Nepal and New Zealand: Wars, Mountains and Quakes

April 27, 2015

The item below was written on 23 April for delivery at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Christchurch Sunrise on 24 April, at which the club hosted 6 Gurkha Army officers in Christchurch for the 100th centenary commemoration of the Anzac landings in Gallipoli. The next day, ANZAC Day, a devastating earthquake hit Nepal, with the epicentre near Gorkha, the home of the Gurkhas.

The New Zealand Himalayan Trust, mentioned in the item, is requesting urgent donations to help the people of Nepal, with whom we Kiwis have strong links.

If you would like to help please go to 

Wrap Up- Rotary Club of Christchurch Sunrise  meeting 24/4/15

With our six special Gurkha soldier guests joining us this morning we can reflect on Rotary’s international reach and our club’s military connections via some members past and present as we prepare to commemorate tomorrow the 100th anniversary of the military catastrophe at Gallipoli.

This year is also the 200th anniversary of the Gurkhas’ special role in the British Army and international peacekeeping.  Gurkhas fought  bravely alongside New Zealand soldiers at Gallipoli and Cassino, among other battles.

To cap it off this year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and the origin of the Parliamentary rights and free speech we take for granted in this country.

New Zealand has a mountaineering as well as a military special relationship with Nepal. In 1953 Sherpa Tenzing Norgay stood at the top of Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary. The work of the Himalayan Education Trust came out of that climbing partnership.

For most of us in this room the earthquakes of 2010 – 11 are the nearest we have come to facing the natural equivalent of a war. From both past wars and past disasters we can learn powerful lessons from the past as we rebuild the future.

Our seismic shakeup brought about big changes to the lie of the land in Canterbury, both physical and metaphorical.

At the end of March I ran our fourth annual Seismics and the City forum for representatives of public, private and community sector organisations engaged in the rebuilding of Greater Christchurch in the wake of the quakes.

The 2015 theme was Creating a Greater ChristchurchSketching the Bigger Picture. It connected the dots on a broad canvas and provided rare opportunities for cross-sector feedback, input and knowledge sharing at a time when the countdown has finally started for the transition of the recovery process from centralised control to more local ownership of issues and solutions.

Speakers included Hon. Nicky Wagner, Associate Earthquake Recovery Minister, Canterbury;  Russell Stanners, CEO Vodafone; Ian Simpson,  EQC; Peter Townsend, CECC; Joanna Norris, The Press;  John Ombler, CERA;  Raf Manji, CCC;  David Ayers, Mayor, Waimakariri; Stephen Collins and Nick Hunt, Investors;  Brian Parker, Spokesperson, CanCERN;  Corinne Haines, MD, Trimble; and Neil Cox, Theatre Royal.

We also had some amazing young people, including Barnaby Bennett, co-editor of ‘Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster’, which had some very timely comments about the need for us to meet in the middle:  “The success or failure of high-level institutional or community-led responses can be spun by either side to show that their way is the best way. Generally, it’s the interface between the two – the mess in the middle – where things really happen.”

We also heard the aspirations of three other young people for a renewed Christchurch and their goals for their own contribution to it. Blair Chapell,  who graduated from the CPIT on conference day had already started his own IT company linked to construction boom in Christchurch. Meagan Veitch,  a student at the University of Canterbury decided to go teaching as a result of the quakes. Tom Beaumont, through his early stage startup CleanStreams, is developing software which assists New Zealand’s agricultural industry to mitigate surface water pollution arising from farming activities. (Tom recently completed his Masters of Engineering Management via Piet Beukman’s programme).

We also had secondary and tertiary students, working on the EVOLOCITY electric vehicle project with local businesses, demonstrating what an electrifying vehicle for young talent and innovation this project, co-ordinated by Miranda Satterthwaite, CPIT, really is!

Among some ho-hum new post -quake buildings some designs stand out like the newly started Vodafone South Island headquarters in the Innovation Precinct , the completed Stephen Collins  ‘Deloitte’ ripple glass building in Durham Street  and the new Trimble building featuring seismic sensing technology and flexibly strong high-tech wood technology emanating from research at the University of Canterbury.

