“National’s return to a focus on the hard measurement of reading, writing and maths should be welcomed, but any future attempt must avoid the mistakes of the past, where high targets were set, but the education system was not equipped to achieve them,” says ACT's Education spokesperson Chris Baillie.

“All students got under National’s last attempt were artificially inflated grades, and we know that because NCEA results went up while New Zealand fell down the global rankings.

“Better Public Service targets disguised falling student achievement by encouraging schools to massage the data. While the Ministry of Education claimed more 18-year-olds leaving high school with NCEA Level 2 qualifications, the international evidence showed that, in objective tests that weren’t graded by friendly teachers, results were going backwards.

“The OECD’s PISA rankings saw New Zealand students’ ranking in English, maths and science achievement drop relative to other countries between 2009 and 2012. In 2015, students gained a few places in the rankings, but with worse test results.

“The problem, as Briar Lipson of the New Zealand Initiative put it, was that:

‘NCEA replaced the traditional trio of School Certificate, University Entrance and Bursary. With its equal emphasis on academic and vocational programmes, NCEA puts course choices from nuclear physics to nail technology into the hands of teachers, parents and students. Then in 2007 the new New Zealand Curriculum was introduced. A high-level document, it leaves much of the selection of curriculum content to its teachers... It is hard to imagine a system more likely to accentuate the gap between our ‘haves’ and our ‘have nots’.'

“Education outcomes have got worse for kids from poorer backgrounds. That’s a concern, because these are the students who need good education the most. But outcomes have also dropped for kids from better off families.

“We’re told by teacher unions that bad educational outcomes are the result of income, race, colonisation – anything, in fact, except the education system itself. But they are wrong. The fix for bad education is better education. The party that will provide it is ACT. ACT was the only party to contract schools for results through Partnership Schools.

“We aren’t transferring enough knowledge to the next generation to maintain our status as a first world country.

"If we want students to leave school well-equipped, and if we want to have a high-productivity, high-wage economy, we must restore basic educational standards so that students cannot avoid numeracy and literacy requirements. We need a return to standard tests which ask whether all students are getting the basic skills they need to succeed.

“Importantly, we can’t write off children from poorer households. If you’re born into a home with fewer resources, there should be a place in the community where you can go to get those skills.

“As soon as you have hard measurement about what kids know and can do, international tests show New Zealand students know less and can do less than overseas students. That’s the legacy of Labour and National’s misadventure with NCEA. It’s time for real change and only ACT can bring that change.”

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