5 Jun 2013



In 1844 the colony that was to become New Zealand set about providing for the education of the children who would, eventually, become the leaders and builders of the country. The settlers decided that the schools they would establish would be free, secular and be funded by the colonists. They also decided that there should be a single accepted curriculum that would assure the students and community that regardless of where they settled in the country they would receive the same quality education and thus have the same chances as others.

This basic philosophy remained as the foundation of the New Zealand education system through all the reforms and governments throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Peter Fraser, the Prime Minister and Minister of Education in the Labour Government said that the New Zealand school system should and would give all children a quality education and set about ensuring this would happen.  “Every person, whatever his level of academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has right as a citizen to a free education of the kind for which he is best fitted, and to the fullest extent of his powers.” This aim was encouraged and developed by the NZ School system and recognised in the results across many international assessments and reports.

Throughout the century the State recognised that there would be those for whom school needed to be linked with the teachings of their church and allowed special character schools to be established. The Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian churches established a parallel school system, financed by the churches but always ensuring that they taught to the nationally accepted curricula. Over time, these schools have proven to be an expense the churches were unable to support and that if they were to remain as viable institutions some state funding would be needed. Successive governments therefore provided grants and, in the 1970s, allowed the schools to integrate into the State system while still preserving their “special character.”

The Ministry of Education was also willing to encourage school administrations to experiment with different models and structures of schools so that we saw schools like “Four Avenues”, Auckland’s Metropolitan College, and Christchurch’s “Unlimited” evolve and, depending on the community support, either succeed or evolve. At all times, the schools were monitored and supported with advice, resources and an agreed curriculum that would assure the community that the schools were doing their job.

Successive Reports on NZ’s Education system - 1877, 1930, 1947, 1960, 1974 and 1985 all stressed the point that Education was not a political football although,its direction and resourcing had been the scene of factional debate in the different education communities. Regardless of the factional debate the reports acknowledged the unity of purpose and curriculum that made New Zealand’s education system one of the best in the world.

In each report the need to ensure that the State would provide every opportunity to provide a quality education and opportunity for Maori was stressed. Funding and resourcing was always a paramount concern and schools encouraged to explore and develop strategies to   enhance Maori achievement.

 The reports also stressed the importance of having fully trained, fully qualified and well resourced teachers. In fact the Currie Report of 1960 called for the enhancement of the Training Colleges and courses so that Parents, the Students and, above all, the country could be assured of a qualified and trained teaching profession.

So, when on Tuesday night ( 4th June 2013) the National- ACT party forced, with the connivance of the Party-less Peter Dunne and the absent Maori Party, through legislation designed to break down the unified and cohesive education system by financing privately owned profit taking Charter schools that do not have to acknowledge or teach to the agreed and established national curriculum, do not have to guarantee the delivery of a syllabus and lessons by qualified and trained teachers and do not have to answer to the state or community through the Official Information Act or be required to have a community-appointed Board of Trustees to oversee their business one has to question the rationale behind the legislation.

Judging from the debating points made by the National-ACT speakers the real rationale for the imposing of the Charter school system on NZ communities are:

If, like Lewis Carrol's sea captain with a perfectly blank map, we state something is true three times it is true even though all evidence shows that it isnt. 

 to create a platform to relieve the state from the responsibility of supporting schools in the belief that the only way changes happen is through a profit driven free market.

 to undermine and collapse the present teaching profession in the belief that the teacher unions, by calling for critical evaluation of school administration, of the national curricula and demonstrating need for a qualified, trained and resourced profession are too powerful and, thus, a danger to the present government.

 a belief that a trained and qualified teaching profession is not necessary to ensure the delivery of quality education to the students in schools.

 a belief that it is “unfair on local communities and taxpayers” for the State to provide a unified and centrally resourced school system.

 an argument that existing private schools are better and more responsible than public schools and, therefore, similar schools would be better for students and communities. (Interestingly the 1930 Education Report argued that the existence of private fee paying schools were the primary cause of limited education achievement in the Dominion because economics reduced the ability of the workers and community to access quality education.)

 Taxpayers should not be “forced” to fund local state schools because taxpayers do not necessarily support a state school system and should be given the tax money back to create private, profit driven Charter schools.

 that, based on a non-evidence based belief, private profit driven schools will ensure that Maori and Pasifika students will automatically succeed in gaining  more NCEA credits than they achieve in the present State system. This latter argument appears to beg the question as the charter schools won’t have to deliver or adhere to the New Zealand National Curriculum which would mean that students going through the private profit driven schools may not be eligible to access the NCEA assessments which are tied to the national curriculum.

The “Diddums” contribution of the fundamentalist creationist ACT MP, John Banks, to the debate demonstrated the shallowness and irrational thought processes that have led to Charter Schools being imposed on New Zealand communities, coupled with the incompetence of the current minister when it comes to the running of the Ministry of Education and I weep and worry for the futures of my grandchildren.

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