The numerically bulging but educationally failing Ministry of Education doubles down.
If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is making moves to reduce or eliminate te reo in correspondence because the MFAT bosses believe the new government will want that, the same attitudes have not infiltrated the Ministry of Education.
In fact, judging by the recently published “Aotearoa New Zealand Principal Eligibility Criteria” this numerically bulging but educationally failing ministry is doubling down.
The abolition of this extraordinary document should be one of the first tasks the new Minister of Education instructs his or her bureaucrats to do.
The Eligibility Criteria leaves no room for doubt as to what type of people the Ministry want appointed to lead our schools. The document states school boards must make sure anyone they appoint as principal meets these criteria, and the Eligibility Criteria is a requirement of the 2020 Education and Training Act.
The most staggering thing about this Criteria is that nowhere is there any mention of an appointed principal being required to improve or maintain education standards and attendance rates.
In an age where standards in numeracy and literacy are tumbling towards the bottom of the OECD and where only 47 percent of students go to school regularly, the Ministry of Education is fixated to the point of obsession on Criteria that parents in our multi-cultural society must be at the very least confused about.
The Ministry immediately discriminates against the 95 percent of us who don’t speak te reo.
The Eligibility Criteria has four pou. That’s what the document says. There is no translation. I looked it up. Pou means pole, or I suppose, pillar.
The four pou are Pou Tangata, Pou Ako, Pou Tikanga Maori and Pou Mahi. Those are headline topics for each pillar. Helpfully three of them are translated as Leader of People, Leader of Vision for Learning and Leader of Operations. Pou Tikanga Maori has no English translation except to say that a principal will bring “Te Tiriti o Waitangi to life as the founding document of a bicultural Aotearoa New Zealand.”
This pillar then says a principal must “prioritise biculturalism through resourcing and funding” and “show commitment to understanding the impact of colonization on education in Aotearoa.”
I hope that means the arrival of Europeans in the 19th century introduced the very concept of education to this country, whereby a trading economy could be developed and whereby everybody learned to read, write and count and therefore we became an affluent, first world nation.
But I doubt that is what’s intended.
On the same day as I read this document, my local paper the Otago Daily Times features a story about a primary school principal at Myross Bush, near Invercagill. I know the area well because my father was principal at the then nearby Kennington School about 60 years ago.
The principal Jamin Lietze, who by the looks of the accompanying photograph looks to be his mid-thirties, is leaving not just Myross Bush and Southland, but also New Zealand as he goes to head up a school in Brisbane.
He’s leaving with a few parting shots about the state of his profession. He said being a teacher or a principal was a privilege but it was not seen as an aspirational position.
“Too many challenges with too few successes were leading to teachers experiencing burnout” he said.
He’s been at Myross Bush eight years and the school, with 185 students, had a high attendance rate because of its great physical environment as well as a positive emotional environment.
He sounds like the kind of primary school principal this country could do with plenty more of.
Jamie Lietze’s replacement will have to meet the Eligibility Criteria as outlined above. Good luck to the Myross Bush School Board negotiating the four pou as they search for a new principal.
Or maybe the new Minister of Education will act quickly and allow them to appoint someone who will ensure the kids have a happy school life and learn to read, write and count to the best of their ability
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