of the totally disastrous consequences of the introduction of similar testing in UK and USA (now the worst two countries in the developed world in which to raise a child) and also knew about UK’s rapid decline as far as international standards are concerned (OECD PISA ratings – UK is the only country which was in the top-performing group in 2000 to have slipped down later into the lower group) they might have a different opinion.
But what the heck, we have reached the stage of farce and desperation. When the Herald knows that only 11.9% even had “a full understanding” of the policy and yet come about with a headline “Like it: 73 per cent – Hate it: 14 per cent” (and if you are opposed, you “hate it” – God, who are these people!), we know we needn’t go the theatre any more for farce, we are supplied with it by the Herald.
My one consolation is that history will judge, rightly but harshly, the total lack of vision and insight of the present pro-testing brigade. But that is small compared to the enormous amount of damage and harm that is going to occur in our schools in the next few years.
I do not act out of anger for I believe that we are answerable for all we action and someday, obviously not in the present mindset, those that are unwilling to examine a plethora of international evidence should be held to account as predictably NZ will fall from its present high position.
Obviously a person like me with experience of nearly 50 years in education doesn’t stand a hope when editors, journalists and politicians nearly all decide (on what evidence I would like to ask?) to support or implement present policies. But, as far as the Herald if concerned, the democratic process went by the board a long time ago so all one can do is to attempt to stem the enormous amount of misinformation and prejudice now pouring forth.”
Obviously, they were never going to publish anything that indicated evidence of the disasters of what was befalling New Zealand’s children.
200 schools refusing to introduce government’s mandatory national standards
The farce continued but at least those directly responsible for children were now fighting back. On 11th February under the heading, “Rebel schools: We won’t set standards” described how more than 200 schools are refusing to introduce part of the Government’s mandatory national standards next year after voting “no confidence” in the system.
Boards of trustees of at least 225 schools – out of a national total of 2018 – say it is time to take action against the standards, which they say are “flawed, confusing and unworkable” and need to be completely reviewed.
As one chairperson of a board of trustees said the boards were taking a stand because it was the right thing for the children. “As representatives of our parent communities, we are joining our principals and teachers to say that national standards are fundamentally flawed, confusing and unworkable and we have no confidence in them. We will defer setting achievement targets based on national standards until these concerns are addressed.”
Some of the boards plan to take their protest a step further by refusing to implement any part of the national standards system. This stance has brought official warnings that boards which refuse to follow the national standard requirements are breaking the law and could be sacked and replaced by a commissioner.
So now we have the heavy hand (has 1984 arrived?). History will no doubt have much to say and describe about the debacle that is occurring in present day education and especially about those politicians and journalists who chose to ignore an abundance of evidence indicating that what they were supporting would not work. In fact, it would harm children and eventually have serious consequences for those societies implementing such policies.
Balmoral School, in Auckland, was one of the schools which says it will not implement any part of the standards. Board chairman Simon Mitchell said the issue was not about having standards, as most schools already did, but that national standards would not help underachievers and would instead result in children who did not meet the required level being labelled failures.
He said the threat of being replaced by a commissioner was concerning, but it was a risk the board was willing to take. “We will just have to work through anything that arises in relation to that.”
Acting Education Minister Tony Ryall said that “it was disappointing that some children’s education might suffer because of action being taken by some boards of trustees” when it was his government’s arrogance and abuse of power that had created this situation in the first place!
That was the end of that particular debate and no doubt we shall sometime in the future the results of New Zealand losing so many good teachers and those who never entered the profession. It wasn’t the end of the farce though.
In 2012 it continued. A politician on whom the government depended for his vote decided that the real answer to those children who were failing was charter schools. Never mind the mountain of research from the USA showing that children from charter schools performed approximately at the same level as children from non-charter schools.
I am not against charter schools. In fact with some crucial qualifications, I support them but I am against the argument that in some way or another it is the answer to those children who are failing. But there we have it again, a politician with no education experience decides that he has the answer and now we have another scenario imposed on the education sector.
In its simplistic and naïve editorial the Herald decided also to give its support. As usual it rendered a number of fine sounding phrases that all sound very nice but do little to help the education sector to deliver the goods.
Herald’s unequivocal support for John Key continues
At least the Herald’s unequivocal support for John Key was made clear in an article “Cheers for Awesome John Key.”
Again I responded and again of course it was not published, “Five minutes research would indicate that Key et al have been a disaster for NZ. Education is now so bad in UK that the Minister of Education is not going to allow PISA testing because they know the results will be disastrous. Obama is now changing the calamitous NCLB so there is hope in time for the USA.
