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ROGER PARTRIDGE: Rising risk of lift in literacy

The country’s education establishment has come out swinging. ‘Destructive,’ ‘weird,’ and ‘radical,’ are how the critics have described the Christopher Luxon-led Coalition Government’s education reform agenda. 

Who could blame them for such strong language?  

Luxon’s Government is not just turning the clock back on progressive education with its “Teaching the Basics Brilliantly” policy. It is doubling down by reintroducing charter, or ‘partnership’ schools.  

Teaching the Basics Brilliantly proposes a radical return to classroom teaching. An hour a day will be spent on each of reading, writing and maths.  

Imagine the horror in progressive educational circles at such structured barbarism. It’s enough to send shivers down the spine of any self-respecting 21st-century educator. 

Marlborough’s Riverlands School principal Bradley Roberts pointed out that dedicating a whole hour to each core subject “is not how the education sector delivers the curriculum anymore.”  

Indeed. Why focus on mundane tasks like reading and writing when the complexities of an ‘integrated’ curriculum have successfully navigated Kiwi students towards the bottom of the international rankings?  

Roberts suggests state schools might resist the Government’s draconian return to focused learning. He could be right. After all, it must take schools years to integrate subjects so seamlessly that students can barely distinguish between them, let alone master any of them. 

With an hour dedicated to core subjects, New Zealand might inadvertently halt its march towards educational oblivion. 

Partnership schools are a further affront to modern educational progressivism. Lamenting the return of school choice, Mark Potter, the president of the country’s biggest education union, NZEI, said the policy would undermine public education.  

Potter may have a point. Why risk giving parents educational choice when all students can languish uniformly under the same flagging system? 

Associate Education Minister David Seymour calls partnership schools “an innovative education model” for disadvantaged children.  

But Seymour’s proposal is bizarrely out of step with what the unions want. It’s like suggesting our one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t fit at all.  

Just imagine schools setting their own curriculum, hours and pay rates, and being accountable for their results. They would have freedom to adapt to the needs of their students, rather than fitting into the Ministry of Education’s mould.  

Little wonder Potter warns of the dire risks of innovation driving different outcomes.  

As the country stands on the brink of change, we can only hope the spirit of educational stagnation will prevail. Otherwise, the reforms just might end up teaching Kiwi students to read and write. 

Roger Partridge is chairman and a co-founder of The New Zealand Initiative and is a senior member of its research team.

3,257 views139 comments


Dec 11, 2023

Chur bro…


Perhaps we can hope for a dialling back of the following nonsense? I received this invitation from the high school my youngest girl starts at next year:

Tena koutou katoa.

We invite all our newly enrolled akonga and whanau to attend our Mihi Whakatau, to welcome you formally. We engage in Kaupapa Maori practices as a responsibility to te Tiriti o Waitangi and use this process to welcome you first as manuhiri (visitors), then throughout the ceremony we lift the tapu (restrictions) and become one as tangata whenua of Te Kura _____ o _____.

The typical process of a Mihi Whakatau:

1. All manuhiri will be guided to their seats

2. A karakia (blessing) will be recited

3. The first…

Replying to

Fashionable Minglish . AKA virtue signalling . Possibly well intentioned but ill conceived .

Ka kite apopo ?????


I spoke to a youngish person today who advocated dispensing with central government and ruling via regional councils. He said central government was making things too hard for his generation. True in part, as MPs play the game of increasing their wealth by investing in real estate.

For example, I believe Mr Hipkins has 3 houses.

In my opinion, the youngish person’s suggestion of regional council rule may well lead to anarchy. He has not thought through his ideas.

Why? The councils might join up with tribal elites!

And wokes want the voting age to be reduced. Where is the wisdom in that? None.

Aside: house prices - not much will ever change, with little or no investment…


Is te reo going to substitute for a teaching lingo and ancient Maori beliefs take over advanced science. maths and physics? Get real. I had 4 years of streamed high school where we we taught to be ready for admission to Engineering at Uni. A Level 12 maths teacher stopped the classes one day so we all could go and see a movie of Shakepeare's Julius Ceasar.. Education is wider than narrow minds envisage.

Rotten education rots young minds.

Replying to

Well said Kevin


Just Boris
Just Boris
Dec 10, 2023

Great piece thanks Roger. We are seeing a flurry of articles here and all of them accurately describe the roadblocks facing education and our country in general. Ideologues and misguided left wing zealots are the problem. To them, the ends (according to their own twisted worldview) justify any means, so they will fight tooth & nail to prevent change that is actually good for the country. They are so far entrenched in their socialist, woke mire that they will resist any correction most vehemently. The arrogance, the conceit. But then turkeys don't vote for Christmas do they?

Potter is a fool. And the education system itself has become so self-absorbed that they refuse to see the dismal failures of thei…

Replying to

You can't beat a good rant !!!

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