It would be a wasted opportunity to do things in the same old way in new buildings.  The young people I’ve mentioned and others like them have creativity and innovation in their DNA and they are our future.

Let Meagan Veitch the last word: “I think the opportunity we have in Christchurch post- earthquake is wildly exciting and full of potential as to pave the way for a brighter future in a time of rebuild, reconstruction and building back hope and enthusiasm in our community in Christchurch. I believe that we have a rare chance to pull people together, [and] work towards joining our community and neighbourhoods…”

Videos of the plenary sessions at Seismics and the City 2015 are available at YouTube . Slide presentations can be reviewed at SlideShare. Media items and at Print Media Coverage

Lyall Lukey 24 April 2015

PS If you would like to help Nepalese people affected by the earthquake of 25 April go to

Educational Change-Engage or Resist?

December 21, 2014


In January 2014, like a missile out of the blue, the Prime Minister launched the Government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy.  Some education leaders think it misguided. Others believe that, with feedback and course correction, it could end up spot on target.

IES seeks to help raise student achievement throughout the compulsory education system by encouraging collaboration between schools and expanding career pathways for teachers and principals.

Key components of the evolving initiative are communities of schools- voluntary primary and secondary school collaboratives resourced around agreed student achievement plans.

Proposed new roles nationally include approximately 255 community of schools facilitators plus 1000 cross-schools and 5000 in-school practice support teachers.

The payoff for the financial investment, if matched by an intangible investment of professional commitment and knowledge sharing, will be to lift student achievement, enhance professional job satisfaction and raise the status of the teaching profession.

Education representatives have been involved for some months in an IES advisory group and a working party. Despite the unexpected largesse, opinion is divided about the merits of the policy. The recent centenary of the outbreak of World War I is a reminder of the dangers of getting bogged down defending entrenched positions.

Tom Parsons, President of the Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand (SPANZ)  stuck his head above the parapet early on to encourage his members to be fully engaged with the Government’s “game changer” to smooth out the disparity between schools.  ”With your commitment and your engagement a successful educational and far more secure economic future lies ahead not just for our students but indeed for our profession also.”

The Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) was also open to change and took part in IES-linked remuneration negotiations with the Ministry of Education before seeking the endorsement of members.

The New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF) sees the IES policy as the wrong model to achieve the Government’s objectives. Presenting distinct signs of premature exhortation, the Federation released in early July the results of a survey of more than 1000 principals which showed they had no confidence IES could achieve “a strong collaborative culture for schools, nor lift the achievement of especially our priority learners.”

The New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) expressed early reservations about an “untested mentor approach”, despite examples from elsewhere,  including vaunted education model Finland, of the mutual benefits for both mentoring and mentored schools.

After a NZEI survey of members, in the weeks weeks before the general election, 93 percent of teachers and principals voted “no confidence” in the government’s plan and 73 percent voted to reject the proposed new roles outright rather than try to change the policy through negotiation.

In quite a different response, in November PPTA members voted to include two teaching roles central to Investing in Educational Success (IES) in their collective agreement. 80.3% voted to include the Community of Schools (CoS) Within School Teacher and the CoS Across Community Teacher positions in the Secondary Teachers Collective Agreement (STCA).

Why the differences in the primary and secondary responses?

Perhaps the secondary sector assumes it will capture most of the new positions and remuneration, though good education leaders come from across the learning spectrum. Possibly it is easier to timetable principals and teachers out of typically larger secondary schools with a subject teaching focus. Maybe the primary sector is still tender after the introduction of National Standards, whereas the secondary sector has progressed through several assessment iterations.

But part of the answer lies in the role of the national secretaries in teacher associations.  They are the permanent agenda setters, while elected president come and go.

The classic example of obsessive-compulsive-disorder (OCD) is the person who can neither stop thinking about germs nor washing his hands to kill germs. For some time the NZEI has been fighting the equivalent of the Bertie Germ dental campaign of half a century ago. In his recent lead Education Aotearoa editorial National NZEI Secretary Paul Goulter says: “The choice is clear – a GERM-based future for our children or a non-GERM-based future.”