Ignoring research, teachers and educators Key et al has followed UK/USA and politicised education. Both UK/USA are now in steep decline; one of the main determinants education and its politicisation.
If NZ politicisation continues, expect dire consequences in 15-25 years’ time and decline of some sort earlier. Besides this, Key has made the poor, poorer and the rich, richer, and many more in the country now possess the mindset “What can I get out of this situation for myself, and blow the rest.” History will quite rightly be a harsh judge.”
Arrival of 1984 in New Zealand
But now “power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely” could be accurately applied. In September 2013 the Herald under the heading “Schools face takeover if pupils failing” decided that where schools are failing the government would have the power to take over the school. With a vengeance, 1984 had arrived in New Zealand.
Based on what history I have no doubt will regard as infamous interfering in schools, the minister decided that based on the very limited national standards results schools could be taken over by the government. The minister stated, “It’s interesting that we are not putting in interventions when learning is not occurring … I think we need to be moving much closer to that.”
Secondary Principals’ Association president Tom Parsons said the message that schools would be taken over because of student achievement data would be a “frightening scenario” for many.
Letter to Prime Minister John Key, Minister of Education, Hekia Parata
All I can do is to research and write. I penned the following to Prime Minister John Key, Minister of Education, Hekia Parata and copies to various others in January 2013.
“UK and New Zealand Education
Why do NZ politicians and administrators implement similar policies (nationalised standardised testing etc.) when these policies have already proved disastrous for UK students; and countries/areas which come top of OECD league tables (Finland, Shanghai/China etc.) implement totally different policies than that of UK and New Zealand!
UK Students’ Performance
For example, it is now possible and very easy to compare the performance of UK students with students from other developed countries by examining OECD PISA Reports.
Sadly, the news from any international education perspective is continually bad so when, for example, the 2006 PISA test scores were examined; it was no surprise to see UK schools fall down the global table.
For example, pupils in the UK are no longer in the top ten in reading and mathematics literacy. Based on, and comparing PISA test results in 2000 and 2006, the UK has lost its position in the top 10 positions it held for both subjects.
The UK possesses the unwanted unique distinction of being the only country which was in the top-performing group in 2000 to have slipped down into the lower group by 2006. In 2000, the UK was placed 7th in reading and 8th in maths – the UK in the 2006 table is 17th for reading and 24th place for maths. The results have embarrassed a government that claims to have put education at the top of its agenda for a decade.
UK’s PISA Experience
In the 2000 PISA, the UK, as far as Reading Literacy was concerned, was a creditable seventh; in Mathematics Literacy was a creditable eighth and in Science Literacy was joint third; a very praiseworthy performance.
The UK is the only country which was in the top-performing group in 2000 to have slipped down into the lower group in 2006. In the latest table UK is 17th for reading, 24th place for maths and 14th for science. UK has slid way down the league in all three subjects.
Reading Literacy – The countries which were ahead of the UK in reading in 2000 – Finland, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Korea – remain in the top 10 for this year. But the UK has now been overtaken by countries including Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Japan.
Mathematics Literacy – the UK slipped from eighth to twenty-fourth and also has been overtaken by a group of improved performers, including Slovenia, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and Austria.
Science Literacy – the UK slipped from third to fourteenth and also has been overtaken by a group of improved performers, including Hong Kong-China, Slovenia, Canada, Netherlands, Chinese-Taipei, Estonia, New Zealand, Australia, Liechtenstein and Germany.
If one is a UK parent, or otherwise involved in education, it makes dismal reading. You will also find that the UK, according to the UNICEF, “Child poverty in perspective (Report Card 2007): An overview of child wellbeing in rich countries” is the worst country in the developed world in which to raise children.
Children as young as four or five are now tested on their reading, writing and use of number. This “baseline assessment’’ is designed to provide more information for teachers, as well as allowing the measurement of pupils’ progress as they move through the school.
All children in state schools are tested in English and mathematics at the ages of 7, 11, and 14, and pupils aged 11 and 14 are also tested in science. The tests, mainly Sats, are intended to show whether children have reached the national curriculum learning targets. They are usually taken in May each year.
I have attempted, unsuccessfully, to find the evidence for whomever in the Ministry of Education (I’ll call it that to be consistent but the name and structure of the department does keep changing) for deciding what a four or a five year old, or for that matter any pre-high child or student, should know.
Also, how it should be tested particularly as the tests have been created and drawn up by administrators at the behest of politicians, the vast majority of whom have never taught.
