3 min read

Response to Mr Roughan

Although I understand Mr. Roughan's job is to provide grits for the masses to chew on - I do take issue with a few of his points. His article, entitled: ' Expel protectionism from schools' was on the NZ Herald site last Saturday. I only read it after Russell Brown picked it apart over on publicaddress.

Here then are my thoughts that I posted in the comments in the publicaddress message boards.


Although I understand Mr. Roughan's job is to provide grits for the masses to chew on - I do take issue with a few of his points.

Point #1:

"It is unmoved by the high standards delivered to all sections of society by mature markets for practically everything else."

'It' being the education sector.

Would these 'high standards' and 'mature markets' include the banking and finance sectors?

Or possibly he refers to the 'high standards' of verbal and written discourse - as shown on Parliament TV, or modelled by local government bodies who text each other judiciously.

If these are examples of the 'high standards' that the education sector is not delivering, I wonder why we're bothering at all.

Point #2:

"The profession lives in abiding fear of the idea that schools should compete to attract students, because that would threaten its control of the system's methods and philosophy, not to mention its members' job security, pay scales and career paths."

Do we? The schools I've worked in have concerns that numbers might drop - because funding drops accordingly. So you strive to ensure numbers are at an optimal number - to fund teachers, resources, library materials and such. But I don't personally compete with other schools - if parents want to take their students off to other schools, we ask why - if there's a major issue - we seek to address it - and if the parents decide to move on, we do as well.

This idea that schools should all be akin to those tailors who accost you in the streets of Bangkok, declaring they will provide you with the best deal on a pair of silk trousers, and a jacket to match - is bizarre.

On a side note, he mentions the profession seeking to protect its career paths. Currently, an increasing number of young teachers are seeing their career path lead out of teaching - but that's a bigger issue, that Mr Roughan probably doesn't care about. Although seeing the average age of a primary teacher is 50 - and most new teachers are only lasting 5-6 years - even he might see the potential gap in actual teachers available to the education sector that is looming, regardless of zoning.

Point #3:

"Competition for pupils would transfer power to parents whose values and priorities may not accord with the profession's educational wisdom, faddish though it is."

I agree - parents often make the best teachers. They do - it's just that a lot of them have other jobs - which are not teaching. I trained to be a teacher, so some of them could do the things they are passionate about. On the other hand, a lot of them teach their kids things that I as a teacher am legally banned from doing.

Mr Roughan's distaste for 'faddish educational wisdom' is a bit odd - seeing the education sector is constantly undertaking professional development, in part to ensure a constant upgrading of those previously mentioned standards. Yes, some of it is faddish - and we're pretty good at laughing at that. But a lot of it is highly rigorous and demands we as teachers are articulate, specific and can verify our work. And I'll be the first to state we, as a profession need to get better at those things.

My main complaint against Mr. Roughan's article - is that he is, like Russell says 'blithe', and almost 'blase' about the reality of teaching. As if zoning is the great ill that plagues our education system. It's not, and much like the quest for national standards, and league tables, there is no link between those touchstones of Tolley and Roughan and the reality of teaching.

Having taught in a decile 2 school and now a decile 10 school - the reality of teaching is that the best teachers want to do the best they can for those students in front of them - every day.

As can be seen in comments above, the best teachers are the ones that cared. And showed that care for their students. Those teachers will not be driven to compete to be in the "best" schools - they'll want to be the best, regardless of what school they're in. And with a little luck, that ethic will pass on to their students.

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