This article in Stuff, which I’m told by Kiwis is an important New Zealand news agency that’s “politically very neutral and independent”, reports a decline in academic achievement in New Zealand (this has been going on for some time), but at the same time reports that the planned incursion of the indigenous “way of knowing” into secondary-school teaching with is beginning. These changes will only reduce the academic achievement of students, at least in the sciences, but the NZ government would rather valorize indigenous lore than raise the quality of education. The new curriculum changes will be mandatory in all government-approved schools by 2024.
The “indigenous way of knowing” is, as I’ve described here many times, Mātauranga Māori (MM) a mixture of ideology, superstition, religion, tradition, and yes, even some empirical knowledge gleaned by trial and error—things like when and how to harvest local food.
Click on the screenshot to read the short article:
For some time, the NZ government, and many secondary school teachers (and university professors) have decreed that MM should not only become much more a part of secondary-school education, but should be taught as coequal with modern science (what’s called “Western science”) in science class. That is, there should be as much teaching of MM in these classes as there is modern science. Since the scientific content of MM is thin, and restricted to “practical knowledge”, and because MM lacks the methodology of modern science, this “equality” is a recipe for disaster.
And on some level I thought it wouldn’t really happen. New Zealand happens to be a great country full of lovely people, and I didn’t believe they’d ruin science education this way. But I didn’t reckon how woke the country has become, largely because the government, under the uber-woke Jacinda Ardern, has decided to cater full-on to the demands of the indigenous Māori people and their many “colonialist” European supporters.
Of course MM, as an important part of New Zealand history and culture, should be taught as part of national history, anthropology, and sociology (Māori comprise 16.5% of the total population). But only in one’s wildest dreams can you see MM as coequal to modern science. Teaching it as such will do a disservice to all the inhabitants of NZ, including the Māori, who will not only learn very much science, but will be confused by the very notion of what “science” includes. Many Kiwis object vehemently to these educational plans, but the wokeness of the country is such that they dare not question the policy. Teachers and objectors are demonized, called “racists” and “colonialists” and some faculty have even been punished for speaking up. In fact, even the spineless Royal Society of New Zealand has taken the position that MM is in no way inferior to modern science, with the latter having its “limits”.
But the juggernaut rolls on. I’ve put below, indented, some excerpts from the article. Bolding is mine. The NCEA, by the way is the The National Certificate of Educational Achievement, a record of student achievement based on exams taken during each of the last three years of secondary school. (You can see the subjects on which students are tested here.) Your grade on the tests determines whether you can go to college, and also affects your ability to get some jobs. The NCEA will henceforth include items taken from MM.
Many high school students can expect significantly different lessons in 2023 as sweeping changes to learning and assessment bed in, the head of the biggest school in the top of the south says.
Scott Haines, principal at Nelson’s Waimea College, said the reforms, being rolled out at secondary schools through the government’s National Curriculum Refresh and NCEA Change Programme, represented “the most significant change” to the curriculum in 20 years.
The college was among 285 schools, kura and tertiary providers nationwide that trialled new standards in the NCEA qualification for some subjects this year, including controversial literacy and numeracy tests.
New standards would be introduced in all subjects at NCEA level 1 next year at the college, and other Government-approved schools choosing to implement the changes before they became mandatory in 2024.
“Wildly varying” NCEA credit ratings across subjects would be replaced with fewer and larger standards in each subject, Haines said.
Māturanga Māori/Māori knowledge would have equal weighting to “the traditional world view” in all subjects, he said.
That meant “the nature of what teachers will be teaching will look quite different”, he said.
“If we’re doing astronomy, we would teach for example the Eurocentric view, the traditional view of how astronomy works, and we would also examine that through the Māori world view.”
Many teachers across the country needed to upskill to “a significant degree”, having not learnt the Māturanga Māori content in teacher training, Haines said.
Some of the school’s teachers had visited Māori specialists around the country who were equipped to support teachers in learning the new material, he said.
Note: equal weighting IN ALL SUBJECTS.
The worst part is that they cannot teach teach that any bit of MM is less comprehensive or complete than is modern science, though I suspect “astronomy through the Maori world view” would not be a significant addition to what modern astronomy has achieved. Yet there will be questions on it on the NCEA exams!
Further, as I reported a year ago, “performance of New Zealand students in math, science, and reading falls dramatically over the last two decades”:
Why should we care about the performance of New Zealand’s primary- and secondary-school students, and what’s happening with it over time? For me, it’s the science that’s important, but science, reading, and math show the same trend over the last fifteen years. Despite a rise in spending per pupil over the last 25 years, performance in these three areas in New Zealand has declined, both absolutely and in comparison to the countries like England, Australia, the U.S., Canada, and Singapore—countries regarded as educational competitors with (and comparable to) New Zealand.
My post gives data that document this decline, data produced by a “leading think tank” in New Zealand. Here’s a bit more from the Stuff article:
A literature review in March, describing declining literacy levels in New Zealand as “deeply worrying, recommended changing the NCEA system so credits couldn’t be gained more easily by offering students “narrow curricular experiences” and overly-simplistic texts.
. . .Waimea College was among 191 schools and kura that piloted the new level 1 standards in literacy and numeracy – open to students from year 9 instead of year 11 currently.
Forty per cent of students who sat the tests at the school passed the standards in writing, 69% in numeracy, and 73% reading.
35% national pass rates in writing, and 56% in numeracy, are not, to my mind, fantastic. (I don’t have any data on science.) Regardless, valuable as indigenous knowledge is for teaching a country’s history and sociology, making “ways of knowing” coequal to the only modern “way of knowing we have”—science—is going to suck New Zealand down the drain. But this is what happens when you decide that showing your virtue—and making your virtue into national educational policy—depends on elevating “indigenous ways of knowing” to the status of modern science.
Ceiling Cat help New Zealand!