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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Low-Profile Controversial Change Campaign

Sounds fascinating doesn't it?

Sounds exciting and a little on the 'dangerous' side, the 'Low-profile Controversial Change Campaign', makes you wonder....

Let me elaborate.  Its more 'thats appalling but not that surprising' than fascinating.

Treasury, which is the Governments lead advisor on all matters relating to economic and fiscal policy, has advised the Minister of Education to implement changes with less attention and to scale them back.

According to a report by the Herald, information obtained under the Official Information Act outlines how Treasury advised the Finance Minister to ask the Education Minster to 'scale back' and not attract 'significant profile'.

Furthermore, the Treasury report goes on to say;

"Communicating change across a broad front is difficult," Treasury officials warned. "Overseas experience in education reform suggests focusing on communicating a positively framed 'crucial few' at any one time."
This can be done "while making smaller incremental changes in a less high profile manner across a range of fronts".
Themes such as "supporting quality teaching" and "measuring performance to focus support" can be used to help communicate change, the Treasury suggested.
"More harder-edged changes could be pursued in parallel, incrementally and without significant profile."
source 'Herald article'

What is interesting is the Minsters office quickly rushes in to distance themselves from this advice.

Well, duh.  Of course they would.  Its part of 'minimising profile'.  Working hard to communicate change in a palatable manner.

I have to say, I wish I was surprised by this advice from Treasury and I wish I was surprised by how much of the report is claimed to be blanked out.  Suffice to say I have had enough experience with OIA to know how it works - or doesn't.

It all adds up to build a bigger picture.

It was good to see PPTA and NZEI had a response, but I wonder where NZPF were?  A quick look on their site and there is nothing.  Perhaps I have missed it.

I was particularly pleased that NZEI spoke of the research that shows transparency being important in change and this appeared the reverse of that.  No surprises there.  Recent policy changes over the last few years appear to have very little to with research and more to do with ideology.  

Transparency breeds buy in.  It may also breed discontent and start robust debate on policy, but It would seem to me that robust educational debate by the profession on any policy that is to be implemented by the community has to be a good thing.  We are charged with protecting the interests of our students.  It is why we are in education.  Hiding agendas is underhand and automatically makes one question the motive and ideology.  If you have to hide it, it can't be that great.

I worry that the community and some within the profession have been, and continue to be, caught up in a maze of smoke and mirrors.  As with all 'magic tricks' and 'swindles', one must be wary, on guard and maintain a healthy and robust scepticism.  The warning here is to not get caught up in the 'trick' and to continue to watch both hands.   When official advice is to 'hide' things, you do have to question why.

Finally, I worry about what other 'ambitious' changes there are, still waiting to be unveiled.  I can only imagine, and if they were to come true, it is stuff educational nightmares are made of.

Sleep well my friends, but sleep with one eye open and your back to the wall, for who knows what is next in the Low-Profile Controversial Change Campaign.

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