“The latest Progress in International Literacy Study (PIRLS) report should be a wake up call for New Zealand. It is time to end our country’s decline, and there is no place better to start than in teaching kids to read,” says ACT Education Spokesman and former teacher Chris Baillie.

“Notably, Russian Children, living under a corrupt war mongering dictatorship, have overtaken New Zealand Children living under the likes of John Key and Jacinda Ardern this century. The first PIRLS report, in 2001, found New Zealand students scored 529 against Russian children’s 528. This year Russia's score is a whopping 567, third in the world, while New Zealand students have fallen to 521.

“For too long, New Zealand education has tormented teachers with one ideological fad after another, while losing sight of why education exists in the first place. Kiwi kids are less able to read, and the results are less equal. Why? Because education that is supposed to level up kids’ achievement is not effective.

“New Zealand students were 20th out of 43 countries. Every English-speaking country and every Canadian Province that participated beat New Zealand. The bottom half of participants is made up of countries like Turkey, Brazil, The Islamic Republic of Iran, and South Africa.

“These results come after a steady decline in New Zealand scores this decade. Since the 2011 test, New Zealand students have fallen from 531 down to 521. What has gone wrong in that time?

“Well, the recently released Common Practice Model from the Ministry of Education gives a clue. It tells teachers ‘Critical literacy recognises that texts are socially constructed and not neutral. It involves interrogating and constructing texts. Critical literacy is more than critical thinking. It involves identifying how texts position readers by analysing inclusion, exclusion, and representation. at the heart of critical literacy is an understanding of the relationship between language and power.’ Perhaps, but students need to read before the Ministry can hijack education for the purposes of indoctrination.

“Another example is the curriculum refresh. Currently underway, the English Curriculum Refresh says ‘Throughout history, literature, language, and texts have been used to uplift and share, and to dominate and exclude. Recognising and using the power and influence of literature, language, and texts give us tools to advocate for ourselves and others. Exploring the effects of colonisation on our languages and literatures is an important part of understanding power relations in Aotearoa New Zealand.’ However it does not mention spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

“That is before we consider the various fads of ‘Modern Learning Environments,’ ‘Child-centered education’ (hint, if children already knew what they need to know, education wouldn’t be necessary), and the whole language model of education.

“If New Zealand students are going to succeed, then education must be about treating educators with respect, and letting them get on with teaching kids valuable academic knowledge instead of chasing the Ministry’s latest fad."

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