New Zealand Education System

NZ state schools are chronically underfunded with parents expected to make voluntary donations to prop-up the system, often $100s of dollars a year, plus subject fees, course materials, uniforms etc.

Schools are graded according to a decile rating system, the highest rated schools (decile 10) require a larger “voluntary” contribution from families than the lower ranking schools and receive less government money.

Increasing pressure is put on both parents and children who fail to make these contributions. As the recession deepens in New Zealand and the family budgets become tighter schools are bound to be the first to lose out on this extra funding, education is going to be one of the first casualties of New Zealand’s economic downturn.

As if this wasn’t bad enough head teachers are also finding it hard, if not impossible, to recruit good quality teachers – even from overseas.

David Hodge, the head of NZ’s largest school Rangitoto College went to the extraordinary length of travelling to Britain in an effort to recruit teachers from Scotland and England, but then he does this every year. On the salary and “bonuses” he earns one would hope that these “trips” are at his own expense and not funded by parent donations.

Teachers are angry at the pay and perks David Hodge attracts. A row erupted when the education minister Chris Carter accused him of taking an extra $18,000 from the school’s operations grant on top of a $185,000 salary.

Mr Hodge’s board of trustees-approved payment for “additional duties” included overseas trips to scout for foreign students, who bring in $2.5 million to the school each year. How many other school principals go to such extraordinary lengths?

Hang on a mo, but I thought he was going to Britain to scout for teachers too. Does this mean he’s also jetting off to Asia to attract students?

Busy guy!

Other benefits include

  • A $10,600 rebate on the rental of the principal’s residence
  • $10,500 for acting as a support officer for international fee paying students
  • A car reimbursement of $1000 a month, paid for 10 months of the year
  • Almost $6000 of board of trustees approved extra pay

School donations dry up
Pay up or face a bigger bill
Schools pressure parents on donations
Worldwide Hunt for Good Teachers
Teachers angry at principal pay perks
What the kids think of David Hodge

One thought on “New Zealand Education System

  1. Since leaving New Zealand, we have been questioned about its education system by many U.S. teachers, who have wondered about our experience as Americans in the well-sold NZ education system. Our children came from New Zealand schools and found the work the other students were doing back home in the U.S. was 2-3 years ahead of their age equivalent in New Zealand schools. British and Canadian friends have found the same.

    The trumpeted high scores for NZ education, like those of the Finns, are based only on what’s called the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) scale. The PISA-based Test for Schools is voluntary for schools that are “interested in international benchmarking and improving their student outcomes”. 15-year-olds take it near the end of the grade they are in. That means that
    1) Schools that are already wealthy and internationally competitive self-select to take that test. 2) Scores are self-reported by the schools. 3) NZ has one of the highest dropout rates in the developed world, so most of the poorer students weed themselves out of testing at the secondary school level – they have already left, and schools with mainly poorer students (of which there are many, many) don’t even bother to take the PISA.

    The above is an interesting article about statistical transparency in reporting, there, recommended reading for U.S. and other teachers wondering about PISA results and why some countries seem to “do better” than others.

    Note that students can leave school at age 15 if they like, in NZ, the minute they turn 15, and we heard a lot of talk from the kids about “getting to 15 so they can get out of school”. So a lot of the poor kids (of which there are a large number) don’t even graduate. Drugs are an awful problem there – it was not uncommon for kids in my children’s primary and secondary schools to bring ‘family weed’ to school to show their classmates or sell to them.

    snip from the PISA article above:
    What criticisms have been made against it [PISA]?
    From the outset, Pisa has been met with scepticism, criticism and even outrage, most of which has stemmed from the claim that the study’s findings are arbitrary. One such voice was Dr Svein Sjøberg of the University of Oslo, who claimed that a small change in question choice or weightings could result in a big change in a country’s overall rankings.
    Though the methodology for collecting the results might be clear, the way they are interpreted and analysed to become final results is less so. This lack of statistical transparency has also been a focal point of criticism levelled at Pisa and indeed the OECD. The last time they published a technical report to make their methods more open, they weren’t able to make it any more concise than 419 pages.
    The sheer breadth of Pisa has also raised questions about the comparability of results within it. Even those who accept it is fair to assess countries and economies alongside one another question some of the cultural factors that divide them. […]
    There is also a temptation to grab at averages from Pisa to understand the performance of a country. Doing so would obscure the vast differences that can occur regionally within a country – such an oversight can be particularly dangerous, say critics, for understanding the true academic opportunities available in a country.
    Meanwhile, countries such as Finland, a consistent top-performer in the Pisa league tables, has been accused of failing miserably on other international academic tests such as TIMSS. Why? Gabriel H Sahlgren, the author of a book on the dubiousness of the Finnish miracle claims it is “because its centralised curriculum has ignored certain concepts that are not tested in Pisa”.

    Morereading for teachers who wonder what’s special about NZ education (answer – nothing except the way they present it, which is something New Zealand does very well in general, i.e. “present itself as better than the reality”):
    snip: What is the evidence for PISA’s confident endorsement of accountability?
    On close examination, “accountability” turns out to mean merely the public posting of school-level results. No other measures of accountability were tied to PISA scores at a level of statistical significance once students’ socioeconomic status was introduced. But the report uses the highly evocative word “accountable” rather than “posting.” The reader can easily have the mistaken impression that a broad set of conditions has been found to be important.
    Standards of evidence and the research practices that are found in this analysis would not pass muster in the equivalent statistical agencies and among most researchers in the United States. Indeed, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) frequently objects to many of the findings in PISA reports, but is almost as often politely (and sometimes not politely) ignored.

    Most migrants we knew in NZ who could afford it sent their kids to exclusive private schools, often disproportionately staffed by fellow migrants. Some of them even went to work in those schools to qualify for discounted tuition, specifically to avoid having to send their children to New Zealand state schools. Decile/rating of school also had close connection to property values, and schools were under community pressure to keep up appearances. They cooked their stats accordingly.

    Snip from the url below:

    “In both Timss and Pisa the US always rates poorly, and every time a new report comes along their politicians react hysterically. […] Yet, as an American colleague has repeatedly pointed out, if the US education system is so bad, how do they dominate the world in such things as university rankings and number of Nobel Prizes awarded?”

    The local schools had so many drug problems (not to mention arson problems – it’s the go-to solution for everything in NZ, so disgruntled students were constantly setting fire to their schools). What we found was a deeply economically divided country with a nasty underbelly and “coverup” culture that crossed economic lines – police cooked the crime stats, schools cooked the education stats, mums of kids in private school discreetly did meth to stay skinny, the courts were a nativist, backlogged, rubberstamping joke, and most local news was in hard copy, so authentic reporting on the level of crime and other issues in the country was never “available” internationally by being online. Movies/TV are the exception (standing in stark contrast to the “official” information about NZ), and a truer picture of New Zealand can be gained by watching movies/programs like Top of the Lake, Boy, Kaikohe Demolition, Whale Rider and Once were Warriors. NZ depends on tourism and skilled migration to stay afloat, so they closely protect their reputation.

    The gang problem is really bad:

    Anyhow, more information than you need or want, for sure, but hope your readers find some of it interesting.

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