The Government’s policy to increase class sizes to release funds for teacher development demonstrates a lack of awareness of the needs of 21st Century learners, according to the School Library Association of New Zealand/ Aotearoa.
“Things have changed since the Minister of Education was in school”, said Fiona Mackie, President of SLANZA. “ It is well recognized that we cannot meet the diverse needs of students now and in the future with classes of 41, such as she experienced 40 years ago”.
“School librarians understand this as they are working at the cutting edge, where information technology and E-learning meets the classroom”, said Ms. Mackie. “Schools also have to meet diverse needs and these factors combined mean that teaching from the front of the classroom to large numbers of students just won’t make the grade any more”.
“The Minister is also mistaken when she relies so heavily on research that says class sizes don’t matter. While the quality of the teacher has the most impact, the work of Russell Bishop and others demonstrates that relationships between teacher and student make the most difference – particularly for Maori. It clearly easier to develop those relationships when the class sizes are smaller,” said Ms. Mackie.
“With the changes announced by the government, schools will have to make difficult staffing choices and some may unwisely decide to cut school librarians rather than lose a teacher”, said Ms. Mackie. “If this happens it undermines the goal of raising student achievement in literacy, as well staffed school libraries have a pivotal role to play in this. The National Standards emphasise the need to teach literacy across the curriculum, including information and digital literacy, where experienced librarians are the experts”.
“The government needs to rethink its policy”, said Ms. Mackie.