Phil Cullen of Australia is a zealous critic of his nation’s national testing and accountability regime.

He wrote about this important news from New Zealand, whose new government has decided to abandon the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM).

He wrote:

“New Zealand leads the world.

“New Zealand leads the way down under and maybe across the world in caring about kids.

“Its determination to return to sanity, humanity, progress, initiative and competence for its schooling system, which itself determines national progress in the long run, is now being unpacked and, I am told that the new coalition government contains a few former teachers and school-active parents around as heavyweights who can talk school and lead the conversion for a better world down under.

“There’s dynamic Tracey Martin, former School Board chair; Kelvin Davis, highly respected former principal and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party; and Winston Peters of NZ First and, Deputy PM who trained as a teacher. In Australia we only have legal eagles.

“Parent groups in NZ are claiming that now, teaching will be returned to the teaching profession and democracy will be returned to schooling in New Zealand soon. The isles are shaking with joy for kids.

“It’s a country that has always been to the forefront of school improvement but then, the take-over by the irrational managerialists and corporate heavy-weights circa 1990, and the addition of GERM in 2008, has had a detrimental impact that has lasted for a decade. They’ve had enough, now. We still tolerate it to our shame and academic deterioration.

“How come New Zealand leads the world now in the decontamination of the establishment’s unworthy, useless, immoral, unethical, unprofessional testucation procedures in schools? Well, there’s been a number of factors.

“Fortunately, during this period, it has had its crusaders for kids who just don’t give in too easily. It’s been a long and arduous battle, of the kind that must continue next door, in Australia.

“There’s Kelvin Smythe, former Chief Inspector and Allan Allach, energetic, thoughtful former primary school principal, reader and writer and Bruce Hammonds, former principal, consultant and writer – a valiant trio that has been unafraid to have their say. They set the pace.

“There’s Chris Hipkins, in particular, who has been the shadow Minister for Education whose inspirational speeches and talks have been based on a sound knowledge of schooling and who has been unequivocal in his aim to rid the country of testucation and de facto schooling.

“There’s the Primary Principals’ Association which kept its administrative distance from the government testucrats and compliant GERMans, never properly complying .

“While “The Government will never listen and nothing will change and we are just one little country.” Some timorous principals said, there were others of the association, especially the leader of the organisation, Whetu Cormick, described as “The greatest teacher organisation leader of our time,:” by Kelvin Smythe. We didn’t hold back, “At the other extreme are those like me,” he said “who will continue to fight to the end. We know that National Standards and all the ‘reforms’ that go with them are bad for our young people. Our young people have faith in us to protect their futures by continuing to fight for the best education that our young people deserve.” Looking directly into the face of Nikki Kay, the then Minister, he said, “Let’s wait no longer to get our young people on the road to success. Let’s put up a big STOP NATIONAL STANDARDS.” The organsation has always been fearless…

Click to access opinion_piece_nzpf_presidents_column_on_ns_may_31_2011_.pdf

“There’s Diane Kahn and the Save Our Schools organisation whose prime target has always been the elimination of ‘national standards’ and was heavy and constant with dynamic opposition. [ ]

“There’s an influential Kiwi sciolist [aka schooliolist – one who pretends to be well informed about schooling] and academic testucator who played a significant role in the introduction of testucation into NZ…..who left the country at the right time.

“There are some messages for Australia. In world schooling terms, it is the boondocks of failed political schooling, the backward West Island of learning progress, the most over-tested country in the world.

“A political party needs to think. Does it believe in providing the best schooling possible, or doesn’t it give a damn as Aussie political parties do?

“Listening to schooliolist academic know-alls, qualified testucators, loud-mouth politicians, corporate unions [like IPA, BCA and Farmers] inhabited by conservative capitalists, neo-libs and delcons, which still rule the roost on the west side of the ditch, continues to lead Australian schooling in the wrong direction. New Zealand has now told these cocky roosters what to do with their distasteful attitude to children.

“Australian schools are in dire need of some Finnish-ing tactics.” said Wendy Knight in The Age….and we can now add: ‘and some Kiwi tactics’. What really happens in a good school system? Why don’t we look around and learn?
An example of off-the-hip, loud-mouth political interference is contained in suggestions made in Treasurer Morrison’s Shifting the Dial, another imported kind of measurement.

“It presumes that the hiring of skilled subject specialists like mathematicians will improve standards in schools. It overlooks the reality that real teachers teach real pupils….real people! The secret is in the interaction. They teach them about mathematics, to like mathematics. They don’t get up in front of a class and pontificate about what they themselves know. Effective teachers of anything operate from the learner’s level. Socrates was a better teacher of Maths than Einstein and a better teacher of literature than Shakespeare. His pupils learned how to learn.

“A strong and outspoken principals’ association can be truly influential as they are in NZ. Protection of children and their future as well as the provision of a rich holistic curriculum, undaunted by fearful interruptions to positive learning, should dominate the spirit of every principal’s personal professional code. Laxity, timidity, compliance and silence have no place in their organisations when the chips are down for kids….as they are now in Australia.

“It’s looking more evident every day that the lower half of the existing Lib-Lab delcon group viz. Labor under Shorten, will be the government after the next federal election in Australia. The lib-lab neo-con conventions will probably continue as they did in the passing of klein deforms from Labor to Liberal. Neither political group, Labor nor Liberal, ever expresses any thoughts about the continuance of the Klein system of schooling, now almost a decade old ; and which should go because it is proving useless.

“Neither party knows much about schooling and hides its ignorance by talking only Gonksi and funding and teacher quality. For them, the plight of children lies in the dollar sign, not in compassion and humanity and learning and in experience and excellence. Each remains ultra-complacent by making do, making silly schooling decisions, maintaining the mediocre, and supporting private schools before helping public schools.{Remember DOGS – Defence of Government Schools?} A country that treats its children the way that Australia does, is in for big trouble….really big trouble.

“It just won’t be able to handled itself in world affairs.

“It relies on the cockeyed Gillard Theory of Testucation, using Kleinism to control operatives and operations, to no end except to gather data; then ignores the basic laws of administrative order and effectiveness [Campbell, Goodhart, Lucas and Common Sense] and treats the electorate as if everyone is a dill or doesn’t care what happens to kids. The present government will go while it maintains these attitudes to schooling and doesn’t have the capacity to think. The Labor Party will replace it and not do any better. Both need to think seriously about schooling…very, very seriously.


“I’m deliberately apolitical and have voted informal at the last few federal elections because I’ve been offered only lower-order policies in general and crazy views about schooling. …nothing that really suggests that there is a healthy future for this wonderful country. Schooling is the most important issue of this century for Aussie citizens. If it is not rejuvenated, Australia has some big problems coming up. I’ll vote for any party -Pauline’s, Bob’s, Nick’s, Jacqui’s, anybody who says that it will get rid of NAPLAN.

“I’ll know by its standard of advocacy that such a party likes kids, that it is thinking and will do something about our future. Our present klein system relies on child abuse.

“I’ll study the detail of course, but no party can be so blithely ignorant of schooling as our major parties are at present. Their mentors can only bark Gonski, data, scores, testing, funding, teacher quality with schooliolist pedantry and no regard for the real spirit of learning at school.

“Seriously – rejuvenation of schooling from the mess of mass testucation will be very difficult. Unscrambling an egg always is. Since New Zealand will have to do the job before Australia wakes up, it might be wise to locate some observers there to learn how to go about it.

“We need to do what New Zealand has done :


“It’s rejuvenation time down under!