Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dr Liz Gordon - a divided society: education and 25 years of the 'NewRight' in New Zealand

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the first of a series  of lectures on Education and Poverty in NZ-presented by Dr Liz Gordon, Director of http://www.pukekoresearch.com/ . Dr Gordon spent four years on the Massey University Council and is an active member of QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition) She is a council member of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 

Her research work focusses on the education, justice and social science fields. 

She began by referencing an ealier paper that she wrote - 'Rich and Poor schools in Aotearoa' - 1998 - which askes the question - how can this go on - these unequal engine rooms? Ironically, this has gone on for 25 or more years.

The examination system pre Tomorrow's School was not a fair system - 50/50 pass/fail - a system of structural segmentation. Classist and racist - especially in Intermediate and secondary schools. The fact that there was a strong anti education discourse in the 80s was not therefore surprising !

Tomorrow's Schools - led to the increase of parent power - and the promotion of choice. The creation of the 'zoning wars' - Chch  Girls' High Reject Association (1994).  Who does the choosing? Schools of choice are the ones who do the choosing. Schools of choice inevitably end uo beubg the ones who choose. 

What have been the effects on this 'endless choice' schools?
- rich get richer poor get poorer - since the 1980s the number of 'poor' in NZ has doubled 
           - Decile 1 and 3 schools drop in population over 20 years - the choice has been 'up' - led to a    change in structure of schools and school size - impacts on what can be delivered  - reputations factors 
           - Decile 3 the biggest drop
           - higher % of students not ready to learn in lower Decile schools
           - higher % of Maori and Pasifika students 
- sad case of deciles - became a proxy for quality
- redrawing of zones - to maximise SES
- what choice is it?
           - does choice inevitable mean unequal access 

The picture for Maori is better than it was in terms of access to education - more Maori attending higher Decile schools. Pakeha numbers down in lower  Decile schools - Pakeha parents choose 'up'.

A problems of a segmented society and the dangers of polarisation 
- poorest areas are out of sight - therefore out of mind 
- are we scared of what we might find there ?
- less interest in compensating the 'have nots'
- more inclusive societies are likely to help each other - damaging social policy effects (ie what will happen if decile ratings disappear?)

Endless Choice 
- our current education policy is an enduring one - be worried 
- a self perpetuating policy that 'is profoundly damaging to our society' 

Does sending Johnny to an out of zone, higher decile school, make him a better person? A deeply important, unanswerable question.

- if dropping performance since 'endless choice' was introduced, then what is the subtext? 

Dr Gordon's seminar asked many questions of us - most of which have no easy answer!

I'd like to get to the next seminar - David Mitchell - Equalising Educational Opportunity with Particular Reference to Decile Funding. But this wil depend on what is on the agenda for school that week!

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