LETTER OF THE WEEK
No child left behind
Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, my mother (deputy head of a New Zealand primary school) was given the task of teaching 6-year-olds who were not yet reading capably, if at all.
Each year she had a class of about 30 children, some of whom were very hard to teach.
For the five years approximately that she taught these children the phonics system of understanding words and sounds, not one child slipped through the net. I still have some of the small gifts the very grateful parents gave her when their children could finally read and comprehend the written language.
The article on a reading revolution (January 23) highlighted many important points about the need for a change in the way children are taught to read. Rather than call it a phonics approach, the change is to a structured approach to teaching literacy and includes skills for decoding and for comprehension. The approach is based on decades of research that shows learning to read the code of print happens systematically. Some children work the system out easily, but for those who don't (60 per cent plus), it is vital they are taught in a structured way. Contrary to criticism, the approach is not a package and does adjust to suit the needs of each child. Another criticism is that the "decodable" books are boring. The children using them do not make that complaint. As I work with teachers, I see them breathe a sigh of relief that they have the knowledge to teach in a way where all children can succeed. We need to embrace the method that suits the majority and is beneficial to all in order to make a difference to reading outcomes and to children's lives.
Dr Christine Braid
Hooray for Phonics! A little example. Three of our children took to reading with ease as their teacher had a variety of tools, including phonics. Five years later our fourth child struggled. On investigation I found phonics had become a dirty word and the ''Look and Say" or context was the only acceptable means of teaching reading. Some encouragement in phonics and she was quickly able to master the skill and was reading like her siblings. Neighbourhood mothers began setting up private phonic lessons – all done very surreptitiously. Statistically, NZ's reading was on the slippery slide downwards, as stated in your review. At last, we will hopefully see our standards improve and, if I dare say it, crime rates drop as it is well known many criminals imprisoned have very poor reading skills.
The Economist reports minnow Israel, population 8.6 million, has vaccinated 27 per cent of its people already. But in our little backwater we may be able to vaccinate frontline health workers by March, or is it April, by which time Israel will likely be finished. When Matthew Hooten comments the Covid coverage prevents scrutiny of this Government's baffling incompetence, he is so right. We appear to have a communications master running this country who is emboldened by the Covid crisis, but what we need is a leader who ensures actions follow words before our almost miraculous run of luck runs out.
Sign of weakness
One of the weaknesses of the MIQ system is the opportunity for mingling etc. between guests despite security measures. It was disturbing to read (January 29) the number of warnings issued for breaking rules but no actual penalties handed down. Being hit with a wet bus ticket will not deter those that are rule-breakers. Kindness in those circumstances will only be regarded as a sign of weakness. One would assume that all returnees whether in MIQ or home isolation are required to sign a declaration agreeing to the rules and this should include that infringement fines would be non-discretionary for non-observance. In Australia experience has shown that the more you hit renegades in the pocket the more likely they are to comply. We should do no less in this country.
The column from Richard Prebble paid due tribute to his late brother, while [an] article from your US correspondent illustrates why the education debate moved on some time ago, from the obvious benefits of quality school leadership to far more complex issues of achieving nationwide quality. Systems matter, so we are told that despite maximum speed and efficiency in vaccine production "the fact that the US has no national health service and that state public health departments are thin and underfunded" is compounding their Covid disaster. NZ retains attitudes from earlier centuries, affecting the way we view educational leadership ... Singapore is one of many countries with higher-performing educational systems than NZ and enforces a requirement that aspiring leaders must do significant work in higher-needs areas, to grow essential expertise and collegial understanding. Sincere appreciation for printing columns that allow these valuable comparisons to be made.
Past use-by date
I can partly answer the question posed by Larry Mitchell of Rothesay Bay (January 28) as to where at least some of the Council wastewater rate-take has gone. It has gone to that debacle of a spectacle called the America's Cup. This cup might have been a successful spectacle in years past but it is now well past its use-by date as an event worthy of Council and Government support. Surely the billionaires who enter their yachts can fund it themselves. From my reasonably wide circle of acquaintances, not one could care less about the current America's Cup, and they certainly would prefer that Council money would be better spent on upgrading wastewater pipes.