This antiseptic choice is offered without any explanation of the acronym. Because it has been used rote-like in so many previous issues it is assumed that readers know that it means the dreaded Global Education Reform Movement which apparently lurks Ebola-like behind any educational initiative of the Government.

The primary teachers’ union washed its hands of constructive professional involvement in the IES initiative in favour of a secular jihad in election year, but governments are entitled to govern by introducing new policies, especially if they have been flagged well prior to a general election, as was National Standards in 2008,(but not Charter Schools, which was smuggled in at teatime in Act III of that government).

Taking a different strategic starts PPTA president Angela Roberts was pleased with the way PPTA had been able to work constructively with the government to turn IES into something that could operate well in schools. “…It is an example of teacher unions being in their rightful place, at the table taking part in the process. Decisions are being made with us rather than for us,” she said.

The Ministry of Education says that IES “focuses on raising student achievement across the board, by supporting the education profession to build quality and consistency of teaching and leadership across the system.”

Positive education change involves lifting both professional and organisational competence, with a mutual appreciation of how each reinforces the other in each learning community.

Teachers are more likely to support what they have been engaged in creating, especially if they can share ways of helping students learn more effectively and pursue new career pathways.

The Ministry’s own best evidence synthesis, School Leadership and Student Outcomes, found school leaders promoting and/or participating in effective teacher professional learning have twice the impact on student outcomes across a school compared with any other leadership activity.

No school is an island unto itself. Every school needs to ensure that its own rate of learning at least equals the rate of external change and all education professionals benefit from best practice sharing.

Developed constructively by all concerned, with the focus on raising learning and achievement, this is what IES could be about.  A well designed initiative would be the catalyst for systemic and sustained learning development.

The voice of teachers is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient of education policy decisions.  In the pursuit of better public policy the Government needs to also tap into the views and expectations of parents, employers and others.

Learning culture is the invisible force that shapes professional behaviour and student achievement for better or for worse. Systems and practices can be copied, culture cannot. Everyone involved needs to understand the culture of their own learning organisation and agree on initiatives to enhance it. Well grounded change principles are as important as change principals.

Learning as inquiry is about powerful questions and shared knowledge and practice. It requires open minds, open dialogue and a long term perspective. The bandwidth of collaboration is trust.

Like all new policies IES needs more engagement, more time to bed in and more shaping. There are different ways of sharing both the collaborative responsibilities and the remuneration and the tiny amount of budget for school-based innovation needs augmenting.

But if the focus stays firmly on the learning needs of students, as they move through the learning system, everything else will fall into place.

Of course, in the words of W. Edward Deming: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” 


#Lyall Lukey 21 Dec 2014  My other (bit less serious) blog

Post-Quakes Recovery Act II: Building Momentum

April 13, 2014

The 2013 Festival of Transitional Architecture evening parade featured some ambulatory 4m puppets. Clever examples of jerry-built woodworking, they bore a clear resemblance to national and local notables leading Christchurch’s post quakes recovery .

Unlike normal puppets their interior workings were visible so you could see the strings being pulled and the wheels being turned. Glaring spotlights on the giants did make it hard to discern supporting members of the street theatre cast. The public was left in the dark.

As the parade promenaded from the Bridge of Remembrance past the demolished Clarendon site to the Square the scene became better lit. No longer centre stage, the puppets were parked to one side. Near the grim west end of the Cathedral erstwhile spectators now found themselves in the limelight. Were they ready to act or had they been on the sidelines too long?

As Festa reminded us, the Christchurch rebuild is going to take a generation. But transitions are not just about architecture. They involve sharing knowledge and sharing power.

We may like the idea of a city in a garden but more than three years after the quakes of 2010/11 we still have only a shaky grip on the consequences of living in what for many is still a city in a swamp.

Lest we forget, the collapsed PGG building once housed the old Christchurch Drainage Board. John Wilson’s 1989 history of the board was entitled Swamp to City. A sequel might be called The Swamp Strikes Back. A new Council is coming to grips with the implications of recent manifestations of hydrological and seismic natural hazards,.

Transitions are also about changing power structures to facilitate collaboration and innovation. What was responsible leadership during the disaster response process may be unresponsive and inappropriate at this stage of the recovery.

