For the second time this month, the Minister of Education has announced significant changes to education law that have profound implications for the New Zealand education system.

As discussed earlier, this is either a complete snub to educators, who at the busiest time of year will struggle to respond to ‘consultation’ overtures, or it’s a sign of fear (what is being hidden in this rush of law changes?), or perhaps she simply doesn’t care what the professionals think.

Yesterday’s effort is an omnibus bill that will change eight pieces of legislation. All up, it seems designed to put an “open for business” sign up outside centres and schools.

The proposed changes include:

  • ECE centres running after school care
  • ‘CEO-style’ principals running groups of schools
  • the State Services Commission paying some teachers over and above negotiated rates (performance pay anyone?)
  • changes to school opening hours.

They presumably follow from the taskforce the minister set up two years ago, called the Taskforce on regulations affecting school performance, which was run by Murray Jack, the former head of the accounting firm Deloitte.

The review of the Education Act, announced earlier this month, is in a similar vein. Documents sent out for the “consultation” phase fly a number of kites, mixed in with flummery, that suggest the hand of an accountant in the mix – plenty of talk about “gaols” and “achievement” and “priorities”. Take out the flummery and a narrowly-focussed, one-size-fits-all, business-friendly, prescriptive new education act may well be on the cards.

But it is early days yet in the process of drafting that new law. There is still time for Ms Parata to change course.

Ms Parata gives every appearance of being a proud person. She seems to like the international stage, attending a number of international events this year, and inviting the GELP conference to Auckland.

What is going to be her legacy? The types of reforms being proposed are frankly just embarrassing. They ignore the critical issues facing our system and our children – under-resourcing, special education, cultural competency, collaboration, transitions, the effects of inequity and poverty. There are also pressing social and technological challenges facing our children that need to be addressed.

These proposed changes focus too narrowly on data and competition, rob educators of their professionalism, and favour the commercialisation of education. The evidence that these kinds of reforms will improve our system is light indeed. This is particularly so because professionals, and their representative organisations, have been cut out of their development. There is plenty of quite conservative research showing that education reform is most likely to be successful when educators are in the mix as equals.

Take a lesson from Germany Ms Parata. It has reformed its education system over the last decade and it is achieving system improvement. It addressed inequity, it vetoed league tables, it rejected the “education-as-a-business” philosophy.

Listen up Ms Parata before we are too far down a path that risks our international reputation – and our children’s learning.