Consequences of what politicians are actioning
Almost without exception all the student teachers I taught were highly motivated, hardworking and sincere in their intention to help young people. It takes a certain breed of very dedicated people and a mindset that very few of us could aspire to, to be the fountain of wisdom for 25+ young people hour after hour, day after day, week and week, month after month and year after year.
It isn’t coincidence that countries that appreciate their teachers, respect them for the wonderful job they are doing, give them a thorough professional training, pay them adequately, subsequently see the results of their support and admiration in international league tables.
Time and again we see Finnish students top or near the top of whatever league table we examine. Yes, a description and examination of education in Finland is available and hopefully we are capable of showing enough discipline to act with integrity and learn why Finnish students are top or in the top bracket regarding performance. Yes, it should be a learning mindset if we are to do the best for our children.
Even more importantly, why is New Zealand, previously very high up in international league tables, behind Finland now following the UK model? You can now expect NZ to undergo a similar experience like that of the UK and slide down etc.
Time and again we see countries that diminish and do not respect their teachers having all sorts of problems – are you listening UK and present New Zealand politicians and administrators? One consequence of such a mindset is that students perform well below their potential according to international league tables.
The clear example here is the UK. As stated previously, UK is the only country which was in the top-performing group in 2000 to have slipped down into the lower group in all three categories in 2006. In this latest table UK is 17th for reading, 24th place for maths and 14th for science.
UK has slid way down the league in all three subjects.
Does this indicate that somewhere along the line, the fifteen-year-olds in the UK who took the tests in 2006 had a lower ability than their counterparts in 2000? I think not!
Does it mean that teachers suddenly were of an inferior breed, the efficiency of their teaching declining rapidly over a six year period? I think not!
If the students did not have lower ability and if the teachers are not inferior with their teaching, then what has occurred to result in UK students performing so badly in 2006 compared with the way they performed in 2000?
It isn’t hard to find out why such a decline occurred. Even a cursory examination of what occurred in the UK between 2000 and 2006 (and the same policies continued and continue) provides us with the evidence for such a decline.
Did the people at the coalface try to turn the ship around? You bet they did! Did politicians and administrators listen for one second to their protestations? Not for one second. We’ll see how even when evidence of the UK’s decline is clear and unequivocal, politicians and administrators were still saying that the system was improving and examination results were getting better. You may ask as I have many times, how can they possibly say that when everyone who examines the unequivocal and unarguable evidence knows differently.
Why not examine evidence from people who are involved in the education process, namely head-teachers, teachers and parents. They are the ones who are dealing with children all the time. If we are to learn the lessons to be learned, and they are there a’plenty, we need to listen to these people rather than people who never enter a classroom, namely administrators and politicians, but apparently know what is best for our children.
Clearly from the available evidence, the centralisation and socialisation of education in the UK (and this is now occurring in NZ) has been a disaster for our children. It takes something quite out of the ordinary to bring the UK, according to the PISA test results, to the point where it is the only country to have slid down the list and out of the top ten in all three categories.
But UK politicians and administrators managed to succeed in bringing in a structure (and in doing so totally disillusioned teachers) to the point where the UK is the worst developed country in the world in which to raise children – it really takes an almighty effort to achieve that level of failure in six years!
Yet they still persist despite the protestations. UK politicians refuse to acknowledge there is even a problem. They still insist that they are right! It takes a particular form of denial to be completely blind to what any ordinary, intelligent mortal sees. Are NZ politicians willing to change course?
Are you listening New Zealand politicians and educators? But there we have it, the disempowering of parents, teachers and educators so that a political agenda, or to be more accurate a few politicians, who possess little or no experience of education, can dictate what occurs in schools throughout New Zealand. I leave next month to establish an education consultancy business in the USA. Sadly, after experiencing the current, conventional thinking on education I am wasting my time here.
Sincerely, Dr. David Mollet”
I received an acknowledgement from Key’s office, nothing from Parata’s. A little time later the Director of the OECD PISA Reports was invited to New Zealand and later a professor of education from Oregon. I would dearly love to know if the above letter played any factor in the decisions to invite them!
Andreas Schleicher again
In September 2013, I decided to write to the Director of OECD PISA, Andreas Schleicher “Dear Andreas Schleicher, My name is David Mollet. Originally I was a primary teacher in the dock area of the East End of London and head of social studies in a high school in the industrial north of England. Later I was a university lecturer in teacher training in the UK and a professor of education in California before becoming an independent education consultant mainly in the USA but also New Zealand. I now research what works, and perhaps more importantly what doesn’t work, on the basis of international comparisons of achievement levels of students. Obviously, the PISA evaluations have been of very great assistance in this regard.
