Hard to believe, but the New Zealand Council for Educational Research has been part of making this country a hot house of pedagogical expertise for eight decades. Set up with the help of a Carnegie grant in 1934, today it has around 65 staff and divisions working in research over various educational areas and communicating their findings via books, journals, tests and reports which are available as online and downloadable resources.
NZCER is no ‘dreaming spires’ of academia but more a productive educational research and publishing facility with fast paced work and a productive output. They need to achieve this and be competitive in the research market, as only around 14 percent of their funding comes from a government grant.
Other revenue comes from sales of tests to schools of the well-known Progressive Achievement Tests (PATs), plus STAR reading tests, and a Science test. They have also been successful in securing funding from contestable grants.
As well as NZCER’s longevity, it is a matter of pride for the organisation that they have what Chief Executive Graeme Cosslett calls “Our own Act of Parliament.” This is the NZCER Act 1972 (replacing earlier Acts) which requires the organisation to carry out and disseminate education research. Graeme was promoted to the top role earlier year after leading a highly successful three year project to make all NZCER tests available to schools online among other responsibilities.
Te Wāhanga is the Māori research unit within NZCER, supporting transformative Māori educational thinking, committed to making a positive difference to education outcomes for Māori and providing resources in te reo.
Publishing shows growth
David Ellis, NZCER Publishing Manager, says his department has excelled in production over the past year with print books showing 40 percent increase in revenue last year over the year before.
“Our international book sales are increasing through using Lightning Source’s print-on-demand service, which allows our titles to be sold through online retailers including The Book Depository and Amazon,” David says. “But e-books still make up only a tiny share of our revenue.” David switched from legal to educational publishing five years ago, and has found the change rewarding!
NZCER Publishing is a lean team, just David and award winning Senior Editor John Huria. Publishing brings in profit, but that is not the only motive: they sometimes do work which they believe adds value to the education publishing output, but not necessarily profit.
Once a book is written, design, layout, proof reading and production are undertaken by contractors. David says they also print locally as a matter of principle.
The publishing team is delighted to have three finalist titles in the CLNZ Educational Awards to be announced in November – Ka hoki tāua ki te whare huri ai ē! by Agnes McFarland for Best Resource in Te Reo Māori is one, and two in Best Resource in Higher Education: The New Zealand Dyslexia Handbook, Susan Dymock and Tom Nicholson and Working with Māori children with special education needs: He mahi whakahirahira by Jill Bevan-Brown.
Asked for his favourite titles from NZCER Press list, David nominates The New Zealand Dyslexia Handbook; The discovery of early childhood (2nd ed) by Helen May; History Matters; teaching and learning history in New Zealand secondary schools by Mark Sheehan and Michael Harcourt; In the early world (3rd ed) by Elwyn Richardson (first published 1964) and the Samoan translation of our guide to understanding NCEA, Malamalama i le NCEA by Irena Madjar and Liz McKinley.
Into the future
NZCER publishing expects to produce more online resources. “Spell-Write, a 30 year old staple, is the newly launched online resource for schools,” explains David. He expects to partner with edtech companies to develop more online resources such as Spell-Write Online which was created in partnership with PixelHouse. “We’ve added extra features to an established print title and produced a flexible classroom resource that can be shared with parents and whanau.
“Educational resource material is increasingly available as apps in line with consumer preference,” he notes.
“Our niche at NZCER Press is producing research-based education resources and we’ll continue to focus on this,” David says.
We know education publishers don’t do Christmas, but NZCER Press has a December release this year, a forthcoming publication David Ellis will greet with enthusiasm: Elwyn Richardson and the early world of creative education in New Zealand by Margaret MacDonald. As a gift, perhaps best given to primary teachers?