National vs Labour: Education Policy Review

With not long to go until election day I thought that I’d shift the focus to education. While education did not rank nearly as high as teh economy or jobs in voters minds it is still a cornerstone of any parties election position. Anne Tolley and the National Party have been under sustained attack from education professionals throughout their term in office, largely due to their National Standards scheme and it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, it has on the ballot box.

ELECTION 2011: EDUCATION POLICY

Labour was quick to signal its intention to get rid of the controversial national standards for education early in the election campaign, despite not releasing its full education policy until late last week. Labour’s stance has brought praise from the educational sector union NZEI and the Principals’ Federation – both of which believe it’s an unwanted and unnecessary system.

However, their policy has also drawn derision with the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) Chair Liz Gordon lambasting it for being “full of buzzwords, with few real ideas.” This criticism does seem to have merit as there is little in Labour’s education policy which is creative or innovative and it seems to be designed solely around dismantling the policies that national have put in place over their term in office.

That said, there are a lot of proposals in their education policy which have received the support of education professionals and the public alike, including the dismantling of the government wildly unpopular ‘National Standards’ scheme which may prove to be a strong draw-card for some voters. Here are the highlights of Labour’s education policy:

Schools & Adult Education

  • Abolish National Standards
  • Free laptops for low decile secondary schools
  • Investigation into sport/school participation
  • Review tertiary enrolments cap
  • Provide extra 5000 fees-free training places for 16-17 year olds
  • Reinstate Adult and Community funding and Refugee and Migrant study grants

Early Childhood Education

  • Like National they will retain 20 hours free and fee controls
  • Free ECE (early child care) for 5% of the most vulnerable toddlers
  • Restore 100% qualified ECE teacher target
  • Labour will invest $75 million over four years in „e-learning‟ for low-decile schools, with priority going to schools with year 7 -13 students and the capability to deliver an effective programme . This includes Government funding for students to have individual use of a mobile device. (more here)

At their policy launch, education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said the education sector needed to be “far more accountable to parents and communities”. However it seems that the education sector is not taking this criticism lying down and has promised three more years of fighting with education unions if National is re-elected. School Principals have also added their voice to the mix and are rejecting National’s education policy as the “lowest point” of this year’s general election campaign.

But Prime minister Key is unrepentant about requiring schools to report on National Standards, saying parents had to know how their child and the school as a whole was doing. He said that National has set a target of getting 98 per cent of children into early childhood education by 2015 – about 3500 more, and that their policies were focal to achieving this goal.

Their proposals have drawn the ire of education professionals but have support among many parents, so the impact of  National’s education policy announcement may be muted – especially with so many other issues competing for media attention. Here are the proposals:

Schools

  • Require secondary schools to report on wider performance, including school drop-out numbers
  •  Continue phasing in National Standards, schools to report results publicly from 2012
  • Introduce “disposition testing” for new teachers
  • Make teacher training courses a post-graduate qualification.
  • Review the Teachers’ Council
  • Change law to allow search and seizure of suspected drugs and weapons.
  • More training for new principals
  • Spend $1 billion from state asset sales on new schools and buildings
  • Target funding at schools and teachers under-performing in National Standards
  • Review regulations for rural school swimming pools

Early Childhood Education

  • Retain 20 hours free and fee controls
  • Boost participation to 98 per cent by 2015 (about 3500 children), targeting Maori and Pacific Island families
  • Raise qualified-teacher total from 67 per cent to 80 by end of next year
  • Require centres to put performance information on a website
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5 thoughts on “National vs Labour: Education Policy Review

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