New Zealand Initiative calls for revamp of ‘unscientific’ curriculum and child-led philosophy

The New Zealand Initiative is calling for a revamp of New Zealand’s curriculum

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The New Zealand Initiative is calling for a revamp of New Zealand’s curriculum

A Wellington-based think tank has called for a revamp of New Zealand’s curriculum, describing the current system as unscientific and the cause of a decline in student achievement.

The New Zealand Initiative argues the curriculum should be evidence based rather than based on the “philosophy” of child-centred learning.

Author Briar Lipson said despite a rise in per-pupil spending, New Zealand’s international achievement rates had been falling.

According to the report, New Zealand’s Education Delusion: How bad ideas ruined a once world-leading school system, in the year 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), ranked New Zealand 15-year olds as third in the OECD for reading and maths, and sixth for science literacy.

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By 2018, both reading and maths had dropped to sixth and 19th respectively, while science literacy had stayed stable.

“This was a big drop considering that in reading and science, the average student’s performance has fallen by the equivalent of about three terms worth of schooling,” Lipson said.

“The drop was even worse in mathematics, where students lost the equivalent of nearly a year and a half’s worth of schooling.

“Repairing the damage done by blind adherence to a flawed philosophy, and restoring teachers and their subject knowledge to the core of education will be crucial if we are to solve this country’s most serious issues.”

Associate deputy secretary at the Ministry of Education, Pauline Cleaver, said there was no short-term answer for the long-term decline in achievement.

“PISA measures students’ competencies towards the end of their compulsory education and a great many factors influence their progress and learning during this time.”

She described PISA as a useful measure, but said it did not measure how students were preforming against the New Zealand curriculum.

“NCEA is a measure of student attainment against curriculum expectations and, since 2009, there has been an 11 per cent increase in those attaining at least NCEA Level 2 or equivalent and this improvement is even larger for Māori and Pacific students.”


NZ First’s education spokesperson, Tracey Martin, speaks to RNZ ahead of coalition talks after the 2017 election. Video first published in 2017.

The current Education Works Programme included a refresh of the national curriculum, as well as a review of NCEA, to ensure continued improvement in educational outcomes for students.

”The report puts forward a number of suggested recommendations which we will consider, but we note that New Zealand already has an evidence-based approach to teaching and to improving literacy learning.”

the Principal Investigator of the Early Learning Lab at Auckland University, Annette Henderson, said it was important to strike a balance between knowledge and child-centred learning.

Children needed to develop knowledge, for example in maths, reading and problem solving. But evidence showed children learned best when they were interested in what they were learning about.

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