Foreign student rules to change

The Government has announced that new rules will take effect in November concerning the rights of students to work here, whilst studying. The rules, which were announced by the Minister for Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway today are intended to address the periods in which students can work in New Zealand after completing study.

The rules for foreign students studying in New Zealand have long been the source of controversy. It has ranged from students trying to do engage in paid work whilst in the country encountering exploitative employers to dodgy visas issued by immigration consultants who should have never been in the business in the first place.

Now they are changing. The new plans are a confirmation of the Government’s intention to steer students away from studying in Auckland by using a carrot and stick approach. The stick is that students who study in Auckland will only be permitted to work for a year in New Zealand after they complete their studies. The carrot is that a student who studies somewhere else – say Christchurch – can work for two years in New Zealand after they complete their studies.

Due to Auckland having the largest international airport in New Zealand it tends to be a magnet for students coming to study in New Zealand. This is largely because of the opportunities, perceived or otherwise, a lack of understanding about the rest of New Zealand and what provinces outside of Auckland have to offer.

Original proposals to change the rules were roundly panned by both the Opposition, industry leaders and and analysts. It was estimated that they would have cost New Zealand $1 billion per annum and have resulted in 44,000 fewer students studying in New Zealand each year..

The new rules will include:

  1. Students studying for qualifications outside of Auckland at Levels 4-6 will be permitted to work for 2 years provided study is completed before the end of 2021. After that point, they are permitted to work for one year. These changes are also applicable to non-degree Level 7 courses.
  2. Students in Auckland studying Levels 4-6 and 7 (non degree courses only) will be able to work for one year
  3. Those studying at Level 8 however must be developing a skill that is on the Long Term Skills Shortage list. This is a list of skills where New Zealand anticipates having long term shortages of people with them.


N.C.E.A. row blows up

The edition of the Sunday Star Times newspaper for 01 July 2018 had a full page letter attacking Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins for the manner in which he has conducted the review of the National Certificate for Educational Achievement (N.C.E.A.). The letter comes midway through the consultation period announced for the review.

It is interesting to note that at the time of the one page advertisement being placed in the Sunday Star Times, the schools whose Principal’s had signed the letter were almost exclusively from around Auckland. Very few if any were from the rest of the North Island, and so far as I could make out none at all were from the South Island.

Perhaps it is too early to judge and that the letter has simply not had time to reach the South Island high school principals. It is also possible that the organizers are constrained by a budget and have not yet gotten around to trying to reach out to principals in other parts of New Zealand. If either or both of these are the case then the failure to reach most parts of New Zealand is completely understandable.

The letter raised five points of contention around the letter. Given the size of the advert – a full A1 page – I am surprised so much of it was wasted on impact, and not setting out in depth detail for those who wanted the nitty gritty.

Mr Hipkins however is right to be making it a priority to undertake a comprehensive review of the N.C.E.A. system. That said, 13 separate reviews if one believes the school principals is a few to many and makes me wonder what is the point of them all?

It is no secret that I have no time for N.C.E.A. It never worked for me and the only problem with the system that it replaced in my personal context was that I was a minimalist at high school in that I did the amount of work that was necessary to pass and that was about it. One cannot blame the old system for a students relatively lax work ethic. In terms of going back to something like the old system, there would need to be a couple of changes – but if they go through I think it will be just fine:

  1. Make all courses have an internal assessment component so that those who are not necessarily adept at doing exams still have a good chance of passing
  2. Get rid of the scaling system – if you get 50% you get 50%; if you completely nail a course, you completely nail the course
  3. Have a prize system to encourage excellence – if you get say 75% across a year, your fees for the following year are halved

If N.C.E.A. was replaced, but the old system of School Certificate, Year 12 Certificate and University Bursary was not reintroduced, what would a replacement system look like?

Teachers to march in the streets?

The recent Fiscal Budget by Grant Robertson is one that many consider to have played to the rules set down prior to the election to show Labour is capable of fiscal responsibility. It was even dubbed “National-lite” by one commentator despite the raft of announcements made over the past few months allocating vast sums of money:

  • $28 billion to fix Auckland transport
  • $3 billion for regional development
  • $1 billion for foreign aid and diplomatic relations

And yet one of the major sectors, traditionally aligned with Labour, has dipped out significantly. Teachers, who in their own words had had a gutsful of National in the last nine years were expecting something significant in the Budget handed down last week and were understandably surprised and disappointed when no major sweetener materialized.

I think significant changes need to be made in the New Zealand education system, including:

  • Support for men wanting to teach in Early Childhood Education – the Christchurch creche case that saw David Ellis clock up decades in prison for indecent assault and other sexual abuse of young children in a creche where he worked has caused a prolonged chilling effect on men working in this sector
  • A review of teaching practices – teachers should be teaching and not filing huge wads of paperwork, and being impromptu social workers; parents and so forth
  • An overhaul of disciplinary processes – much of the abuse that happens now is because individual responsibility has failed and the idea that one should own their actions is foreign to some
  • Going back to basics – how many children can read, write and count on paper, because this is something that they should be able to do before they can use electronic media

This is not an exhaustive list and nor is it meant to be. It is only supposed to be an indicator of things that could be improved. These changes and others that I have not thought of are internal practices that, when combined with the overhaul I support of the assessment regimes will hopefully lead to a more stable, productive and happier teaching/learning environment for both teachers and their students.