Stirred up even more by the impending election, these are the tricky waters which Seismics and the City 2014 Building Momentum will navigate next Friday.

This is the third annual forums for representatives of public and private sector and community organisations involved or interested in the post-quake recovery process, progress, problems and solutions . It is being held at the new Rydges Latimer, on the fringe of the new city core, near the Cardboard Cathedral and the proposed Breathe Urban Village. This is an appropriate venue to reimagine the future of new Christchurch, share scientific and business knowledge and build relationships.

The rebuild may be starting to ramp up but there is traffic congestion at the on ramp and the need for a more integrated approach to get things flowing. Right now there seem to be more orange and red lights than green, though it was heartening to read recently of progress on the new library and the old Provincial Chambers.

The challenge is to balance speed and momentum with getting the direction right by avoiding the extremes of political pollyannaism and corrosive cynicism .

This stage of the recovery and renewal process should no longer be a spectator sport. People will support what they help to create not what is imposed upon them. To improve the quality of recovery implementation it is crucial that a broad range of organisations collaborate.

As David Killick points out there is a plethora of plans from different agencies and the need for a more simplified road map. But whence? Where to? How do communities and organisations get from where they are now to where they want to go? How do they shift beyond black and white thinking but also avoid too many shades of grey?

Imagineering needs to precede engineering. Engaging people starts with an initial vision. The way to evolve that is with some big picture satellite views, zooming in on the topography from different perspectives, then the main highways and finally at street level.

Bold though it was the initial inner city rebuild plan in 2011 was called a “blueprint”, a cut and dried label which neither allowed different scenarios nor allayed the suspicions of some inner-city property owners that they had been framed.

At CECC’s 2013 AGM Ian Taylor from Animation Research in Dunedin showed his animation of the Euan Harkness-initiated concept of a Living Cathedral for Christchurch. He demonstrated that visual tools can be used not just sell a series of decisions reached behind closed doors but to openly share alternative visions and designs as part of the decision making process itself.

It is good to mark positive milestones as the rebuild builds momentum . But if we are to leave a worthy new legacy, having removed much of the old, we need to welcome constructively critical perspectives on the future shape of the city which challenge us to open our minds to a range of possibilities rather than being limited to an à la cart menu.

The recent flooding, made worse by the earlier seismic land slumps, highlights the need to accelerate the pre-quakes evolution of Greater Christchurch as a polycentric city, with vibrant business and community hubs connected in new ways to a leaner and healthier city heart.

The lifeblood of recovery and renewal is the energy of individuals and organisations collaborating, and shaping their own futures in new ways and in new places to ensure the future of New Christchurch.

Recovery Act II: are we ready or have we been sidelined too long? Lights, action…

Seismics and the City 2014 Building Momentum was held in Christchurch on Friday 28 March. See videos of presentations and other digital resources at 

#Lyall Lukey  13 April 2014
My other (bit less serious) blog:   













Opening our schools to the future

September 10, 2013

The Christchurch quakes have thrown up ground-breaking opportunities to accelerate the rate of education innovation.

Ministers like opening schools, not closing them: ask Trevor Mallard. But as the present Minister of Education Hekia Parata argued a year ago, for obvious seismic and demographic reasons there has to be major post-quakes rationalization of education provision in Greater Christchurch after the  devastating earthquakes of 2010-11.

The quakes threw up earth-shaking challenges and ground-breaking opportunities for education leaders and boards of trustees to look more clearly to the future as they build 21c learning communities fit for the second decade of the third millennium.

Renewing or reconfiguring learning environments because of seismic, technological or demographic disruption is a challenging process. Closures and mergers are tough on children, parents and teachers though, as the Mallard closures show, many soon embrace fresh beginnings, difficult though the transition may be.

But crisis and change also provide positive opportunities for leaders to engage their wider learning communities in the design and use of new learning environments and activities which will better equip 21c learners with the skills to navigate to the future.

The Ministry of Education has committed an investment of up to one billion dollars over a decade to develop greater Christchurch as a leading education community.

