It seems pretty clear that, although education doesn’t rank as high on the budget list as it should (in my view), the government believes the New Zealand voter values education very highly, and every four years they bring out a tantalising election promise that can’t fail to appeal to parents across the land. This year, under the National ‘goal’ they “will invest $1bn from the Future Investment Fund to make our schools ready for 21st century”. They claim that to “Build A Brighter Future” we need flexible teaching spaces, and so we- sorry, they are going to sell huge chunks of our state-owned assets to raise the money to do this. I seem to recall a government a number of years ago who sold one of our most successful SOEs, Telecom with an undertaking that $800m from this sale was going to be invested in schools. Didn’t happen. Should we believe the promise this time around?
And anyway, is this a sensible use of $1bn for New Zealand education? I think we are “ready for the 21st century” already- we have the teachers. Successful schools aren’t pretty buildings, successful schools are committed and passionate teachers in partnership with committed and passionate parents. I am certain that if the government actually consulted with parents and education sector interest groups on how that amount of money should be invested in education they would get a broad range of suggestions, and I am equally sure that modernising existing schools (knocking down walls to make ‘flexible teaching spaces’?) would not be considered the most important.
But, of course, listening to public opinion isn’t actually a strong suit for this lot, is it?
…and while National promise these millions and millions of dollars to renovate school class-rooms, Education Minister Tolley closes successful special needs units and sends children with extreme learning needs into mainstream classes.