September 27, 2023

Teachers fight to save Shakespeare

Teachers fight to save Shakespeare

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Saturday, 15 November 2008

Shakespeare’s plays and other great works of literature considered too difficult for some pupils will disappear from classrooms under proposed changes to the curriculum, alarmed principals say.

There are also fears that basic content in maths, history and business studies will be axed in a drive to make subjects easier, “dumbing down” schoolchildren and further undermining NCEA.

Education officials are reviewing the way secondary-school subjects are assessed in preparation for the new curriculum, to be introduced from 2010.

English teachers say some papers, such as level 3 Shakespeare, could disappear. They will discuss their concerns at a meeting in Wellington next week.

The Qualifications Authority says the world’s greatest playwright is not compulsory but stresses that the bard’s works will still be taught in most schools.

Macleans College principal Byron Bentley said reference to basic content, such as Shakespeare, appeared to have been axed under the proposals.

It meant some schools would ignore important subject material if pupils found it too hard – offering lightweight courses that deprived pupils of key knowledge.

Mr Bentley, who heads the lobby group Education Forum, said other subjects such as history had no proposed syllabus, leaving content decisions entirely to individual teachers. There was also a drive for more internal assessment at the expense of nationally administered exams. He said the changes were being bulldozed through by officials, and he called for a government moratorium.

Lower Hutt’s Sacred Heart College principal, Lisl Prendergast, feared changes that could sideline Shakespeare were already a fait accompli.

Other concerns raised include:

The study of blogs earning the same credits as literature papers

The elimination of essays in some subjects

No mention of accounting or business studies in the curriculum

“All the challenge and in-depth analysis and skills required at each level are being modified, and in my opinion, made easier,” a senior teacher said. “Is the implication that we should not dare to challenge students, or heaven forbid, ask them to engage with texts that really speak to the human condition in a superbly crafted form? Dumbing down again.”

Education Ministry curriculum group manager Mary Chamberlain said knowledge in key subjects remained important as ever, but it was no longer good enough to have pupils faithfully reproducing content.

They needed to apply their knowledge to problem-solving in the real world.

Ministry officials and national subject associations were reviewing all NCEA subject areas to ensure standards were rigorous and that pupils continued achieving well internationally, she said. Consultation was now under way.

“Schools have the professional responsibility for designing learning programmes which contain appropriate knowledge that are relevant for their particular students.

“A teacher may choose to teach students to respond critically to a Shakespearean drama, or another piece of drama depending on which is most relevant for students.”

Home schoolers swap teaching tips

Home schoolers swap teaching tips

By JOHN HARTEVELT – The Press | Monday, 28 July 2008

Parents who home school their students compared notes on a surge in their number at a gathering in Christchurch at the weekend.

Home schoolers from Christchurch and around the country met in Bishopdale for a curriculum fair and a series of workshops.

National director of the Home Education Foundation Craig Smith said about 50 people attended and visited seminars which covered topics ranging from classical education to how home education could prevent burnout.

Home schooling appealed to many parents because of the “administrative bullying” of teachers and the public education system in general.

“I hear a lot parents tell me my child’s been at school now for three years and they haven’t learned a darn thing,” Smith said.

The number of children home schooled has grown from about 5280 10 years ago to 6500 in July last year.

Home-schooled children must obtain a certificate of exemption from regular schooling.

The Ministry of Education said home-based schooling must meet the same standards as registered schools.

Kathy Duncan said her four children, aged between five and 12, mixed with a lot of other children who were home schooled.

“Certainly our children wouldn’t socialise with 30 other children the same age as them every day but they do have friends they see regularly,” Duncan said.

Home schooling was a a lifestyle choice, she said.

“It’s not just like having school at home … all of life becomes an education. It’s really hard to separate our life from the education.”

Duncan does not have any teaching qualifications but she said she had “a lot of experience”.

Home schooling is most popular on the West Coast, where 1.9 per cent of children are in home schooling.

The Canterbury Home Educators group has 230 members, representing less than 1% of students in the region.

Smith said aspects of the national assessment programme (NCEA) were “anti-intellectual” and the school curriculum needed to get back to basics and cut out political correctness.

Smith did not want any more Government funding because he feared it would take control of home schoolers.

“The ERO (Education Review Office) is sitting in judgment on the way you as a parent relate to your own child,” he said.