As a result of the poor treatment they got in the Budget, teachers have signalled that they might consider industrial action in the future. The concerns stem from lack of significant pay rises in the last few years, meaning that teachers are struggling to keep up with the rate of inflation.

This is shown in examples coming out of Auckland where some teachers are paying such high rent that much of their after tax wages simply disappear in rent. This is causing a shortage of teachers to exist in some schools because they cannot find teachers who can afford their living costs.

It just might be as one said, that the time will come soon when teachers simply don’t come to classes that they are supposed because the stress is simply too much to ignore.


Education in for biggest overhaul since “Tomorrow’s Schools”

In 1989 the then Labour Government unveiled what they called “Tomorrow’s Schools”, which was a radical overhaul of the New Zealand education system. The reforms, which shifted financial and administrative responsibility to the Board of Trustees that each school has been around nearly 30 years. It has stood up to major disasters, debates about class sizes and rapidly evolving technological challenges. But now, comes its biggest test of all: reform.

I have written in past articles about the need to scrap National Standards. I am not convinced that a child at that age should be subject to such a demanding assessment regime for a range of reasons. Yes, there needs to be some sort of measure of progress against which parents can measure their child. Much criticism has been made of the system which was implemented by former Education Minister Anne Tolley and her successor Hekia Parata without trials, with the latter threatening to sack any Board of Trustees that did not follow her directions. I think a simplified system needs to be trialled in schools and only rolled out if an overwhelming number support it. Otherwise go back to the system that existed in 2008.

I also support the scrapping of N.C.E.A. in high schools. Again I have written about this in prior articles. There was nothing of substance that was wrong with the old assessment regime. With the exception of the following provisions, I recommend going back to the old system:

  1. All subjects have internal assessment so that those who find exams conditions difficult are not put out
  2. All subjects have end of year exams
  3. Scrap the scaling system – what a student would have been awarded without scaling is what they are awarded
  4. Remove unit standards from traditional courses such as Geography, History and Maths and use them for technical and trade courses

The Minister for Education, Chris Hipkins, has also announced an overhaul of Early Childhood Education in the process. This is where I think the Government will strike resistance. Parents of pre-school children will be asking, “do we actually need these reforms, and if so, what are they going to look like?”

Another area that is going to be subject to reforms is Polytechnics, where trades are taught. Again, other than appropriately funding these institutions, students like the parents of pre-schoolers, might very well be asking themselves and their institutions whether or not these reforms – in whatever form they come – are necessary.

I do have one concern spread across the entire education spectrum. My concern is that if basic maths, reading and writing are not taught on paper first, students will find themselves very short on certain skill types that my generation and older generations. They include:

  • Learning to use an index in a book;
  • showing the working for complex equations; comprehension of what one is reading
  • being able to form sentence structures without the grammatical assistance of a programme like Microsoft Word.
  • Being able to speak – I had major speech impediments that are not noticeable now when I was a child, but I was taken to a speech therapist who also let my teacher go with me so that they could learn the warning signs and use them to spot problems in other children

Unless the above skill set has emphasis placed on it, there will be generations of children in the future who will struggle in society. They will have trouble working in places of employment and possibly doing every day things such as filling out application forms. New Zealand calls itself first world and in many respects we are just that, but when I hear about students struggling to read, write and do mathematics, I cannot help but wonder if they are lacking these skills. If so, that makes addressing this problem a major priority.


Labour keeps a promise: National Standards cease

After years of being the bane of parents of primary and intermediate school students, the Minister for Education, Chris Hipkins today finished off National Standards. In doing so he keeps a key education policy promise made by the Labour Party before the election.

On the whole I support the ending of National Standards. I do however have concerns that perhaps this could have been ended after working with schools and parents to develop an alternative mechanism to guide reporting on students performance.

My thinking is that primary school students should not be subject to assessment in the same way as high school or even intermediate students are. Primary schools have more fundamental – you might say basic tasks such as introducing students to basic mathematics, English, science . Primary schools as I found out first hand from having developmental difficulties with with my speech and writing are among the first places of education likely to pick up on students with writing and speech difficulties. Mine were picked up early enough to be minimized. However this only happened because of close co-ordination between my school and my parents, as my school was keen to learn incase it could pick up signs in other students. And did.

Given the range of basic criteria in the development of a student that they have to monitor, is adding formal assessment not just unnecessarily burdening the teaching staff and placing undue expectations on the student-teacher relationship?

When I was at primary school, sure each Friday in Year 6 we had a maths test where the multiplication table we had been working on for the week would be tested as well as our spelling. However I do not recall any other except a run (or in my case walk)around the block being timed. Yes, teachers want to be able to say “Your child is doing this, this and this in these subjects”, but in terms of recognizing serious academic success is Primary School the time or place in a students education to be setting down formal assessment?