In the words of the Ministry’s  Shaping Education document “the impact of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes… has also been the catalyst for much creative thinking. The consensus seems to be: yes, we have lost much, but these events also give us an opportunity, as we renew, to rethink how we do things in education.” 

The original prospect was that 13 Christchurch schools would close and 18 could merge. Five Aranui schools would also combine into an education “cluster”. The announcement was a cluster bomb for many parents, teachers and learners.

The aftershocks are still being felt. After consultation some changes were made: for example, Chisnallwood Intermediate was removed from the Aranui “superschool” plans. But the main thrust remains and now it must be implemented well.

It would be a pity if the timing and initial handling of the education recovery and renewal strategy has inoculated some school communities against real opportunities to accelerate some necessary changes, earthquakes or no earthquakes. All learning communities, from early childhood to post tertiary, should be open to shaking off the remaining 1950’s vestiges of Yesterday’s Schools educational arrangements and adapting to a mobile and connected age.

Christchurch is an exciting test-bed for the future of education throughout New Zealand. Post-quakes renewal, demographic changes here, in Auckland and Hamilton, and well as leaky building and ICT issues nationwide, have accelerated transitional and new education building designs incorporating safety, adaptability, UF broadband, energy efficiency, weather proofing and future proofing.

The current seismic swarm in Central New Zealand will reinforce that many of these are national issues which demand long term strategic thinking.

This has already been articulated in the Ministry’s Christchurch design brief for recovery and renewal work which is not just to repair earthquake damage but to produce schools that would have flexible teaching spaces that can be expanded or reduced depending on requirements to support the learning activities of individuals and groups.

Now is not the time to paper over the physical and metaphorical cracks in education in the region. It is an opportunity to build deep and strong new foundations for differently configured learning communities. After early input from education professionals and students there needs to be built-in learning by design and construction which meets  evolving learning practices.

In the face of rapid change people tend to adopt one of two stances: either they look to the past to what has worked historically and do more of the same; or they look to the future and develop new solutions which use the changes as a springboard.

Many people will resist change if they are not actively engaged in it. But in the words of Marvin Weisbord:  “People will support what they help to create.”  After a shaky start, success in implementing education renewal initiatives in Greater Christchurch will depend on how well education leaders across the learning spectrum engage their professional colleagues, their boards and their wider communities.

Providing a timely platform for this engagement is Education Leaders Forum 2013, to be held in Christchurch on 28/29 August, with the theme Building 21 Century Learning Communities.

ELF13 will be part topical forum and part education safari to the future, with visits to innovative learning spaces and workplaces, to show the similarities between modern earning environments and modern earning environments in terms of teamwork and technology.

In the words of William Gibson “The future is already here-it’s just not evenly distributed”. Participants can learn from the future as it emerges and embrace it rather than reflecting on past experience and reacting.

Education site visits include Clearview Primary, Lincoln University’s School of Landscape Architecture, St. Margaret’s College, St. Thomas’ New Technology Centre, the new CORE Education Building and UC’s Hit Lab.  Innovative workplaces include Schneider Electric’s  Vision Room, showcasing energy sustainability, the  Enterprise Precinct and Innovation Campus and  The Stronger Christchurch Infrastructure Rebuild Team.

Major Sponsors of ELF13 are Schneider Electric and the Ministry of Education-Schools Infrastructure.

Contributors include Mark Osborne, CORE Education; Prof Christopher Branson, University of Waikato; Dr Andrew West, Lincoln University; Hon Nikki Kaye, Associate Minister of  Education; Jasper Van der Lingen, Sheppard & Rout Architects Ltd; Gillian Simpson, St Margaret’s College; James Petronelli,  Clearview Primary School; Robin Staples, Southern Cross Campus; and John Rohs, Aranui High School.

Education Leaders Forum 2013 provides quality thinking time for education professionals and board members to escape the tyranny of urgent day to day concerns and focus on the important longer term strategic perspective.

Note: This Perspective by Lyall Lukey, the Convenor of Education Leaders Forum 2013 Building 21c Learning Communities held in Christchurch on 28/29 August, was first printed in The Press on 20 August 2013.  For feedback and links to ELF13 presentations and videos visit Education Leaders Forum 2013

Novopay: An Incis-ive Report from Muddle-earth?

