Our education system is pretty dodgy at the moment. Almost all the male teachers have left the profession in search of more pay and less suspicion of child molestation. At my son's school at the end of last year in deperation the (female) principal wrote to parents saying that not everyone can have a male teacher, and the female ones are good too. Parents are well aware of the benefits of a male teacher for a different world view every now and then.
Primary teachers are now making as much as secondary teachers despite what many would see as an obvious difference in the required academic rigour.
The government has recently introduced the NCEA, which is meant to stand for National Certificate of Educational Achievement, but in fact is closer to a Noddy Can't Educate Adolescents. Despite obvious flaws and flack from parents, the system is here to stay for the moment. Unit standards, the main failing, have continued with the massive numbers of tick boxes and meaningless marks.
Private school subsidies have been reduced out of spite by clueless ministers with a better background in socialism than education.
Also recently introduced is the Early Numeracy Project. This has been imported from Australia with much excitement because it promises to teach quite thick kids to do sums, and to avoid problems like adding 23 + 56 and getting 38374. The whole technique is aimed at the botom 20% of kids, but of course the average and bright kids have to do it also. The Education Department is Nazi-like in its insistence that every child must follow this new programme. One end result is that maths has slipped backwards 2-3 years so that an 8 year old is still learning to count. Another is that children who might have some chance of actually enjoying maths learn to hate it, because it moves more slowly than Fox Glacier. Of course the slow children hate it anyway so the end result is that everyone hates maths.
This is useful because many primary school teachers hate maths and can't do it, let alone teach it. Even if they can, they don't enjoy it. This is an attempt to ensure that eventually no primary school child ever learns maths (as distinct from counting). This will be one less thing the government will have to worry about in the future (citizens actually examining and understanding the budget).
An 8 year old will therefore find himself doing a very difficult reading comprehension on Global Warming or some other nonsense, and then in maths adding 18+24. There is a disconnect between the levels in English and Maths that is very hard on a child's brain :-) Many of the more interesting or applied maths (such as tessalations, different types of graphing, spreadsheets or surveys) are lost due to lack of time.
It is getting to the point in New Zealand where parents have to look seriously at the benefits of entrusting their child's education to outside forces. Private schools are bursting at the seams despite the cost increases as desperate parents try to place their frustrated and consequently unmanageable children into a better environment. Sadly most private schools follow the New Zealand curriculum to the letter.
I wonder whether things are now so bad that the New Zealand Education Department cannot be trusted to maintain a curriculum. Perhaps it is time for New Zealand to just follow along with the Australian system, or perhaps the Cambridge exams. We could toss in a bit of Maori and local geography every now and then for parents who think it important.
It would be a major loss of cultural indoctrination, but we are raising a generation of losers. Something needs to give in NZ education, and smartly.