I was fortunate to make a significant contribution regarding the decentralisation of pre-tertiary education in New Zealand in the mid-1980s. I enclose a letter of thanks from a previous New Zealand Minister of Education. I have attempted, unsuccessfully, for many decades to influence politicians and administrators in the UK, USA and New Zealand about the disastrous consequences of politicising their education systems.
I have also carried out research on balanced and harmonious hemispheric development and what content and methodology will optimise students’ wellbeing and learning. China, especially Shanghai and Hong Kong, together with Singapore and South Korea are countries far nearer the optimisation process than the vast majority of Western nations with Finland being an obvious exception.
My only real concern is what happens to students in school and I would welcome sharing information with you if this is appropriate. I spend about half the year in San Diego (March to August) and half in Auckland but I hope to visit Shanghai in November. I am greatly saddened by what is happening in education in my home country (UK), and countries where I have spent the last thirty odd years (USA and New Zealand). What is occurring in Shanghai provides many pointers to Western nations of what can be achieved but sadly the consequences of politicisation that has occurred in the latter is now clear.
OECD PISA is now the most influential organisation in education worldwide. I am hoping that at some time there will be opportunities to submit material for perusal. I look forward to hearing from you,
Dr. David Mollet (I write under the pseudonym of David Matthews)
PS I am a firm believer that politicians and administrators should spend one month each year teaching in a school where children from unsupportive home backgrounds are enrolled. The result would be policies entrenched in realities rather than on mindsets based on unrealistic ideologies!”
With the results of the PISA tests due out at the beginning of December it would be a very busy time for Schleicher so I didn’t expect a reply but within a week I received the following “Dear David, Thanks for sharing your thoughts with you. I agree with your analysis, and the global economy will be unforgiving to the deficiencies in our education systems. Best regards, Andreas”
I rested on that for a while. Of course, I realised that because of his position Schleicher could not recommend any particular system of education or anything else for that matter. The restrictions placed on him by his work clearly meant that he had to appear and had to be neutral on all these matters. His responsibility was to see that the testing and the results of the tests were carried out in an objective and unprejudiced manner so I was even surprised to receive any response.
In late September I decided to write again and penned the following: “Dear Andreas. Thank you for your email. I appreciate your prompt response. Sadly my own research has clearly outlined the fact that once politicians decide to politicise their education system, the consequences will be the opposite of what they intended.
This has occurred in my home country of UK and in the USA where I have spent most of the last thirty years. I moved semi-permanently to New Zealand a few years ago and now find the same thing is happening here.
It isn’t necessary for me to detail such decline but I shall briefly mention two recent articles referring to the UK economy (I am happy to supply references if this is necessary). One entitle “Britain: A Nation in Decay” and “The Incredible shrinking UK economy.”
The USA is now following the same path and although the economy is slowly showing signs of recovery, the main reason is the Feds pumping in over $85 billion a month. Without this the economy would collapse as it will eventually as what is occurring is unsustainable. I can provide figures to indicate what the reality is in both the UK and USA and of course politicians will not deal with the real issues but will wait until crisis time etc.
There is no need unless you require the information of how politicians in the UK and USA (and sadly now New Zealand) politicised the system. I always have been quite clear on what policies need to be implemented and Shanghai/China (where I hope to travel to before the year is out) and Finland indicate what can occur when teachers are allowed to practice their craft.
I regard you as the most important educator worldwide (quite a responsibility!) and I only hope you will be open to reading some of the evidence I shall present.
I didn’t expect a response even after the PISA results have come out but I shall decide early in 2014 whether I should write again. Meanwhile the PISA results were made public on 3rd December. It was no surprise to me that once again Shanghai/China had come top in all three categories. Also that Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan were all top performers.
The figures were as follows; Shanghai was first in Math (score of 613), Science (580) and Reading (570). 2nd Singapore was 2nd in Math (573) while Hong Kong was 2nd in Science (555) and in Reading (545). Hong Kong was 3rd in Math (561) with Singapore 3rd in Science (551) and Reading (542). South Korea, Taiwan and Japan also figured prominently in the top ten in all categories except Taiwan was 13th in Science but an additional two points would have also seen it placed in the top ten in this category as well.
It was quite a different story regarding the UK, USA and New Zealand; again no surprise to yours truly. The UK had just about stayed the same as in 2009 although places of 26th math, 21st science and 23rd in reading tell their own story. The USA While keeping its 36th place in math it had dropped from 23rd to 28th in science and from 17th to 24th in reading. New Zealand decline was even worse; from 13th to 23rd in math, 7th to 18th in science and from 7th to 14th in reading.
