In the olden days (before this National led Government and National Standards), we had the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP). Rather than focusing on dodgy raw data to compare and shame schools, the project did useful qualitative research. In those days it was widely accepted that a child's background was a large influence on achievement, but this research took a cross section of children in years four and eight, from all over the country, and and assessed their knowledge and skills in different curriculum areas. The published results provided teachers with in depth analysis of where the gaps existed and the activities used to support the research provided many great ideas to enhance teaching and improve assessment.
This Government has arbitrarily decided that we need only focus on literacy and numeracy to determine a child's level of capability and we have reached a situation where achievement overall appears to have plateaued and girls appear to be progressing faster than boys. 10% more girls are now achieving NCEA level 3 than boys, and the difference is growing.
Ten years ago, Prof Terry Crooks from NEMP presented a paper to the combined annual conference of the Australia and New Zealand Associations for Research in Education: The Relative Achievement of Boys and girls in New Zealand Primary Schools.
Prof Crooks had combined the results from 11 years of research and multiple assessments in curriculum areas to compare the levels of achievement between boys and girls and what he found should have become more widely known. Boys scored significantly higher than girls in Science, Technology and Physical Education. Girls performed better in Writing, Listening and Art.
I am concerned many of our boys are being set up to fail under our current system of assessment and heavy focus on literacy. If many boys do best in subjects like Science and Technology, and we no longer focus on those subjects, we are only limiting their enjoyment of school and feelings of success. Surely science and technology are vital to our future economic development and the fact that we are having to import people with these skills means we have large gaps in our education and training systems.
Boys dominate statistics of those needing remedial support for literacy and those whose behaviours require special intervention and this just feeds a perception that boys do not do as well in school. Are we not trying to push many boys into learning experiences that do not capture their interests or allow them to excel? I wonder how many early childhood centres have hammers and nails available to play with and how many primary classrooms do practical science experiments? I know that in Southland a past science advisor (the position no longer exists) had mobile science labs constructed for all schools in the region and now most collect dust in back rooms.
Martin Thrupp's qualitative research into how National Standards has changed the culture of teaching in learning in schools is revealing what many in the teaching profession feared. Our wonderfully holistic curriculum has been sidelined to meet the demands of the Government's data driven agenda and many boys are suffering as a consequence.