Teachers’ union calls for an end to school streaming by 2030
Leaders of the secondary teachers’ union, the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA), want schools to stop grouping students into low- and high-level classes by 2030.
By John Gerritsen for rnz.co.nz
They told the union’s conference in Wellington this week that the practice was racist and urged delegates to agree to push for an end to it.
A paper presented at the conference said the proposal was likely to provoke debate, but streaming was harmful, especially to Maori students.
“Research shows that streaming creates and exacerbates inequalities; and that streaming ‘helps perpetuate social class influences, separating students of different social classes into different streams,'” he said.
“It is often feared that top performers are unfairly ‘delayed’ by being placed in a more heterogeneous class. In reality, the opposite appears to be true, and students both ‘won socially and did not suffer academically’ , to be placed in non-broadcast courses’.”
The report says research from four New Zealand schools that stopped broadcasting their maths curriculum found improved academic achievement, particularly for Maori and Pacific students, and that Maori and Pacific students studied math longer.
“Social and ethnic barriers fell as students worked cooperatively,” he said.
However, some parents and teachers resisted the change at all four schools and the newspaper said some PPTA members also believed there was a place for streaming.
“Perhaps the greatest fear of schools wishing to disintegrate is the potential loss of students to schools that still use these teaching methods,” the newspaper said.
However, he said most of the PPTA members consulted on streaming agreed that it should be abolished and said it had happened in their schools, usually by separating the worst and top performing students. in separate classes, but also through prerequisites for higher classes in language, science and mathematics.
“In one discussion, the impact of mandatory international travel, or even expensive domestic travel, was brought up as a form of diffusion. If a student was unable to afford the travel, they were essentially excluded from the apprenticeship (or provided a miserable alternative option),” the newspaper said.
The newspaper says schools and teachers need more funding and training to help them move away from streaming.
“Lack of adequate staffing levels leads to large class sizes, and streaming or grouping is used to mitigate this. Streaming has effectively been used as a way to mask the shortcomings of the New Zealand school system. Pupils Maori and Pasifika bear an unfair burden of this mitigation,” he said.
PPTA delegates will vote on the idea this week and Vice President Chris Abercrombie said if passed the union would advocate for change.
“Some schools and some communities believe that streaming is best for them, and that it meets the needs of their students – there is no academic evidence to support this.”
According to research, dropping streaming had no impact on upper college students, but had positive effects on lower track students, Abercrombie said.
“Sometimes Maori and Pasifika students are directed to courses that lead nowhere,” he told Morning Report.
“Streaming is based on a racist, sexist and elitist past, and so it’s about changing that system and moving forward to ensure we can help all of our students be the best they can be.”
Teacher professional development is key to successfully transitioning away from streaming, he said. Lessons could be tailored to different students within classes, which has already happened even within streaming groups, he said.