In support of your correspondents D. Alston and Paul Judge (January 27). Enough is enough. Our over-population is contributing to the environmental crises we face today. Ever-increasing numbers of people have more impact across the globe. Climate change, poverty and species extinction are just some of the consequences of having more than 7.8 billion people on the planet. Choosing a smaller family is the most powerful and only action that we must take to create a better future. The time is now well overdue for all political leaders to stand up to promote this mandate to prevent the extinction of our planet as we know it today. Both United Nations and the World Health Organisation have a responsibility to save our planet.
A QUICK WORD
Re the $150 fine for driving more than 50m in the new Albany T2 lane after February 6. So why is the fine for texting while driving only half that? Weird.
Damien O'Connor's naive response to Taiwan is in line with our new Minister of Foreign Affairs' conciliatory stance. Both compare badly with Australia's refusal to bow to a practiced bully.
I must be incredibly naive. I thought "Managed Isolation Quarantine" meant those under this protocol were completely isolated as is done in Australia. It appears this is not the case and the Health Minister, and I quote, just tries to keep people apart! Not good enough, we need a little less kindness as well as a new health minister.
The onslaught of variants recently brought by returnees has burst the "save tourism bubble" growing as both countries learned how to blunt Covid's transmission. It appears tourism has been waiting for either vaccines or control. Both have been foiled by the mastery of Covid mutability. Is it time to admit defeat and get control back? Should returnees be told to wait? Some of them have disappeared back overseas so why should they get free MIQ and risk our freedom?
Am I missing something, or do the iwi of Northland think they are their own country?
The Republicans have got over their sudden fright in the light and are now returning to the Dark Side. Their Master calls …
No outside space
Why would the Government even consider using MIQ hotels in the central city, such as the Pullman, where there is absolutely no outside space for people to exercise in their grounds, and then embark on putting returnees into vans in close proximity to each other to transport them to somewhere where they can exercise. I would be very surprised if some of the Covid cases in the hotel were not passed on while out on these jaunts.
The CCP playbook has worked perfectly with New Zealand: come on Australia, if you want a pocket of gold, "show respect", says Damien O'Connor. It's easy until that respect morphs into acquiescence and silence. Who would have ever thought a nation like New Zealand that told the US it won't accept nuclear vessels in its harbours would roll so easily? How times have changed. A slippery slope indeed.
Not for transit
I was surprised to hear that a number of people who spent time in quarantine at the Pullman have since left New Zealand and travelled to Australia and Hong Kong. I may be naive but I would have thought that the New Zealand quarantine facilities were for people returning to New Zealand, not for people who are in transit. Perhaps we should restrict entry to those who are genuinely returning.
While I completely agree with Mr Barnes' suggestion that in return for a four-year term of office, a term limit should apply, I disagree that it should be two terms. California state legislators were limited to six years, since revised to 12 years from 2012 due to a perceived lack of experience and moderation. The typical NZ Government lasts three [current] terms totalling nine years. In order for an MP to gain experience both in and out of government, a reasonable term limit here would be 12-15 years.
I am a New Zealand citizen and am not contemplating travel back to NZ until the Covid pandemic is under more control, unless my elderly mother was to pass away. I live in the US, where Covid is raging ... I can empathise with NZ residents who have concerns that people who have done the isolation may still be carrying the virus. I read your Premium online publication daily to keep up on news. What I haven't read is requiring all people entering NZ to wear masks after isolating, for (say) a further two weeks. While this might be an imposition, as NZ residents would not be doing so (I assume), it might help give confidence to everyone.
Use the military
Why doesn't the Ministry of Health set up a military-style operational unit to roll out the Covid-19 vaccines? It would be coordinated by the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police for logistics. We are now on a war footing.
Perhaps our leaders should spend less time claiming how good our Covid response is and instead focus on ways to keep improving it?