Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Something's Gotta Give

Education is a touchstone issue, because it is another of the fundamentals of our society.
Unlike democracy, which I've blogged about a lot of late c/o Mr Banks, education looms large in our lives.  We vote, on average, once every eighteen months, and that's if we vote in local body elections. If not, it's once every three years, and again that's if we can be bothered.  Voting takes a couple of minutes.  Compare it to education, where most people were legally required to spend ten years of their lives, six hours a day, being educated.  Education is something we are all intimately acquainted with, and we all value.
The government mess with it at their peril.  And mess with it they have.  You can just sense the media's glee.
Nanaia Mahuta had a go in Question 8 this afternoon:

8. Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) to the Minister of Education: What is the estimated reduction in teaching positions at intermediate and middle schools in each of the next 4 years as a result of the new teacher to student funding ratios in Budget 2012?Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education) : Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. The Government funds full-time teacher equivalents, not positions—that is a matter for each board. What we have always said is that about 90 percent of schools will have a net loss or gain of up to one full-time teacher equivalent. 
The 90% meme is interesting, partially because I have children at school, so this affects them directly, and partially because I'm a statistics nerd and know a little about distribution curves.  Mrs Parata repeated the 90% meme for the Herald.
[Education Minister Hekia Parata] said 90 per cent of schools would gain or have a net loss of less than one FTTE as a result of the combined effect of the ratio changes and projected roll growth.
This "gain or loss of less than one FTTE" is bullshit.  What I want to know is:
  • what percentage of schools will gain at least part of an FTTE?  And, completely separately,
  • what percentage of schools will lose at least part of an FTTE?
For the purposes of clarity, "at least part" means 0.1 FTTE or more.

I don't care that 90% of schools are somewhere between +1 and -1 teachers, because that is meaningless.  I want to know how many schools have >0 FTTE's lost.  This is, after all, my children's education that is affected.  It's not some abstract formula, and that's irrespective of how the Minister sees it.

Beastie Boys - Root Down [EP], 1995


  1. Good points. I too would like to know this. These are not an inconsequential questions. Why don't we see the media doggedly pursuing these answers? And, why isn't the media asking why the ministry didn't at least consult with the teachers' unions and the principals' association to reality check the consequences of their actions before a policy impact that was clearly not accurately estimated?

  2. Me too, anon, me too. Sadly, until we can dismiss the obvious answer (our present government are a bunch of incompetent twits), we have to stick with it.