Media release: School classrooms experiment has been based on ideology – report

Dr Michael Johnston
Media Release
20 September, 2022

Wellington (Tuesday, 20 September 2022) – Ideology rather than evidence is the basis for the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) ‘Modern Leaning Environments’, research by think tank The New Zealand Initiative reveals.
The fact that a government ministry could not produce data to support its policy for mass conversion of New Zealand’s classrooms to Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs), is the main finding of the Initiative’s new report, No Evidence, No Evaluation, No Exit – Lessons from the 'Modern Learning Environments' experiment.
To inform the research, the Initiative’s Senior Fellow Dr Michael Johnston, requested that the Ministry of Education (MoE) provide basic information including data on the number of learning environments, their cost, and their effectiveness as learning environments. The Ministry of Education was not able to provide any of this information.
“The Ministry did not research the effects of these environments on students’ learning before forcing schools to adopt them,” says Dr Johnston. “Neither did they evaluate their effects after they were established.”
“The strategy under which modern learning environments were endorsed has now expired. However, open plan classrooms are still being built, and many of the country’s classrooms have already been converted. Schools are therefore left with a permanent legacy of a policy based on ideology rather than evidence,” Dr Johnston said.
“There can be little doubt that teachers make the greatest difference to learning outcomes. The billions invested in this initiative means billions less available to attract and retain the best teachers,” says Neil Paviour-Smith, who wrote the foreword for the report.
The report recommends that future education policy avoid the mistakes of the Modern Learning Environment experiment. Future educational initiatives should not be implemented without evidence that they will be effective. The education policy should also be accompanied by plans to evaluate it following implementation.


Further materials:
You can download No Evidence, No Evaluation, No Exit – Lessons from the 'Modern Learning Environments' experiment here. The report is authored by Dr Michael Johnston, with a foreword provided by Neil Paviour-Smith.

Dr Michael Johnston is available for comment. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Amanda Boyd, Marketing & Communications Manager
P: 04 494 9109

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