June 16, 2013

“The problems with Novopay have affected public trust and confidence in the Ministry of Education and also the wider public sector.”                  Novopay Report

Apart from those numerically numinous teachers who like an activity-based approach to the study of statistics and probability, Novopay’s game of unders and overs has been very annoying, especially for many of their colleagues. But it’s time to come in spinner and get some perspective.

So far the Novopay system has cost $24 million more than expected, though the blowout was likely to increase even further. But on the political Richter scale it is a mere 3.4 compared to an INCIS 9.1

INCIS was the name of the Integrated National Crime Information System designed to provide information to the New Zealand Police in the 1990s, but which was abandoned in 1999. By then it wasn’t integrated, it wasn’t national and it certainly wasn’t a system providing much timely information, but it really raised the bar in being a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money. By some estimates NZD$110 million swirled down the INCIS gurgler in the 1990s. Though the project was abandoned, parts of its hardware and software infrastructure are still in use today.

Edge of Chaos

At least Novopay lumbered into flight, if somewhat prematurely. Post-Report it is no dead duck, despite the guns being pointed collectively skyward from early May with people waiting for a different kind of report. There was plenty of ducking for cover.  Not getting all the ducks in a row in the first place was the big problem, as the Novopay Report makes clear.

Not Novopay ducks

Not Novopay ducks

There is a web-footed welcome to the finished product: “Welcome to the Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay website. The Minister responsible for Novopay, the Hon. Steven Joyce established the inquiry to address the issues and concerns surrounding Novopay – the education payroll system.”

Joyce is, of course,  the Minister responsible for the Novopay mop-up, not the cock-up. The role of the Ministerial Inquiry was to conduct a fact-finding investigation into Novopay from the outset to the present day and was led by the Lead Inquirers, Mr Murray Jack and Sir Maarten Wevers, to the accompaniment of Goodnight, Irene.*


The inquiry found Talent2, the Australian contractor tasked with implementing the system, has been swamped with technical difficulties which built up a tsunami of compounding errors. This was not entirely news: “The impacts of the well-publicised Novopay failures have reverberated across New Zealand”  for months. Those at the whiteboard face have not been backward in forwarding their error ridden payslips to the media*.

It has all very annoying and very time-wasting, but it is not quite in the league of, say, formerly Solid-as coalminers being wrenched from the coalface by sudden redundancy.

Just after the report was released Anne Jackson Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary (tertiary, international and system performance)  chose walking over planking by responsibly tendering her resignation. She said the decision to resign was hers alone and that there was no pressure put on her to quit. “I remain deeply committed to education and the principles of public service. That is why I have taken this step today…” A colleague followed last Friday. In fact there have already been three major MoE resignations, counting Secretary of Education Lesley Lonsgtone, though that was not solely Novopay inspired, nor pressure free.

Other colleagues will be squirming. Even if they weren’t trying to string along their political masters and mistresses, it does seem that the advice proffered to ministers was, to coin a phrase, ropey. Some advisers obviously gave themselves more than enough rope.

Unsurprisingly, responsible ministers of all persuasions since the Novopay behemoth lurched out of the laboratory were not fingered; it was all down to dodgy advice, the biggest sin for any public servant.

A Class Action?

The class action by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association on behalf of 18,000 members against Ministry of Education acting secretary Peter Hughes is a further waste of time and resources which should never have been started. In the wake of the latest resignations, it should be abandoned forthwith.

The Association is fighting to have a statutory declaration from the court that Hughes, who has only been in the acting role a few months,  has breached his Education Act obligations to pay school staff.  The union said it wants the ministry to shoulder the blame for the fiasco. Vampire movies are inexplicably still popular, but how much blood is enough?

Perhaps it’s really a classic class warfare action ahead of next year’s general election.  On a National Radio  item on Novopay PPTA president Angela Roberts talked about “the workers” as if she’d forgotten who she was representing. “Education professionals” and “support staff” would have sounded better.


