Eradicating a GERM infecting the education system was a hot topic at the New Zealand Educational Institute primary teachers' collective agreement talks yesterday in Dunedin.
Serious concerns were voiced by primary teachers and union members about the Ministry of Education's latest offer, which they believe is linked to a business model of education driven by cost-cutting and competition.
About 350 primary school teachers gathered at the Regent Theatre were told by the NZEI, the Government's policies were based on an agenda known as the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), which had failed to improve pupils' learning in other countries.
The ideologically-driven policies were based around competition, data-based accountability, standardisation and supposed choice.
According to NZEI, GERM could already be seen creeping into New Zealand's education system through National Standards, league tables, charter schools and proposed performance pay for teachers.
Following the meeting, the large and vocal group of teachers spilled out into the Octagon with NZEI president Ian Leckie and other union members to publicly voice concerns.
Mr Leckie said there was real concern the Government's policies would damage New Zealand's "world-renowned" equity-based public education system.
"Fortunately, there is an antidote to the GERM," he said.
He was confident the present education system, which incorporated collaboration, equity, personalised learning and trust-based professionalism, would provide the antidote needed.
Other topics discussed during the meeting were charter schools, National Standards and issues affecting Canterbury schools.
The Dunedin meeting will be followed by meetings in Auckland tomorrow, and Wellington and Hamilton next Tuesday.