Quality is not a synonym for cost-cutting

Quality, noun. Character with respect to fineness, or grade of excellence: education of poor quality; teachers of fine quality.

Let’s take stock over changes recently announced by the Minister of Education for New Zealand’s education system. Being a major education policy announcement, you’d think that this would be at a school, university or even a playground.

Instead this announcement was made Trans-Tasman Business Circle.

That should give everyone one a heads up already that these policies aren’t actually about quality education. Well perhaps quality education as defined by people who spend time in actual classrooms with actual children.

Teachers would likely point out embarrassing holes in the Minister’s argument.

They would point out annoying things like how more kids in the class means less time to give kids individual feedback on their learning. Less time for feedback means less learning moments.

How does that equate to quality learning?

They would note that teachers will spend less time in teacher education which means less opportunities for supervised student teaching. The might also note that less students enrolled in pre-service teaching courses will undoubtedly mean less people researching teaching methods.

How does that equate to quality learning?

And when student teachers become Graduating Teacher they will have more students in their class with a mentor teacher who also has more students. Leaving less time for support during the early years of teaching.

How does that equate to developing quality teachers?

Of course the businessperson audience don’t ask those sort of questions because all they see are business units.  They don’t see the children, their families nor the teachers who turn a bunch of buildings into a school. Because if they did, they wouldn’t make the assumption  that each student comes to school every day ready to learn and that poor-quality teachers is the sole cause of student under-achievement.

That audience simply doesn’t see the child who hasn’t had breakfast, the child whose parents are splitting up, the child who was abused last night or the child being bullied. They don’t appreciate that every one of those issues impacts on a child’s ability to learn and often requires teachers taking time out from the core business of teaching and learning to try and resolve the problems.

Or maybe the businesspeople assembled do realize that class sizes impact on learning outcomes which is why are smaller classes are such a selling point for private schools. Perhaps what business is saying to New Zealand is that they are unwilling to pay for the education of other people’s children. Especially when the kids in question don’t look or think like businesspeople’s children, and especially when the kids don’t live in the same neighbourhoods as the people applauding the minister.

Because lets not kid ourselves into think that quality is synonym for cost-cutting.

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