Hard News by Russell Brown


The Clamour to Cringe

We recently discussed here the international PISA rankings for educational attainment. Well, the new PISA survey is out and one would hope that it might at least briefly quell the clamorous cringeing that normally passes for public commentary on our education system.

Again, our students are amongst the very best in the world in reading. Only Hong Kong, Finland and Korea achieved higher average scores. New Zealand ranks seventh in science and is also in the top group for maths.

The fly in the ointment -- the uncomfortably large group failing to achieve -- is still with us, but we're not alone in that. Australia has a more troubling case of the same thing, especially in the case of indigenous students, and they're worried there about the slide in reading attainment and maths. And in Britain, it's all wailing and gnashing.

This isn't to suggest that our education system is perfect (or that league tables are everything) but it appears to be outperforming nations with much higher per-capita income than ours. Remember how NCEA was going to send our academic standards down the toilet? How political correctness was ruining our primary schools? It might be nice to acknowledge that teachers, officials and policy-makers appear to have got the odd thing right in the last few years.

Meanwhile, the new Australia emerges apace: halfway to civil unions already.

The Google Zeitgeist results for New Zealand in 2007 are mildly interesting. The most striking result is that the most-searched for wedding was not that of any local celebrity, but the nuptials of Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai.

Not unexpectedly, the US administration is already lying about what it knew, when of the National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani's barking mad foreign policy advisor reckons it's all a CIA plot to protect Iran. Yes, really.

Meanwhile in Iraq: the under-reported refugee story

And on a whole other tip, 42 Below have given me some presents for our quiz contestants at tomorrow night's big party. So it seems only fair that I note their little campaign to have New Zealanders send a bottle of a favourite flavour to distant friends -- in Britain anyway. You can order for delivery at Oddbins, Drink On and The Drink Shop.

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