'Racist' streaming in schools must end by 2030 - researchers

Mon, Mar 20

The streaming of students by ability in schools is "racist" and exists in the face of evidence of suggesting mixed-ability classes are more successful, researchers say.

Think tank Tokona Te Raki - Māori Futures Collective has launched a new action plan today to remove streaming from Aotearoa's schools by 2030.

The Christchurch organisation's report, Kōkirihia, has been endorsed by the Mātauranga Iwi Leaders Group, and the Ministry of Education has supported its release.

Tokona te Raki executive director Eruera Tarena told Breakfast that streaming had a place throughout the history of teaching but that now was the time to re-evaluate it.

"The roots of streaming has been something that is deeply embedded in our history and education system," she said. "It's the fact it's so deeply rooted in our history that we actually have gone beyond the point where we question it, and we see it as normal."

According to researchers, New Zealand continues to have one of the highest rates of ability grouping in the developed world — second only to Ireland.

While the Ministry of Education discourages streaming, decisions are left to individual school boards as to whether to use ability grouping systems on students.

Tarena added that ditching streaming was part of finding new ways to shift teaching to become more inclusive than it had been in the past.

"You can't just stop streaming and teach in the same way," she said.

Classroom (file picture).

Speaking to Breakfast, CORE Education chief executive Hana O’Regan said the practice created inequity for Māori and Pacific students.

"Streaming creates racial inequity," he said.

"It has hugely damaging impacts on a lot of Māori and Pasifika, But also, what we know is that it's a behaviour which is changeable. What's fantastic is that we know the solution."

"There's a whole bunch of courageous teachers who have transitioned away from streaming, and most often, they use mixed-ability teaching.

"What we know from the evidence is that when you have these mixed abilities, everyone benefits, but in particular, Māori and Pasifika students' achievement rates go through the roof.

He said the evidence shows all students benefit from the removal of streaming, and that it was important to not be "fearful" of making changes to the education system.

"When we think about our younger and faster growing Māori and Pasifika populations, who are going to be a much larger proportion of our population and workforce in the future — we can't afford to continue a practice we know creates racial inequity.

"Which, to be blunt, means it is a racist practice," he said.

The new report comes amid a long-term push away from ability grouping supported by the Ministry of Education and the Government.


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