AbstractThe recently elected National Government has proceeded, under urgency, to pass the Education
(National Standards) Amendment Bill, legislation that seeks to provide specific information for both schools and parents about how well every primary and intermediate school student (Years
1 to 8) is progressing in literacy and numeracy compared with other children of the same age and in relation to clear national benchmarks. Readers familiar with the history of New Zealand’s
education system will doubtless see in the ‘new’ policy many aspects of what appeared in an earlier policy document released by the then National Government in 1998–Assessment for Success in Primary Schools. This article will outline and explain the historical origins of National Standards and
national testing in New Zealand primary and intermediate schools, and will provide a critique of the policy that is about to be launched. We conclude that politicians and others who are intent on pursuing ‘quick fix solutions’ to very complex educational problems, by embracing the ideological mantra of ‘National Standards’, appear set to perpetuate the very problems that historians had long though were best consigned to our educational past.
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