It was almost axiomatic that the blame for UK’s dismal performance was to place on teachers or the methodology used by PISA questioned.
Efforts in New Zealand 2014
As previously described, I was fortunate to make a significant contribution to New Zealand education in the 1980s but sadly my efforts since the National Government came to power in 2008 have been unsuccessful.
Obviously I have no idea whether I would have been able to make any sort of contribution if another party had been in government. However, if you read the above, it is clear that the National Government are implementing policies that I believe are harmful to children so however hard I try it is unlikely that they would examine the international data available that indicates that what they are implementing will eventually result in even lower test scores.
As it was clear that my attempts at even getting those in power to examine such information that successful countries were implementing I decided to travel another road.
I mentioned earlier that when I gave my presentation to the top officials in Wellington the Minister of Education was Russell Marshall whom I briefly met. Now retired from politics he held various prestigious positions some of which were in education.
I emailed him, He responded and suggested that I contact educators such as Dr. John Langley and Professor John Hattie and use his name as a reference. This I did but neither was interested in my work. I tried various other avenues including Professor Graeme Aitken of Auckland University. But again no response or even acknowledgement as was the case with faculty at other New Zealand universities.
I also made contact with Sir Bob Harvey and Sir Hugh Williams both of whom I met but again no response.
Never say die, so to speak so I travelled along other avenues. I contacted many other organisations and educators including Vivienne Wright, Director of One People One Planet. She was very helpful and we entered voluminous (from my end) correspondence and she did pass on my information to others.
These included Judy Parr, Professor of Pedagogy and Curriculum at University of Auckland; Claire McLachlan Professor of Early Years Education, Palmerston North; Barbara Dysart, Deputy Principal at Summerlands School, Auckland; and Yvonne Duncan initiator of the vaunted project “Cool Schools” in New Zealand through association with The Peace Foundation (of which she is both Past, and Acting President) amongst others. I attempted to correspond with these people and others but did not get one response.
I have in the past also sent emails to Ministry of Education Senior Media Advisors, Matt Radley and Lucy Johnston again without receiving any response. Same scenario with administrators at the Ministry of Education etc. so it seems pointless using what is to me valuable time and effort when I have never received a response from anyone.
Eventually and as a last resort and as something of a forlorn hope I emailed the Prime Minister, John Key and the Minister of Education Hekia Parata but again without any response (for content see emails above).
I had previously met two successful Kiwis in San Diego and they warned me that it would be far better to be successful overseas first and that I would have a very hard time in New Zealand as there was almost a psychological barrier to anyone with new ideas; the tall poppy syndrome etc.is how they described it!
I say all this not in a spirit of criticism or resentment but to share information that I have tried very hard in New Zealand but, unfortunately, to no avail. If I had a personal preference it would be to give up the work in New Zealand but as you know I believe I have something to offer.
As it entails the wellbeing of children I have no option but to pursue the work although it is understandable that personally I would prefer other options.
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel and the truth is that I do not know! One small ray of light is that technological advances mean that work can be disseminated globally easily and quickly. So I am now converting my lessons, research reports, articles etc. into animated video clips. I completed the first phase of this task in May 2015.
I work incredibly long hours and you can see the results of my efforts at YouTube and inserting Mollet Learning Academy into their search engine etc. and also at my homepage www.molletacademy.com under various headings I believe what I am offering is unique and all my work can be offered gratis etc.
Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China
I now have a good friend, Ching Mei, from Taiwan who says she will help me to find appropriate contacts in Taiwan; and if necessary, Hong Kong and mainland China; perhaps I should concentrate solely on these places.
As previously described, students from places like Shanghai and Hong Kong are the highest achieving students worldwide so perhaps there is a message for yours truly in what is occurring – we shall see!
OECD PISA 3 year Reports 2012
1st Shanghai Math 613 Shanghai Science 580 Shanghai Reading 570
2nd Singapore Math 573 Hong Kong Science 555 Hong Kong Reading 545
3rd Hong Kong Math 561 Singapore Science 551 Singapore Reading 542
4th Taiwan Math 560 13th Taiwan Science 523 7th Taiwan Reading 523
I have no doubt that the content I upload is accurate and for that matter urgently needed but the story of history is one where many who have a contribution to make are ignored during their lifetime etc. Obviously I believe I have something to offer otherwise it wouldn’t make much sense to work as hard as I am doing at present.
Perhaps it is, in part, unique. If so it appears that I am probably not going to see any progress or developments during my lifetime; and I am now reconciled to that.
Thank you for your time.