It really is time for a bit of perspective. Frustrating though the Novopay saga has been it is not payola. There has been some accountability, with at least two out for the count, even if the lighthouse keeper’s role of the State Services Commission hasn’t really been  put under the spotlight.

It is a fact that one teacher’s bungled pay slip was just 1c.  But alongside people facing the challenge of school closures and mergers, or those suffering genuine hardship in Christchurch because of EQC and/or insurance battles, these indubitably annoying errors pale into insignificance, especially given that many schools made temporary arrangements for those whose pay was cocked up. They should be compensated for wasted administration time, but litigation is a different matter.

The Biggest Issue

The biggest issue is why in the first place the Ministry looked off-shore for a tweaked, out of the box system when clever Kiwi IT and payroll firms could have delivered the goods in a more timely and user-friendly fashion.

That’s not to say there would have been any teething problems, both system and training, which is par for the course in any large change like this which shifts a largely manual system onto an integrated digital platform. All IT systems would be absolutely fine if it weren’t for the users. But at least the support would have been at hand and the chosen IT partner better vetted.

When she resigned Anne Jackson’s role was the development of strategic direction for the education system, including links with economic policy, skills and innovation. It’s a pity that MoE didn’t activate those links closer to home. As I said in an earlier Novopay blogpost* we have talent too.

Give Kiwi skills and innovation a chance!

*Blinks The Ministerial Inquiry    Vid  The Weavers Goodnight, Irenefrom their historic re-union concert in 2008.-about the time Novopay kicked off.
Education Novovirus spreads in Muddle-earth My earlier blogpost on this.

#Lyall Lukey  16 June 2013  My other less serious blog

Ghost Writers in the Cloud-I

May 27, 2013

 “In China, and in many other countries, cheating and corruption is rampant – they have a philosophy that is completely different to us. Other countries don’t share our attitude. It’s more like if you can get away with it, then fine.” Associate Professor Martin Lally, Victoria University

According to Martin Lally, revelations of a commercial tertiary cheating service using ghost writers for Chinese-speaking students and others are probably just the tip of the iceberg. The low threshold for English competency in New Zealand universities, combined with different cultural attitudes to cheating, meant that the recent dial-a-grade revelation in the Sunday Star-Times “doesn’t come as the slightest surprise”.

Sui Generis

Time may tell how degrading this behaviour in New Zealand. One thing is certain: examination cheating in China has a long history because the Chinese Imperial Examination has a long history.

Established in 605 under the Sui Dynasty and flourishing under the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese imperial examination was designed to select the best potential candidates to serve as civil servants. *The system’s longevity should lift the sights of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. It continued, with some modifications, for 1300 years, until its 1905 abolition under the Qing Dynasty.

Tight quotas restricted the number of successful candidates. The examinations were designed as objective measures- the first standardized tests based on merit to evaluate the educational attainment and merit of the examinees. Higher level degrees tending to lead to higher ranking placements in the imperial government service.

The Chinese Imperial Examination had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and played a key role in the emergence of the scholar-officials, the Mandarins, who came to dominate Chinese society.

The system also contributed to  a narrowing of intellectual life and reinforced the autocratic power of the emperor, even if some of its recruits had doubts about the visibility of the garb of the current Emperor.

Evolving Curriculum

Pre Sui Dynasty tests to evaluate potential candidates consisted of various contests such as archery competitions, rather pointed way of sorting out the target market. The quiver brought a whole new dimension of exam nerves. Archery made cheating difficult but the contests were a bit hard to administer so the examinations evolved into a battery of tests administered at the district, provincial, and metropolitan levels. (After 1300 years they were still working on a properly moderated system of National Standards).

Candidates were initially tested on their proficiency in the “Six Arts”: Scholastic arts: music, arithmetic, writing, and knowledge of the rituals and ceremonies in both public and private life.

The curriculum was then expanded under the Sui Dynasty to cover the “Five Studies”: military strategy, civil law, revenue and taxation, agriculture and geography and the Confucian classics.  No mere 3Rs here; this was a broad curriculum-and no getting ahead by specialising in an arcane academic topic to snare a Ph.D. and frame one’s name with alphabetic prefixes and suffixes .

