The Daily Bork

May 13, 2005

Education, it's about the lightbulbs

Here is a NZ headline that, if the sexes were reversed, would have people screaming bloody murder...

Girls better in every subject

However, reading the article:

Girls-only schools dominate all NCEA levels. Their pass rates are far above the national average.


NZQA has warned that trying to compare schools with one another was dangerous territory under NCEA. Schools did not follow the same programme of study any more.

Now, the first sentence appears at the beginning of the article, while the qualifier appears as the second to last sentence of the article. Thus, the new system has made comparison between schools dubious, with inconsistent programmes of study. Note also the the first sentence is PASS RATES are above national average... not grades per se, since these are no longer comparable. So really, the article is about nothing. Brilliant.

There are other bits and pieces

Boys' literacy results were also a concern, only 65 per cent of male pupils passing level one literacy credits compared with 75 per cent of girls.

Wellington High School principal Prue Kelly was not surprised.

English was particularly geared toward girls and many of the topics did not interest boys, she said.

So, the curriculum is geared toward girls in the areas where boys are lacking... not rocket science to figure out the connection. No doubt if the English curriculum was aimed at boys then the girls would be lacking. Hardly equality of opportunity so why the wonder?

Education Ministry learning policy manager Steve Benson said the gender gap was a big issue. A research project was under way to address boys' under-achievement but there were no easy answers.

"One of the most bizarre suggestions I've heard for getting boys to achieve was to change the brightness of the lightbulbs in classrooms."

Others had suggested the problem lay behind typical Kiwi attitudes to masculinity, with boys more interested in rugby than study.

It was hoped research would provide practical changes for schools to implement as soon as possible.

Wellington College principal Roger Moses was concerned about boys' low achievement. The NCEA system did not work as well for boys as it did for girls, he said.

"Girls tend to be more organised. The old system with one big exam at the end seemed to suit boys' learning styles more. But that's not an excuse – we do need to look at ways to help boys' learning."

Change the lightbulbs. Brilliant. Boys attitudes? Well, they used to do well at school AND play rugby so what has changed? But the NCES system DOES NOT WORK AS WELL FOR BOYS, so what genius designed it with such an obvious bias against half the population then? Frankly, how can a single end-of-year exam be biased against organised students??? I smell a red herring.

Why doesn't someone stand up and say that the geniuses who designed the new system failed miserably, making schools incomparable to each other and disadvantaging a signifcant fraction (ie half) of the population forced to sit through it?

So, there is a problem with boys results, but we aren't sure because schools can't be compared, but we know the system is biased against boys anyway, but we will change the lightbulbs and that will fix everything. I think my kids are going to be home schooled.

The final sentence...

Spokeswoman Heather Church said parents should read schools' Education Review Office reports when choosing a school for their children.

As this keeps up, watch for school choice to disappear in a couple of years.


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