Infernal Assessment

Candidates arrived at an examination compound and were allocated a tiny room with a makeshift bed, desk, and bench and a few amenities including a water pitcher, a chamber pot, bedding, food, an ink stone, ink, and brushes. No short answer tests here: candidates spent three days and two nights writing “eight-legged essays”, with an octet of distinct sections.

They were not allowed any communication. If someone died during an exam, officials wrapped the body in a straw mat and dropped it over the compound’s high walls. In the annals of this Imperial system of infernal assessment these late and unlamented candidates were no doubt recorded as Not Achieved.


With intense pressure to succeed cheating and corruption were endemic.
Guards would verify the identity of each students and search them for hidden printed materials, sometimes written on their underwear*.

To discourage favoritism, each exam was recopied by an official copyist before marking so examiners wouldn’t identify their own student’s calligraphy. Even slightly creative writing was out: exact quotes from the classics were required for success. A misplaced character was enough to blot their copybook and disqualify a candidate; hence the ideogrammatically correct underwear to avoid being caught unawares.

The whole system offered Imperial Britain a role model for recruiting office wallahs in India and closer to home for the foreign and civil service.

It may also be worth considering by our State Services Commission as a way of preventing fake or inflated qualifications being brandished by public sector high

*Blinks  See photo of “Cribbing Garment” worn as underwear into the examination! Vid Ghost Riders In The Sky Vaughn Monroe  1949  Vid Ghost Riders In the Sky:Frankie Laine

#Lyall Lukey  27 May 2013 My other (even) less serious blog

My Margaret Thatcher Moment

April 24, 2013

 “What after all, is a halo? It’s only one more thing to keep clean.”
The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1948 play by Christopher Fry

Margaret Thatcher was very aware of her likely place in history but she was not  into hagiography or housework. Being dubbed the Iron Lady by the Soviets was a red badge of honour  but being satirised as the Ironing Lady went down like an iron balloon.

As a young teacher I once had a front bench view of Thatcher thermodynamics before she became the Conservative Leader. She took over a lesson I was teaching.  

Cashmere High School used to attract more than its share of visiting VIPs. The foundation principal was the redoubtable Terence McCombs, a former Labour Minister of Education who subsequently became High Commissioner and was knighted.

His connections and the reputation of the school he founded attracted more than passing interest. In my 12 years at the school members of the Royal Family visited the school twice as did-separately- two U.K. Secretaries of State for Education and Science. The first, in 1972 I think, was Margaret Thatcher, a member of Edward Heath’s 1970 Cabinet.

I was teaching a junior English class at the time, not one of my main subjects. The lesson took place initially in the semi dark, with candles flickering to background music (Blowing in the Wind?) to ignite some creative writing and discussion amongst earnest third formers.

The Headmaster brought our guest into my classroom part way through this pedagogic process.  I was more than a little in awe: I was well aware of her soubriquet “Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”. She would later write in her autobiography: “I learned a valuable lesson [from the experience of abolishing free milk in schools at the behest of the Treasury]. I had incurred the maximum of political odium for the minimum of political benefit.”

Mrs T was an agenda setter and not a spectator. With the lights up she quickly took over the lesson, waxing eloquent. I was no match and couldn’t hold a candle to her. In fact she had stayed well away from the flickering focal point. The Lady was not for burning.

I can’t remember if she had a handbag but no doubt she did. She was already in full dress rehearsal mode to become the Leader of the Conservative Party, which she was from 1975 to 1990 and then Prime Minister for eleven dramatic years.

In the meantime another visitor to Cashmere High and my classroom was Shirley Williams, Secretary of Education and Science in James Callaghan’s Labour Government from 1976.  There was comprehensive interest by the Brits in our education system then. The terms of trade seem to have changed more recently.

One question still blowing in the wind: is Hekia Parata the Antipodean inheritor of the metaphorical Thatcher handbag or did Julia Gillard beat her to it?

*Blinks  Margaret Thatcher – Pt 1 The Making of Margaret (Telegraph)  Bob Dylan  Blowing in the Wind   Elton John – Candle In The Wind (Diana)

 #Lyall Lukey  24 April 2013 My other (even) less serious blog


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